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How I Set Up My Second Brain in 3 Main Apps

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

I’m constantly finding new ways to work my Second Brain, and recently I’ve come upon a new workflow that’s been amazing for me.

What’s a Second Brain? It’s using technology to capture and store all the information you need to eventually be used for work or play or both. It’s not having to juggle so many things in your head and instead being able to relax. It’s kind of a broader idea of the planner community — everything has its place, you know what your next task is, and when you’re ready for the next step with whatever project you’re working on, you’ve got the information handy.

I center my Second Brain around mobile apps. We’re in the digital age now, and since nearly all of us have a smartphone that’s a super powerful tool, we might as well make it work for us, right?

I have three apps that make up my Second Brain: Google Calendar, Todoist, and Evernote. No matter what’s going on in my life, I tend to use a combination of those three apps to keep me going. Where I need to be is in my calendar, what I need to be doing is in Todoist, and all the reference information I need for either is in Evernote. (Notion gets a lot of mention for this purpose as well, and worthy of it. I use it occasionally but for my every day Evernote is what works best for me.)


My day starts with a glance at my Google Calendar. I’ve long said that if it doesn’t get in my Calendar, I won’t remember it. I’ve synced my work Outlook calendar to my Google Calendar so my work and home lives are in place. (I prefer the interface.) If I have an event, I make sure the address of the event and any other important details are in the event in my Calendar so I don’t have to spend any time searching for it.

Recently I started implementing Goals in my Google Calendar — this is a feature where you can set a goal for doing a certain task and Google will schedule it in for you, and then you mark off completion. I have two Goals: Morning Pages and Workouts. For whatever reason, having these two things scheduled in my Calendar has helped to make them both habits. I mostly remember to do them without any prompting, but my Calendar reminds me.

I start my day with Morning Pages. I am LOVING this ritual I’ve created for myself where I free write for three pages first thing. I’ve discovered so many things about my priorities and my needs and worries as a writer, and usually end up making a plan for the day of what writing (and reading) I need to do to feel productive and meet my goals. But I quickly learned that if I didn’t put those ideas into any part of my Second Brain, I wouldn’t remember them. (My Morning Pages are done in a paper notebook I leave at home and doesn’t travel with me.) But that’s the point of having a Second Brain — it does the remembering for you.


This is where my favorite task manager app comes in. I don’t know where I would be without this amazing app. If anyone asks me how I remember all the things I need to do, I recommend this app. There are others similar to it out there, but Todoist has the right UX for me. It’s simple and clean and works. This is where I turn to next, after my Calendar and Morning Pages.

I divided up my life into different projects, Personal, Work, Writing, Reading, Church, etc. And anytime I need to remember a task for any of those, I add it into my Todoist. I use it like a Bullet Journal, throwing in tasks and quick notes I need to process later. If something has a deadline, it goes in Todoist. If a bigger project has many components to it, all of it goes in Todoist. If my boss mentions something needs to be done or addressed, I can quickly add it to my Todoist Inbox with a few pertinent details and then process it better a little later — and remember to do it. I even forward bills I get in my email to Todoist and that’s how I remember to pay them (or verify autopayments). This app has been phenomenal for me. If I come up with a good idea or task in my Morning Pages, I make sure it gets put into Todoist.

I can open up my Todoist app every day and see a list of priorities. I can easily move things to another day if my schedule changes. This is probably the driving force of my Second Brain.


This is the app that is the backbone of my Second Brain. This is the app everything funnels into. So many things end up in Evernote, from articles I want to save that I find online, to meeting notes at work, packing lists for trips, checklists for work projects, to drafts of articles I’m writing — like this one! I can access Evernote everywhere, which is fantastic.

Evernote recently released some new features that have kicked things up for me a notch — I can sync my Google Calendar to my Evernote, so when I go to a meeting that has already been scheduled, I can create a note associated with that event and keep all those notes organized. PLUS they’ve added a Tasks feature. Admittedly I don’t use it to its fullest extent since I have Todoist for that, but when I’m in a meeting quickly taking notes I can add in Tasks that I can later process after the meeting.

I’m a voracious reader. Once I allowed myself to like digital books (I was a print purist for awhile) my life changed pretty dramatically. I’m reading way more than I would with print books, since I can pull them up for odd minutes of reading here and there, and it’s so portable and convenient I can have loads of books ready at once. But one thing that I was missing is the notes and highlights I make in print books that helps me retain the information.

Enter Readwise. How had I not heard of this app sooner?! It’s amazing — this is a service I can sync to my Kindle account (and others), and it imports all those notes and highlights I make and now I can search them and access them in a cleaner, more streamlined manner. AND I can send all those notes to my Evernote.

I find loads of articles through social media and email and just checking the news that I’m interested in reading, but I usually don’t have the time. In the past I’ve added the web address of the article into my Todoist as a task, and that actually worked pretty well. But then Instapaper came into my life and I am CHANGED.

Instapaper is kind of a reading material aggregate. It can’t do ebooks or PDFs (that’s what Kindle is for!), but if you’re looking at online articles and blogs this is the thing to use. You can add links directly into it, or share it to the app on your phone or browser. Then, when you have time to sit down and read through your articles, they’re all there waiting for you.

So at the end of the day, all the information I’ve gathered throughout the day is where it needs to be. My email inbox is cleared, my tasks are completed, and I can rest easy knowing that what I need in my life is in place and ready to be recalled when I need it. It may seem a bit laborious to set up, but once the system is in place, you’re set. Everyone has to develop their own system, but this is what has worked for me for years through many levels of tinkering. It hasn’t failed me yet!

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Amanda Mae

Amanda Mae

Amanda Mae is a librarian who has lived in too many states and enjoys anything involving books, history, and productivity.

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