My Two External Brain Systems

In this post, I’ll try to explain how I built my two external brain systems.

What Is the External Brain

Simply put, an external brain is any device that can record information, but the term “external brain” emphasizes its symbiotic relationship with people. You must interact with it frequently to truly make it an external brain. It requires you to sort and organize information, which can deepen your understanding and memory of information.

What Medium Is Suitable as the External Brain

In today’s computer age, although paper still has certain advantages in recording information, things written on paper are not easy to search and modify, and can no longer be regarded as the best medium for external brains.

An easy way is to find a favorite note-taking app as your external brain. For example, Evernote fits my needs very well; it is easy to use, powerful, and cross-platform.

Of course, just a note-taking app is not enough, you must also build a workflow or note-taking architecture. For example, my method is to use a notebook or a folder as a draft box. Any new notes are thrown into it first, and then they are archived regularly. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to worry about where to put the notes from the beginning, thus interrupting your work at hand. Archived notes should be appropriately classified so that they form a tree structure, but the depth should not be too deep; for example, Evernote only allows the depth to reach 3 levels: notebook group/notebook/note. If there is an association between two notes in different notebooks, you can tag them with the same label. Tags can make up for the lack of flexibility of the tree structure.

A Public External Brain

The information lying quietly in your private notebook is only useful to you, why not consider making some public information available to everyone? This can help others and at the same time build up a reputation and influence. Maybe you can also make good friends and reap some commercial profits.

One of the most accessible things for everyone is a website, and the best form is a blog. Blog posts can also be managed with categories and tags. As for what topics the blog writes, A. Jesse Jiryu Davis’s post gave me a very useful hint: stories, opinions, how-tos, how things work, and reviews. Some of my reading notes will also be posted on the blog. The notes are roughly in the form of question and answer, because reading with questions can fully mobilize the brain.

At this point, my two external brains have been built: a private notebook and a public blog.