Build a digital brain in Notion with simple steps

Notion digital brain

Do you ever feel like you're missing out on important insights or ideas? Have you wondered how to improve memory retention or create a system to enhance your digital mind?

You're not alone.

Many of us have experienced this frustration, but some have explored different productivity techniques to overcome it. In my opinion, one key lesson we can learn from the product world is the power of combination - blending lean, design thinking, scrum, and other agile frameworks in a hybrid and flexible way.

When designing something in the digital realm, we have historically focused on object-oriented and user-centered solutions. This approach allows us to view this system as a tool or product for our brains, a digital counterpart to our business and user needs.

So don't panic, because this journey should be enjoyable. Let's embark on the adventure of putting pen to paper.

Understanding how to build a Notion digital brain

Think mode: Problem-Solving

In the world of Notion projects, it is important to start with a blank piece of paper. Begin by writing down key objects and creating a basic data model with known relations. This will aid in the later implementation of the system.

When initiating a project, it is essential to conduct research. Answering the following questions can help build a problem-solution space and gather helpful information and data that will eventually turn into knowledge:

  • Who has discussed the topic previously?

  • Are there any existing community-built solutions in the field?

  • Are there samples or people who have already solved this problem?

💡 For example, if you want to build a CRM in Notion, you can look at mainstream solutions like Salesforce or Hubspot to identify main data objects such as company revenue, contact details, and pipeline size or status.

To gain a better understanding of the context, we recommend reading the following resources by the renowned Tiago Forte:

We prefer to refer to it as a digital brain rather than a second brain, as brains are too complex to be fully replicated on a laptop. Digital platforms should assist us in the data-to-knowledge process but cannot replace our decision-making process. We will delve into what a digital brain means in further posts.

Define a Feasible Solution

Once we have gathered enough information, we can kickstart our Notion project to build a second brain. If you don't have an account yet, you can sign up for free (forever) here.

As mentioned before, we can use these frameworks to inspire and customize our system according to our specific needs for this hybrid digital/second brain.

Build a tool you'd love, it’s for you

Now we have a basic framework with samples to build our system structure. If you are new here, we are providing a basic setup guide to help you kickstart your project. We strongly suggest being creative and having fun in this initial phase by adding your own personal touch:

  1. Create four databases: areasprojectstasks, and resources.

  2. Create a relation property in areas linked with projects, allowing two-way sync.

  3. Repeat the same process from projects, this time linked with tasks.

  4. The resources database does not need to be linked with any other database, but here is our pro tip: install the Notion Web Clipper and link it with this database to easily store web content.

  5. Now that you've set up the basics, we suggest exploring new properties that make sense in your designed second brain. Look at your original piece of paper and play with icons.

  6. To get an advanced setup, continue reading.

  7. Add the status and checkbox properties in projects and tasks. You can start filling these columns once you've added some content.

  8. In any of the three linked databases, create a roll up property with their child database. Then, look up the checkbox property and select count all. We used roll-up and formula properties in the project sample below.

  9. Repeat the process in another column, this time selecting only count checked.

  10. Create a third column with a formula property, as shown in the example below.

  11. You can now play with the formula property display setup, using numbers, charts, or both, and different colors.

By following these steps, you can build a tool that you will truly love and that suits your specific needs. Enjoy the process and make your digital brain truly your own!

Store data, create information, and generate knowledge

Once you have created the structure and iterated a few times, it's time to explore your creativity and build new dashboards to improve how you access information. If you have more content in your Notion workspace, we recommend creating a new teamspace and installing the four databases there. This allows you to access everything with a single click. Here's an example:

  1. Create a teamspace in the left navigation bar of your workspace and move your databases below it.

  2. Ideally, copy and paste information into your new system in a structured manner to avoid the use of multiple notebooks or spreadsheets. If you already have structured notes in another tool like Evernote or Trello, or if you can handle CSV files, you can directly sync or import the information into the new system.

  3. Learn more about how to migrate your information using Notion integrations and the import feature.

Give your system some time for fine-tuning, but avoid falling into endless refinement. Share your product with yourself and test it with patience. Use the system for 3-6 weeks to test its functionality and how it adapts to your current productivity system, both online and offline.

Benefits of using Notion as a digital brain

Building a digital second brain can help you stay organized by storing all your information in one place. To create your own system, start with a blank piece of paper and pen, research the problem-solution space, explore what others have done, and use frameworks like PARA to structure your system and translate it into Notion. Once you've created the system, fine-tune it and give it time to test its functionality. You'll experience increased productivity, enhanced creativity, and improved mental clarity in your projects.

In conclusion, building a digital second brain is a powerful tool that can increase your productivity, enhance your creativity, and improve your mental clarity. By using a digital second brain, you can stay organized, save time, and reduce stress. Start building your own digital second brain today with the right tools, frameworks, and mindset. And remember, you don't have to start from scratch.

Free resources to get started