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  • Episode 4

Your second brain

In today’s episode, I talk about one of the most powerful tools in my ADHD toolkit.


Hello, hello, hello. This is the ADHD for the win podcast. I’m Chris Ferdinandi. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m talking about the ultimate ADHD tool, a second brain let’s dig in. So when you have ADHD, getting stuff done can be really challenging and so much productivity advice is written for and by neurotypical folks.

Frankly, it just doesn’t work for people like us today. I wanted to talk about one of the most powerful tools in my toolkit. The second brain. When I was in my first real job after college, a lot of information was getting thrown at me. And in classic ADHD fashion, I kept forgetting to do things. I’d get assigned a handful of tasks and I’d remember a few of them, but forget the rest even existed.

It happened enough that I was pretty sure I was going to get fired. So I started Googling how to get things done. And the resources that kept showing up over and over again were all about it. David Allen’s best selling book, Getting Things Done, or GTD, as it’s often called. Friends, this book is not for people with ADHD.

It is rigid, overly complex, it’s a fragile system that will suck you in with its novelty at first, and then leave a trail of broken promises when it gets too boring and too complex to maintain over time. But there is one trick from getting things done that has been a game changer for me nearly 20 years after I first read about it, and that is the ubiquitous capture device or UCD in getting things done.

You’re supposed to offload everything that pops into your brain into a ubiquitous capture device. What is a UCD? It’s a notebook. It’s a fucking notebook. David Allen calls it a UCD because you’re supposed to capture everything that needs doing or processing in some way in it so that you don’t forget it later.

Literally any little thing that you want to remember later goes in it. An idea for a friend’s birthday gift. That task you were just assigned by your boss. The food you’re craving now that you might want for dinner. A follow up call that you need to make in a few weeks. Details about the meeting you were just in.

You’re welcome. Write it all down. This concept is really taken off in the neurodivergent space, uh, folks with ADHD and ASD as a way to deal with information overload. Only we often call it a second brain, which sounds far less pretentious and more accurately describes its function rather than just what you do with it.

So the second step of using a second brain is to periodically process the stuff in it. Getting Things Down has this whole system of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews. And in my opinion, that just doesn’t work for folks with ADHD. It’s too rigid, too predictable. Instead, I’ve built a habit of just looking at my second brain each morning and flagging a handful of things I want to accomplish that day.

And every now and then, but not on any sort of set schedule, I go through and remove. stuff that’s not important anymore or that I no longer need to do. I might also reorder or rearrange some stuff. One of the big kind of questions or considerations around having a second brain is paper versus digital.

When getting things done first came out, the system was entirely paper based and paper has some great benefits. When you write stuff down, it tends to stick better in your brain. And ironically, the act of writing it down for when you forget, um, Uh, can make you less likely to forget it in the first place.

For a while, I would use a small notebook like field notes as my second brain. And these are nice little like pocket size notebooks. You can literally fit them in your, your pants pocket or your shirt pocket. But for me personally, I just tend to forget to bring paper notebooks with me, or I can’t find my pen.

So I’d capture my thoughts in another piece of paper or text myself or something like that. Um, or just not write it down at all. Uh, and so then I’d have all this stuff scattered all over the place and it just defeats the whole purpose. So, for me, digital has many advantages. It’s always with you, it’s available on any device, it’s searchable, and you can easily cross reference information.

The best system is the one that works for you. So, if paperwork’s better for your brain, Awesome, but for me digital wins hands down and it also makes the processing step easier in a future episode or three I’ll talk about digital second brain tools and how you might use them. But for today, that’s it If you feel like your ADHD is holding you back I send out a short email each weekday on how to unlock your neurodivergent superpowers.

Head over to to sign up. And, uh, I will see you next time. Cheers.