A few weeks ago, I revealed that I had fallen hook, line, and sinker in love with Tiago Forte’s idea of a Second Brain. His book has completely transformed my approach to note-taking and personal knowledge management.

This is surprising considering that I’m still only half of the way through the book (newborn/crazy business/upcoming holiday – you name it).

However, I think one of the toughest parts of adopting the second brain methodology is finding the right tool for the meat of the job, which is note-taking.

After an admittedly short period of deliberation, I decided to go for Apple Notes, and it really has served me pretty well – even if there are a few frustrations during these early days of second brain building.

If you’re considering Apple Notes for your second brain, I’ve got some thoughts.

Why I chose Apple Notes

The battle of the note-taking app for my second brain was between two contenders: Notion and Apple Notes (I’ve long since abandoned Evernote).

Notion came close. It’s a platform I use to run the entire production side of this business. My videos, blog posts, sponsors, review units, and even annual goals are all tracked, managed, and kept in order within this brilliant app.

But Notion felt a bit cumbersome for the note-taking element of my second brain. Forte makes it clear that the key to success lies in your ability to quickly capture ideas, thoughts, and inspiration. Doing that in Notion isn’t as quick as it is in Apple Notes – it’s as simple as that.

This is, really, the only reason Notes won the battle. It is nowhere near as fully-featured or as connected as Notion, but it does provide that instant ability to add notes, no matter how I decide to input them.

Pros of Apple Notes as a second brain

Simplicity really is the order of the day for an efficient second brain. Anything that gets in the way of your notes database is a threat to your productivity, efficiency, and ability to complete projects.

This brings me to the biggest benefit of using Apple Notes for a second brain – it is ridiculously simple. Too simple, for some users, I’m sure – but for someone who doesn’t want to be distracted by endless options, UI elements, and integrations, Apple Notes is a winner.

As you probably know by now, I’m also firmly wedged within the four walls of Apple’s garden, and that’s another upside to using Notes. It’s accessible on all of my devices (bar the Apple Watch, although that can be used as an input method via Siri) and the syncing between those devices is the best I’ve encountered.

Simple, synced, and entirely Apple-centric. That’ll do thanks, Tim!

Cons of Apple Notes as a second brain

Apple Notes isn’t a perfect second brain, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be right for power users.

While I’ve been building my second brain in Apple Notes and actively using it to take notes on a daily basis, these are some of the frustrations I’ve encountered:

  • There’s no highlight tool. Highlighting is a key strategy used by Forte to ‘distill’ his notes into something more digestible at quick glance. In Apple Notes, the only other option is to bold and underline your passages – not great.
  • It quickly becomes unwieldy. One of the biggest advantages of Apple Notes is also its downfall. Because it’s so easy to get stuff in there, you’ll quickly end up with a huge bunch of notes that need sorting. This is a challenge for any note-taking app, but there’s something about Apple Notes that makes it all too easy to let that stuff build up and become a mess.
  • You can’t share notes. One of the most perplexing omissions from Apple Notes’ share sheet is the ability to grab a public URL for sharing. I appreciate there are privacy concerns here, but plenty of other apps manage this with encryption and password management.
  • You can’t interlink notes. If I’d chosen Notion as my second brain, I’d have been able to link notes to other notes in a variety of ways. In Apple Notes you can’t do this, at all; each note is very much contained within its own silo, which is starting to become a bit irritating within my second brain.

Despite the gripes above, I’m going to stick with Apple Notes. The upsides vastly outweigh the niggles, and I’m pretty sure Apple will continue to add the missing functionality, as it has been doing so consistently each year at WWDC.

I just wish they’d hurry up a bit!

Final thought

Note-taking apps are very personal things. What works for me might not work for you, and it could well be that Apple Notes is just too simple for your requirements.

If so, there are so many other options out there. But, if you’re building your second brain from the ground up like me, and don’t want any form of complexity, Apple Notes is a huge winner. If you’re an Apple person. Obviously.

You can find out how I’ve built my second brain in this original article.


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