Turn Knowledge Into Creative Outputs

Digital organisation & accumulating knowlege is not the goal, taking ACTION is

Hi friend!

This week I want to dive into Tiago Forte’s CODE Framework for organising digital knowledge, and how to apply this framework in your life. 

💡 Today at a glance

  • What is the CODE Framework?

  • A few reasons why people might struggle with applying CODE to their digital live.

  • A blow by blow breakdown on how I adapt the CODE framework as a part-time solopreneur and digital writer.

There is an over abundance of information.

The new problem we face in the digital world and knowledge economy is how we curate relevant information and unique insights in this sea of information.

And then actually use this information in a meaningful way. Often this means creating things that we are uniquely placed to create (e.g. writing, art, presentations etc.)

I previously shared my concept of the 3 levels of digital organisation and Tiago Forte’s PARA method.

CODE is Tiago’s process for turning information into creative outputs and outcomes.

PARA is actually just one part of CODE (The O of CODE). When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it's often because you’re feeling disorganised or have too much on your plate right now. Learning and then applying PARA gives you a quick win.

You’ll start to feel like you're getting the digital chaos under control.

But understanding PARA is just level 1 when it comes to digital organisation in your career, personal life or running a side hustle.

It’s what I call level 2 of digital organisation.

You can apply the CODE framework using any tool.

I just happen to adapt his CODE framework (loosely) in Notion as that’s the tool that works for me.

What is CODE?

CODE is an acronym for Capture, Organise, Distil and Express. If you’ve read Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain, then you’ll be very familiar with it. But lets do a quick refresher.

Capture:

Capturing knowledge that you resonate with is the start of your Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) journey.

This can be notes, insights, content ideas etc. It can comes from many sources: Conversations you’ve had, articles you’ve read, podcasts you’ve listen to and so forth.

Capture tools like Readwise, Pocket read it later app and Save to Notion webclipper are tools to help you quickly & easily capture information into your PKM tool of choice.

Organise:

PARA is the backbone of the Organisation step. It involves classifying ideas and insights into Projects, Areas or Resources.

Ideally the knowledge you've gathered should be organised and centralised into a PKM app like Notion, Obsidian, Tana etc.

When you want to save a new piece of information, ask yourself "which Project, Area or Resource does it belong to?".

If it belongs to none, you should probably delete it.

Distil

This step is about distilling knowledge you've captured and organised, down to an atomic summary.

Tiago's teaches a technique called Progressive Summarisation to help you with this step. The aim is to distil the knowledge into an atomic summary in multiple stages over time. For example, turning an article you read into a 3 dot-point note.

If you do this often, you’ll start to notice patterns & connections that are unique to you.

Express

The ability to express unique ideas is what sets humans apart from the rest of the species on Earth.

It's about moving from Consumer to Creator by turning the knowledge you've consumed into action and achieving real results. (E.g. Creating a presentation for work, writing an article, building a business)

The Capture & Organise are the easy steps. There are hundreds of PKM tools to help you do this.

The Distil and Express steps are a bit more challenging. It’s where your unique point of view comes in and it’s the steps where we should really focus our attention and energy on.

If you're a Cal Newport fan, think of Capture and Organise as your Shallow Work time. And Distil and Express as your Deep Work time.

If you struggle to apply CODE to your Digital Life, here are a few reasons why

  • Your system is too complex. Maybe you’re trying to build a comprehensive interlinked system. But it’s getting a bit too complex and overwhelming. It’s stopping you from taking action.

  • The system is too time consuming to maintain. If you find you’re spending too much time in your tool and working on your system. It’s probably stopping you from focusing on the real work that you want to do.

  • You’re accidentally spending time creating the “perfect” system. The internet is full of inspiration for creating the “perfect” workspace or workflow. I should know, Notion is the blank canvas that allows you to create beautiful and aesthetic dashboards. But that is a productive procrastination rabbit hole you want to avoid.

I’ve been guilty of all the above.

Over time, I’ve stripped back my systems right down, to a happy medium that works for me. It’s at just the right level of complexity where I’m not wasting time maintaining the system.

To do this, I focused on creating practical and simple workflows within my Notion workspace to help me take action.

Adapting the CODE Framework as a Part-Time Solopreneur and Digital Writer

I apply the CODE framework in my Notion workspace for different areas of my life.

Being a part-time solopreneur and digital writer is a key area of life that I use Notion to manage. The atomic essays, tweets, newsletter issues and digital products that I’ve created are the results of my workflows and PKM system in Notion.

My system is inspired by CODE, so it doesn’t look like the traditional CODE setup.

To give you an example, here’s a breakdown of how I’ve adapted the CODE Framework for writing online.

Capture

I capture interesting articles, videos, podcasts etc. into my Knowledge Sources database. My Learning Hub dashboard serves as a personal curated library of knowledge that I can learn from and reference later.

Learning Hub dashboard

Organise

At least once a week, I process the items that I have captured so that it's organised and things are easy to find. I do this as part of either my Daily Shut Down Ritual or my Weekly Review & Planning process in Notion.

The capture and organise section of my Daily Shutdown Ritual dashboard

Distil

I set aside time at least once a week to distil and learn.

I’m a big fan of “just in time learning”. I tend to dive into my Learning Hub OS to consume new knowledge that is relevant to what I’m building, learning or exploring right now.

There is a place for “just for fun” consumption. But as a part-time solopreneur, prioritising my learning so that it’s relevant is really important to me.

I reflect and summarise key points that resonated and this process often sparks new content ideas, which I add to my Idea Repository in my Writer’s Hub OS in Notion. (If you’re interested in how I built the Writer’s Hub OS, you can check out the mini-course)

To make sure I can easily reference the original source that sparked the content idea, I use Notion's Database Relations Property to crosslink the source to the content idea (highlighted in yellow below).

Express

I rarely start from a blank page when I sit down to write. There are 2 sources of inspiration for me to kick off the “express” step:

  1. The atomic summary that I made in my Distillation step acts as research and the starting spark for an atomic essay, newsletter article, tweet or thread etc.

  2. My previous content I’ve written and shared online (tweets, threads, atomic essays)

This very newsletter issue I’m writing right now is a combination of an atomic essay I shared on X / Twitter a month ago, and my personal perspective on Tiago Forte’s Build A Second Brain Book I read last year.

That’s all thanks to my:

  1. Library of Content (My repository of content I’ve shared in the last 15+ months)

  2. Learning hub (My PKM containing articles, book notes, video notes etc. that I’ve accumulated in Notion for the last 4+ years.)

When I sit down to write, I already have a pipeline of ideas in my Writer’s Hub OS Dashboard.

All I have to do now is flick through my pipeline, pick an idea that interests me right now, and then add my point of view and personal experiences to that.

If you’re juggling multiple commitments in life. Creating a simple system using a framework like CODE is key to avoiding burnout and information overwhelm.

You reach level 2 Digital Organisation when you can consistently apply CODE to key areas of your life.

🛠️ Building in Public

I took the foot off the pedal (especially on social media) after finishing up the November Build In Public Sprint and also went away for a long weekend getaway.

But I did get started on the free Notion FAQ Handbook behind the scenes.

The plan is still to complete it and release it in December. So I have a few more weeks to work on this!

If you’re interested, sign up for waitlist and you’ll get it immediately once it’s ready (it’s free).

That’s it!

Thanks for reading.

Hit reply and let me know if you struggle with creating a personal workflow system like CODE in your business, life or side hustle — I would love to help and I will reply with a specific suggestion for you!

See you next week,

CK

📌 Some Interesting Things

Just one thing this week.

  1. Make Better Decisions w/ Mind Maps, Google Strategist Sheng Huang Interview

    I recently discovered Peter Su’s podcast called the Inner Creator. In this episode, he interviewed Sheng Huang, a mindmapping Youtuber. You’ll learn how Sheng went from corporate superstar to prolific creator. In a short space of time, he went from dabbling in creating Youtube videos to creating a mind-mapping community, coaching program, newsletter, and courses.

    I’ve enjoy Sheng’s content as he is a “left and right brained” creator. Something I personally resonate with.

    ⚠️Warning: It’s a hefty 2 hour and 45 minute episode packed full of value.

    → Link to podcast episode on Spotify or Youtube

Whenever you're ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Ultimate Guide: How to create your digital writing system in Notion under 1 hour (Free!): Ready to learn how to use Notion to create your own writing system so you can write consistently?

    Join 110+ people who have downloaded this guide to build their own Writer’s Hub OS in Notion with built-in slow productivity principles.

  2. Mini-Course: Writer’s Hub OS in Notion: Learn the fundamentals of Notion, Workflow Design and how to build a effective “Idea to Published” writing system in Notion (or just plug and play a done-for-you Notion template).

    Perfect for digital writers, solopreneurs and content creators to help you achieve long term sustainable and stress-free daily writing & content creation habit.

  3. Travel Hub Notion Template (Free!): All-in-one Travel Planner that helps you ideate, plan, research and organise your trip stress free using Notion.

    Join 700+ people who have already downloaded this system and upped their travel planning game.

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