Are you possessed by demons?
My mom thought I might be, briefly.
My imagination seemed as real as reality.
I could imagine watching cartoons to escape boring car rides. Close my eyes, BOOM there was Garfield doing his antics.
Mom: "What are you doing, laughing with your eyes closed?"
Me: "Watching Garfield, he's so silly!"
Mom: "I don't want you doing that, it could be an evil spirit messing with you."
Me: "Really? Most people can't pretend? That's odd..."
Did you have an active imagination growing up? You might be demon possessed too... or just have ADHD ;)
In college, I took notes quite differently from my classmates.
In one class, the teacher asked me to share my notes with everyone on the projector since I had been furiously typing during his class. Up popped a web of ideas, all connected to each other, organized in a map.
The teacher loved it... and I felt odd.
Sharing this story with my friend, we both got goosebumps. He used mind maps and always felt different, alone even.
Mind Mapping notes from lectures in college wasn't just a cute exercise, it was a survival tool.
Taking notes in a flexible way that allowed me to connect ideas was killer! Ideas became living and breathing things. This living framework held all the information thrown at me, and made it useable, tangible.
Software called Free Mind allowed me to digitally mind map, relate ideas, and keep my fingers and brain busy during boring lectures.
You might think in pictures too! Ideas connect in new an interesting ways that 'Normal' people around you just can't see.
Constantly making idea connections is great for creativity, but sucks for focus. I have a habit/system that seems to help... but more on that in a bit.
Mind Map notes helped me graduate college... but I stopped using Mind Maps over time.
But the power of organizing my brain externally stuck with me. I longed for a way to connect ideas, and organize my chaotic brain in a way that made sense.
The search to organize my ideas continued...
Notes all grown up
I tried so many note taking apps over the years
Just to name a few.
The problem: Ideas and info flooding into my head needed a place to go.
What kinds of info? So many kinds...
- Journal entries
- Personal projects
- Account numbers
- Podcast transcriptions
- People to stay in touch with
- Notes & highlights from books
- Notes from meetings with clients
The solution: A second brain*
*A second brain via software does not work for everyone. A few interviewees have said no matter how many tries they can't make it work. YMMV
Notice... the solution is not an app.
Yes, I do use software for this, and would love to share my template with you, but that is not the solution. The solution is having a system that works for you, for your brain, where you can always and easily know exactly where a note should go that exists outside your brain.
As David Allen of GTD fame says "Our mind is for having ideas, not holding ideas."
The rule is - Have an idea? -> Save it somewhere.
I use a few tools to save ideas, but it really can be as simple as a pen and paper.
If you opt for the software route, there are TONS of templates out there. But whatever you do, it needs to work for YOU!
Old School: Pen & Paper Second Brain
You can build an analogue second brain.
Its harder. Takes longer. But never run out of battery!
There is a whole cult of people that create a second brain analogue style. This book about taking smart notes was great, and this post about The Hipster PDA inspired me back in the day to buy SO MANY NOTECARDS.
A notecard and pen system like this can lesson some of the downsides of ADHD. Racing brain full of ideas? Offload those ideas into a second brain.
Struggle with poor memory? The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.
Too many projects? Write em all down, and keep them in your pocket or on your desk.
The most productive time in my life was working a job I did not like. Chained to the desk, I wrote down all the things I would do when I "had more time" or could control my schedule. Knocking out this list became a game. And I got good at winning!
Dying to know the software option? Ok, fine, here it is.
Software: Notion + Logseq Second Brain
Notion organizes my life and thoughts in a way I never thought possible.
It did not really click for me, until I read Building a Second Brain, and dove down the rabbit hole of personal knowledge management.
My system is much simpler than what the author Tiago Forte shares in the book, but it works for me.
That's the key, it works for me!
Glimpse into my digital brain.
How does a Second Brain help ADHD?
Working memory with ADHD tends to be limited.
My second brain helps me
- Capture and organize ideas
- Save information for long term projects
- Reduce anxiety about where info is
Taking notes helps me think better, more clearly. Even if I never go back to those notes, the act of taking them is an external form of thinking.
But for large, or long duration projects, my second brain becomes invaluable. All the meeting notes, related material, attachments, text snippets all have a home.
The anxiety of trying to sift through all old email threads, text messages, and attachments is gone.
It takes work to setup, and manage, but for me and my work/life it seems worth it.
Many of us grew up feeling different. ADHD can feel isolating. But there are advantages to the way we think, and ways of shoring up the weaknesses of how our brains work.
Having a system to save ideas and notes might help you organize your thoughts. It did for me! But learning what works for you may be a long journey. Keep trying, and I think you will find something that works well for you!
Thanks for reading!