Building my second brain and becoming 10x productive as a software engineer

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In today’s fast-paced world, information overload is a common challenge. As software engineers, it is essential to have a reliable system to store, organize, and retrieve knowledge efficiently. In this article, I will share my experience and approach to building a second brain using a simple and effective tool: Obsidian. I will walk you through the process of capturing and organizing information from various sources, including books, blogs, articles, and research papers.

Why Obsidian?

Obsidian is a lightweight note-taking app that utilizes Markdown files for storing information. It is my preferred choice due to its simplicity and flexibility. Unlike cloud-hosted solutions like Notion, Obsidian stores data locally, ensuring privacy and enabling offline access. Additionally, Obsidian is lightning-fast, with no loading times or network calls. Its directory-based structure makes it easy to organize notes, and its built-in support for code snippets enhances the representation of computer science concepts.

The Workflow


I prefer physical books to reduce screen time and have a tangible reading experience. After completing a book, I spend 15-30 minutes going through each page and selecting the best highlights. I then transfer these highlights to Obsidian, providing a concise summary of the key concepts learned from the book. For certain books that I consider particularly important, I take handwritten notes using the GoodNotes app on my iPad. These notes are later used in my YouTube videos or presentations.

Blogs and Articles

When reading blogs and articles on the web, I utilize a plugin called Hypothesis. It allows me to highlight sections of interest and store them within the plugin. For exceptional articles that I plan to use in videos, I create handwritten notes in the GoodNotes app. These notes are then incorporated into my video content. For other articles, I keep them stored in Hypothesis or transfer them to Obsidian for future reference.

Research Papers

I rely on to discover relevant research papers. While reading papers, I use Adobe Acrobat Reader to highlight important sections. These highlights are stored within the PDF file itself. After reading, I save the papers in Dropbox, with select papers also going to my Google Drive, which I share with others on my website. The highlighted information remains searchable within the PDF.

Random Ideas

Obsidian serves as a repository for all my random ideas, blog posts, and thoughts. I dump these ideas directly into Obsidian, ensuring that they are easily accessible and searchable when needed.

Leveraging GoodNotes Handwriting Recognition

GoodNotes offers an incredible feature that allows handwriting recognition. Even though I write notes by hand, the app recognizes the text and stores it as metadata within the notes. This means that when I export my handwritten notes as PDFs, the text becomes searchable in Obsidian. This feature enables me to search for specific content even within handwritten notes.

Automating PDF Updates in Obsidian

To ensure that my Obsidian notes are always up to date, I have written a Python script. This script automatically extracts text from PDF files, creates corresponding Markdown files in Obsidian, and makes them searchable. By running this script periodically, I keep my notes synchronized with the latest PDF updates.

Benefits of a Second Brain

Having a second brain has been immensely valuable to me as a software engineer. It significantly reduces cognitive load by allowing me to offload information storage and retrieval to a reliable system. With easy access to organized knowledge, I no longer waste time remembering or recalling information. I can focus on other tasks and trust that my second brain will provide the necessary information when needed. Furthermore, revisiting old notes is a delightful way to refresh concepts and gain new insights.


In conclusion, building a secondary brain using tools like Obsidian has proven to be an invaluable asset for enhancing productivity and knowledge retention. By offloading the task of remembering and organizing information to a searchable and locally stored system, individuals can free up their mental capacity and focus on more important tasks. While popular options like Notion may offer extensive features, their cloud-based nature and potential for sluggishness can be limiting.

Obsidian, on the other hand, provides simplicity, speed, privacy, and hackability, making it a preferred choice for many. Whether it’s capturing insights from books, blogs, articles, or research papers, Obsidian offers a seamless workflow that consolidates diverse sources of information into one easily accessible and searchable knowledge repository, empowering individuals to optimize their learning and creativity.

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Courses I teach

Alongside my daily work, I also teach some highly practical courses, with a no-fluff no-nonsense approach, that are designed to spark engineering curiosity and help you ace your career.

System Design Masterclass

A no-fluff masterclass that helps experienced engineers form the right intuition to design and implement highly scalable, fault-tolerant, extensible, and available systems.

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System Design for Beginners

An in-depth and self-paced course for absolute beginners to become great at designing and implementing scalable, available, and extensible systems.

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Redis Internals

A self-paced and hands-on course covering Redis internals - data structures, algorithms, and some core features by re-implementing them in Go.

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Writings and Learnings

Knowledge Base



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