Enhancing the Human Brain 2022
I am halfway through my audiobook, “Building a Second Brain”, by Tiago Forte, 4.6 stars on Amazon.
I give it four stars myself. Correction; as of 7-22-2022, I now assess it as 3 stars, with hope it will improve. As I approach 2/3 finished, the author has become repetitive, less precise, and not willing to discuss how certain applications and products will apply to his “proven method”.
I listen to it while mowing with my Kubota Tractor and driving back from a meeting.
The author reminds us that our brain evolved into its current, modern, form as early as 200,000 years ago. It is not designed to handle everything that comes “down the pike” on “the information highway”. His metaphor is to create a digital brain with vast capacity and ability to retrieve information. It occurs to me that Google Search and Wikipedia are two remarkable resources, created for us.
In my reading so far, there is nothing I haven’t figured out for myself. But my submission below is free, and I hope it will be useful to you. Feedback always appreciated, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless we harness techniques, methods, technology, and, no doubt, genetic modification, we won’t be able to handle it, and we may not survive. I refer you to “Codebreakers” by Walter Isaacson on gene splicing and the C.R.I.S.P.R. method discovered by Jennifer Dowdner and others, and “Double Helix” by James Watson.
Listening to this book prompted me to search my own blog for “office technology” “office management” and “time and task management”. I got hundreds of “hits” as “getting things done” is a passion of mine.
My guess is that many of the author’s readers will hardly have “a clue” what he is talking about. His book is written for people who have been on this journey for a while, trying to organize, research, save, and retrieve information that can be put to use on projects that are important to them.
There are no limits here: court cases, projects, plays, books, articles, construction projects, design, artistic creation, scientific studies, and teaching projects are some of the things that “knowledge workers” want to accomplish.
My primary criticism of the book is that it is written as “a hook” to lure the reader into a website and system where the author can curate information, suggest software, and sell other products to his new devotees, much like Tony Robbins on “salesmanship”. Mr. Forte even quotes Tony Robbins.
That tactic is called “monetization”. I am not interested in becoming anyone’s “disciple” or groupie. I like to curate my own information while attending seminars, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube, and taking courses as I can find them.
Of course, there are also “The Teaching Company” and its supposed “college-level courses”, Linked In Learning, formerly Lynda.com, Udemy.com, and Khan Academy. Each has its strengths, which you should explore.
I recommend doing your own research. Steve Dotto and Carl Pullein and myriad others on YourTube present 5-minute to 30-minute videos on so many subjects.
These subjects include Google Photos, Evernote, Evernote Web Clipper, Techsmith’s Snagit and Camtasia, Pathagoras’ Document Assembly, and Apple and Android smartphones’ suite of built-in apps such as iPhone Reminders, Apple Notes, Camera, etc.
The free version of YouTube is terrific. I even learned how to build a French Drain by watching YouTube videos.
I am at a loss to determine which content streaming services are best. For now, Netflix is out and Amazon Prime and Alexa still “in”. I even went back to Spotify. Gone are the days of “test patterns” and 1-2 channels on black and white t.v.
Of course, Microsoft has Microsoft 365, formerly Microsoft Office Pro, formerly Outlook 365. It includes Word, Access (relational database), Excel (spreadsheet), Outlook (tasks, calendar, e-mail host), Publisher, Powerpoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and “Microsoft To Do” (formerly Wunderlist). Powerful stuff; sometimes too powerful, preventing the user from unlocking its power.
I have found nothing better than Google Photos to save, organize, and find your photos, automatically sorted because of image and facial recognition. Take 15 minutes with Steve Dotto and you will be amazed: https://youtu.be/ppleyVVC1_I
You can have a separate album of every family member, friend, pet, or object that you select. Or search for all your “black and white” photos, “auto racing”, “country scenes”, etc. You pick the subject, and it will do the search and create your albums, plus memories, short videos and so much more. Enjoy.
Google has its own suite of apps to Match Apple and Microsoft Office, a Google Calendar, Google Docs,, tasks, and notetaking apps. Don’t forget Google Search, Google Lens, and Google Scholar.
I learned that in Google Scholar you can select “cases” and search for “J Burton Hunter III” and find virtually every WV Supreme Court of Appeals case in which I represented a party or was mentioned in the opinion. The power of Google’s search capabilities is awesome. I think this is the third time I mentioned it, so it must be so. Sometimes the best tools are the simplest.
I still regularly rely on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia for so much.
So what is my “take-away” from “Building a Second Brain” and similar books?
Here are a few:
- You must have a calendar with alarms and reminders.
- You must have a good e-mail feature and a way to search your e-mails.
- My e-mail is primarily is Outlook, with Gmail as a secondary account. I send e-mail I want to keep to my Evernote e-mail address; all are “archived”.
- And you can do something similar with “Microsoft To Do” by “flagging” the e-mail. That sends a copy to your task list.
- You need a “task manager” and a note-taking app, and you MUST be able to send e-mails to each that will be saved as notes or tasks. I don’t like Outlook’s “Tasks”, to “clunky” which is why I choose Microsoft “To Do”.
- I find I am adding voice-to-text reminders and alarms to my iPhone Reminders 1/2 dozen times a day. Then I can transfer them to “To Do” if I can’t finish the task then.
- You must have a good screen capture tool. I love Techsmith’s Snagit as it saves images, scrolls to select images larger than one screen, and saves videos, even ones you create.
- It is a great teaching tool, and it has a parent product, Camtasia, for video editing. It allows you to number your steps in a process and add “call-outs” or arrows to each step.
- Of course, Microsoft has a basic snipping tool, “Snip and Sketch”, but take Steve Dotto’s and Techsmith’s instructional videos, and you won’t look back.
- It simply has more practical and “user-friendly” features.
- You must have a way to grab stuff on the fly. I now use Siri and iPhone “Reminders” for various reminders, authors, books, movies, podcasts, websites, and the rest. Otherwise, they are “gone” the next time I try to remember them.
- I can have Siri remind me at a certain time and day or set an alarm.
- I can even ask her to remind me to shop or pick something up when I “leave work”. Her geo-tracking feature detects when I have left the office!
- You must have a voice-to-text application and a digital audio recorder.
- Dragon Natual Speaking is over-priced, and its conversion of audio recordings to text is slow and clunky. But I still use it for longer drafts on my laptop.
- There is a “Dragon on the Go” iPhone App, but I have found myself more and more on my iPhone’s voice to text, and Reminders, and its notetaking app has some strong advocates.
- Believe it or not, I still use my micro-cassette recorder at my desk for the tasks I think it does better than any other such as dictating my billing time entries.
- I still find them at low cost on E-bay, but NOT on Amazon.com where they are $300+!
- I use Microsoft Windows 10 for now but we just bought four new machines that are “Windows 11 Capable.”
- It is time, if you haven’t, “to move into the cloud”.
- It is scary, and, in my practice, I think my five-year-old “on-site” file server will serve me well as a back-up.
- By moving your data to “The Cloud” via DropBox, iDrive, Google Drive, or One Drive, Evernote, One Note, and the rest, you can access your data via your laptop, your iPad, and your phone, anywhere, any time! Soon, I will have the same access to client files on the road as I do at the office.
- I still find the “Eisenhower Method” of organizing tasks to be effective:
- “Urgent and Important” simply must be done, and time set aside for it.
- “Important but not urgent”, must be tracked, planned and worked at steadily or that book will never be written or that cabin never be built.
- “Urgent but not important”, are important to the person pestering you, often by e-mail and more and more by text.
- I am not a “set aside an hour a day for those things” kind of guy. I say reply or act quickly, carefully (and watch that autofill!), and with a hook or tickler for your staff to remind you.
- I encounter a hundred of these a day, and I just process them!
- And, of course, there are special projects or interests. Everyone should identify at least 10 major areas of interest and cultivate them. Integrate them into your system.
- I visit and review my “To Do” task list app. at least once a day. So, also, do I view my calendar for the following day so I know how busy it is is and how many additional tasks I might accomplish.
- And, once a week, I try to review the longer-term projects, add subtasks, and simply take a breath.
- Some other tips:
- I sit in my recliner 20-40 minutes before I leave for work each morning, with my calendar for the day in mind, picking the 3-4 things to do first.
- Breath deep, perhaps sleep a few minutes, but swing out of that chair promptly in time to get to the office by 7:00 a.m. and perhaps 6:00 a.m. a few times a month.
- Two to three times a week, I like to get to my home office and chill, think, answer substantive e-mails, take a course, or power nap.
- 4-6 times a year I try to get to professional meetings and seminars. For the last ten years, I have been teaching at least a couple a year, but my contacts in the State Bar, WV Association for Justice, and College of Law have moved on, so not so much as before.
- I write, write, write, write, State Bar and WVAJ articles, blogging, 3 YouTube channels; I love them all.
- We do NOT save client paper files; we return them or shred them, but the files we keep are digital.
- Everything that arrives at our office is scanned and stored “in its place“. See: https://hunterlawfirm.net/preparing-yourself-and-your-office-for-the-future/ , which I wrote at the request of the WV State Bar.
- Be curious, ever curious, innovative, circumspect, and passionate about what you are doing, especially for individuals, families, children, and our own friends and family.
- Don’t forget; we have 1700 “fully searchable” pages and nearly 500 blog articles at www.hunterlawfirm.net/blog !
This post was written by Burton Hunter