Using TheBrain

I’ve been using TheBrain since August due to a video by Joe Buhlig on Productivity Guild Community (You will need to be a Pro member of the Productivity Guild to view the video). Since I started using it, the company has released version 10 which included a feature called the BrainBox which is an inbox for your Brain. Previously I would drag URLs into the Brain under a Thought named Inbox, now I can quickly click on the Extension or Bookmarklet, and the URL goes into a separate holding area. The next iOS version, 10, is currently in beta and also has access to the BrainBox, which makes adding documents, URLs, photos on iOS to TheBrain incredibly easy.

Since August I’ve been using TheBrain for organizing research, general thoughts, gift ideas, media collection, and personal knowledge. Over the last week, I’ve started using it as a Day book/log after I read this post. I’ve already found the day book incredibly useful, in part due to when I read a post, such as the one above, I add it as a child thought to the thought for that day. I also link the URL to any other parent or jump thoughts that have any relations. Every evening I open a report in TheBrain that shows any thoughts created within the last 24 hours, then I check to see if those thoughts can be connected elsewhere. So far, it has already led to finding new parent thoughts or new research paths that need following.

I currently use TheBrain for a media collection database, adding a thought for each movie, book, TV show I want to consume or I have consumed. For movies I put the date released, then the date watched while books have date started and finished. Movies include a link to the IMDB page and synopsis in the notes of the thought. After watching, I label the thought with a personal rating of 1–5 stars. Books are a child thought of the Author (the author thought has a link to their Wikipedia page) and Fiction or Non-Fiction. Recently I’ve been investigating Tinderbox as a replacement for this function, but I’m not sure I’m ready to bite the bullet and move everything over, so I’m still investigating.

Previously I used multiple brains for my media collection, research, and personal, but I found I needed to then create the same thought in multiple locations, so I’ve simplified to one brain. The move to one brain has helped find connections I wouldn’t have seen before the merging. It’s incredibly powerful in detecting associated data that standard folders and tags would not associate. Speaking of tags, I only use 3: To Read, To Watch, and Decide. The first two are self-explanatory, Decide is a tag I use when I grab a link from an online shopping site and review once a week on Sunday morning to decide if I am going to buy it or defer the decision. Currently, it is the holiday season, so most of my decide thoughts are child thoughts for people I need to get a gift. During the year when I see a gift someone would like, I add it as a child thought to “Gift Ideas for NAME” which is a child thought of the person. I add the “for NAME” because when I search for Gift Ideas, I want to see who that thought is under easily. I used to use DEVONthink with tags for gift ideas, but I ended up with text files with multiple URLs and comments under the URLs, I then tried using a folder for the person, then bookmarks and spotlight comments but that was a clunky setup. TheBrain gives me an easy way to see who it is for, what site it was from, and any notes I have about the gift. It also gives me the ability to add another URL to the same thought in case I find the same item at a later date at a lower price. Below is an example showing the plex, the Gift Idea for Kylie, and the notes I have about this gift (just an example gift).

Overall, I’ve found TheBrain to be the most helpful software I’ve started using the last few years. I’ve been a DEVONthink user since 2014, heavily since 2015 when I dropped Evernote and still use it daily as storage and archive area. TheBrain is where my associations of data occur, and I can easily link a DEVONthink item to a thought in my brain then later when I am making connections I might find that a PDF was authored by this person who wrote this book who also contributed to this New York Times article. DEVONthink is excellent for finding related items if you have all the information in DEVONthink, TheBrain allows you to pull in data from other sources and create the connections yourself that even DEVONthink wouldn’t find.

The cost of TheBrain is not small, but for about $14 a month, I am getting more benefits out of TheBrain than I do for some of the subscriptions I subscribe that cost more per month. I would recommend checking it out, and they include a very nice free tier to try it out which you can use without subscribing, but there are some restrictions (Under the purchasing options is the free edition features). I’d also recommend visiting their YouTube page which includes years worth of videos, tutorials, and industry examples.

Josh Sullivan @joshsullivan