#20 Complete management system for a one person business

  • How to build a second brain on Clickup
  • How to avoid overwhelm
  • How to turn your brainfarts into value
😍 Something I'm grateful for this week

A complete system for solopreneurs to manage everything in one place and avoid overwhelm...

Hey Solopreneurs, this week I’m going to run you through a complete system for managing a one person business.

As a solopreneur, your ideas are your most valuable asset. But sometimes you can have too many ideas. It’s usually about 3am that I wish my brain had fewer ideas. 😅

You need a system to capture and organise all your ideas so you can store and access them later, when they are more relevant, and get some clarity and focus on the most important thing on your plate right now.

So first I’ll walk you through an exercise to avoid overwhelm, then show you how I built a complete management system for a solo business.

🎁 Subscribers will get a video walkthrough of my second brain on Clickup,
including a look at how I organize all of my systems, thoughts, notes and tasks in ONE platform that I have with me at all times,
to avoid the sheer pain and overwhelm of having too many things in my head.

youtube video thumbnail complete second brain on Clickup 1

How to build a complete management system for solopreneurs.

Subscribe for a tour of my second brain on Clickup, to see how I manage a one person business without overwhelm.

But first, there’s something I’ve really let myself down on the last few months.
I recommend to all my students take 10 minutes during the day just to sit with a notepad, let thoughts surface, and jot them down.
No music, no book, no distractions.
These are usually the best “big picture” insights that drive your business forward.
“All my best thinking happens in the hammock” I like to say.
Except it’s Scotland so it’s been raining for 6 months so I’ve allowed my habit to slide.

We all know that we have some of our most profound clarity on the toilet or in the shower.

“The reason people get good ideas in the shower is because it’s the only time during the day when most people are away from screens long enough to think clearly. The lesson is not to take more showers, but rather to make more time to think.”
– James Clear

Luckily my recent trip to Skye was the perfect chance to get some time away from the screen and reinstate this powerful habit of reflection,
Plus the downtime to make cross-pollinating connections which have a huge impact on my life and business.
I also had the chance to read Build a second brain by Tiago Forte, which tied in perfectly with my experience on Skye:

The abstract bit – journaling and reflecting

The big-picture thoughts I had,
how I distilled them into an insight that applies to my life and work.

The Concrete system – a CRM for solopreneurs

My system for recording thoughts, tasks, brain farts,
then digesting them into useful ideas you can reuse later,
or discard them without feeling guilty.

  • 0:00 A tour of my second brain on Clickup
  • 1:00 Braindumping
  • 1:20 Lineup
  • 2:50 Avoid overwhelm
  • 3:40 How I organise “Spaces”
  • 5:20 Separating areas of your life
  • 7:20 Project templates
  • 7:50 Client management & Comms
  • 9:20 SYSTEMS – support tickets, SOPS, social content library, automated enquiries
  • 12:00 Clickup automations
  • 12:20 SYSTEMS – linkbuilding, reviews, newsletters
  • 15:50 Activity overview snapshot
  • 16:40 Team support
  • 20:40 Managing a 6 figure design business on Clickup
  • 21:20 Managing freelance projects

Building a second brain on Clickup

Just before you think I’m turning into one of those despised “travel bloggers” 🤣
Don’t worry, I won’t be promoting affiliate links for swimwear on my blog anytime soon.

But I recently took a break to visit the Isle of Skye for my wife’s birthday.
During my break I read Build a second brain by Tiago Forte.
It’s a great book, but I found I was already doing almost all of the stuff in the book,
I just didn’t have a name for the things I was doing,
or a tangible way to describe the huge benefits.
Now I have the right labels for it, plus some improvements to the way I approach braindumping.

The premise of Build a Second Brain is the idea that your brain is built for having ideas not storing them.
The sheer amount of information we need to hold onto on a daily basis is the cause of a lot of anxiety, burnout and overwhelm these days.
I can say from experience, information overload is definitely my personal no1 cause of burnout.

Tiago teaches a how to build a system, or a CRM for solopreneurs, to build an online catalogue of all your thoughts, ideas, tasks, and todos that can be searched at any time to find information highly relevant to the thing you’re currently doing.

In the book he describes many tools to connect your thinking and your work in a meaningful way,
but over the last 5 years I’ve been building my own second brain on Clickup, which contains everything I use on a daily basis to run both my businesses.

So how is this applicable in a practical sense for you right now?

🔥 Unfinished tasks leave a mental “nag” on your brain. You can Increase focus by dumping your brainfarts into your 2nd brain.
🔥 Tasks lead to more tasks, make sure you capture unfinished threads to revisit later before you forget your best ideas.
🔥 You become faster at doing things as you don’t need to look up or research information you already have it.
🔥 Reduced mental load and stress as you capture unfinished tasks.
🔥 Any designer can design. Your true value is not what you do, it’s how you think. If you plan to scale or have a team, a second brain is going to be essential to teach them how you think.

Part of Tiago Forte’s process to turn your thoughts into value in Build a Second Brain is CODE

  • Capture
  • Organize
  • Distill
  • Express

I capture all my thinking as tasks or notes in Clickup.
I organize them into relevant projects (my next planned newsletter)
I distil my notes into something tangible by reviewing them
What you’re seeing now is the Express stage (tangible output)

Capture – avoid overwhelm by braindumping

So here’s a system from a recent coaching session, which I use to quickly to capture my thoughts, and
filter out the truly unimportant, and identify the right things to do on a daily basis.

Here’s how it works:

YouTube video player

Notice I don’t sort or categorize them.
Instead I regularly triage my list:

  • Instead of acting on things straight away I leave them on the list to see if they are genuinely important.
  • This is a chance to vet your todos, instead of doing admin and firefighting.
  • I move tasks above or below my line to set an intention to work on them or not
  • I allow myself to “let go” of tasks that I’m not getting round to….
  • I regularly clear out or delete old todos, if I haven’t done them they often aren’t important.
  • If they are important I create a task for them under the correct project
  • Another thing I do is use indentation and tabs to list the micro steps to complete that particular task, or add relevant info.

But recording your thoughts isn’t enough.
Knowledge without action is just wasted potential.
Here’s how I organise my thoughts across hundreds of different projects and responsibilities…

Organize and Distill – Building a Second brain on Clickup

Clickup is a tool I’ve used for years,
it’s slowly grown from a simple notetaking app to keep track of client feedback,
into an indispensable CRM for solopreneuring, and holds everything in my whole life.
Here’s just a few things Clickup does for me

  • Manage my calendar
  • Store all my notes
  • Project management for projects
  • Automated lead gen systems
  • An automated CRM for enquiries
  • Client Comms, emails and chats
  • Link building system
  • Team hub
  • SOPs and training

A lot of the value that comes out of your notes and your second brain requires making time to review, or distil, your thoughts.
I do both organise and distil in the same step.

Express – Observations and insights for life

So instead of just shitting out unprocessed brain farts, or parroting common advice like many gurus I read on Instagram, I run it through the filter of my own life to distil the knowledge into something practical and useful for my audience, and for myself.
If you weren’t here reading this article, I’ll still be writing this every week.
I’m writing for me, not for you. (sorry🤣).

Writing helps me digest my thoughts into something longer-lasting and useful.
I still regularly use my own articles on Life by Design as check-in points in my life, and also as a system for generating social content, and as guides for my students.

At least I hope it does…
Here’s how I manage my whole life on Clickup:

youtube video thumbnail complete second brain on Clickup 1

How to build a complete management system for solopreneurs.

Subscribe for a tour of my second brain on Clickup, to see how I manage a one person business without overwhelm.


How to build a complete management system for solopreneurs.
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💡 Key Insights for solopreneurs

Running a solo business means you’re juggling a lot of plates.
If you try to manually hold all this in your head,
You’ll implode with stress and forget your best ideas.
Use braindumping as a way to avoid overwhelm,
and build a second brain to turn your brainfarts into brilliance.

🛎️ Daily reminder for solopreneurs

Your brain is meant for having ideas, not storing them!

Trying to hold all your ideas in your head will lead to overhwelm.

💥 How to take action in the next 5 mins

  • Create a Clickup account to track all your projects
  • Create a new note,
  • Braindump all your ideas.
  • triage them at the end of each day.

Picture of Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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