Second brains, mind maps, and other organizational strategies to unlock creativity

Assembly compiled a list of creativity-boosting organizational strategies from expert sources.

December 20, 2022
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How would you describe your job to a five year old?
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What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
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Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
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If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
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What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
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What is your favorite part of working from home?
Were the Spice Girls a good team?
Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
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Are you more productive in the morning or at night?
Who is someone in your community that makes a difference?
Who was your most unique pet?
Choose one famous person from history you want on your team during a zombie apocalypse.
What is a good way to give back to the community?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
Is Hugh Grant funny?
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Would you want to have an imaginary friend today? Did you have one as a child?
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You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
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What is the first gift you remember receiving?
Would you rather join Metallica or Backstreet Boys?
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Pick any band to play at your funeral.
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Which superpower would you give to your arch enemy?
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What emoji best describes how you are feeling right now?
If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
Would you rather live in a city or a town?
What is your favorite holiday?
What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
What is your standard office lunch?
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What is your favorite season?
Have you ever won something as a team?
Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
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What bucket list item do you most want to check off in the next six months?
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Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
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Second brains, mind maps, and other organizational strategies to unlock creativity

For many of us, marketing emails are reminders to unsubscribe rather than take advantage of whatever massive savings they promise. Getting rid of the email flood might not just declutter your inbox: It could make you more creative. That's because decluttering—your bedroom, living room, home office, or inbox—is a well-documented way to unlock your creative potential.

Freeing up your physical space also makes room in your head for more creative ideas. While clutter is often associated with more creative minds, research shows actual creative work is more productive in organized spaces. To share innovative ways to tap your best work, Assembly compiled a list of organizational strategies to boost creativity from expert sources.


Manage your team from anywhere with a state-of-the-art and free team management tool that encourages communication and career guidance. 

A person writing in their journal.


There are eight types of journals that may boost creativity, according to Kaiser Permanente. You can write about dreams, food, fitness activities, the day's events, or your to-do list. You can sketch things you've seen and ideas you've had, write freely in a stream-of-consciousness journal, or reflect on the things, people, and things that inspire a feeling of gratitude.

Each of these can boost creativity in different ways, including improving your writing skills and recording moments of inspiration. They can also help clear your head and process thoughts and feelings, which lets you concentrate on other topics—including what you're going to create next.

To start journaling, buy a notebook, and write without stopping for a set amount of time each day. Don't forget to date each entry, so you can see how you, and your ideas, have changed over time. You can also find inspiration by reading the journals of respected artists or writers, such as Frida Kahlo or Sylvia Plath.

Try out the Bullet Journal method of layering multiple types of journaling on top of each other to avoid losing track of your ideas and plans.

Three coworkers surround a mind map on a white board for a business project. // Shutterstock

Mind map

Mind mapping, showing connections between different ideas, is another strategy to help boost creativity. It might spark new ideas or just a new understanding of long-studied concepts, according to a 2018 study in the Classroom Action Research Journal. Mind mapping takes you out of linear thinking, freeing you to jump to other ideas and connect them.

Mind maps can add another dimension to regular note-taking. You can build mind maps for individual projects or as your primary note-taking technique.

To build a mind map, start with a central idea in the middle of a piece of paper. Then write down and connect other related ideas or subtopics from what you already know. Do more research into the topic and add what you learn. Continue tying ideas together and labeling new elements that form part of the picture. What you make might look like a mess, but it will offer a fresh perspective  that can spark new ideas and reveal connections and ways of thinking that might surprise you.

A person logging into Evernote on their phone to access their second brain.
FellowNeko // Shutterstock

Second brain

You might have found yourself wishing for a second brain to keep track of everything you're supposed to know, deal with, and remember. With some effort, you can build one for yourself—on the internet, not in a lab.

A second brain, formally referred to as a personal knowledge management system, helps boost creativity by storing your existing knowledge outside your first brain, freeing up the gray matter to go beyond recording and retrieving information. It's different than simply going to Google or other sites every time you want to find something because it's built specifically for you.

Tiago Forte, who invented the second brain concept, suggests his method of storing your personal information will allow you to: "find anything you've learned, touched, or thought about in the past within seconds ... [s]ave your best thinking, so you don't have to do it again; ... [and] turn work 'off' and relax, knowing you have a trusted system keeping track of all the details."

The best systems for second brains include multiple organizational methods, storage for different media types—including voice notes and photos, and desktop and mobile versions.


Streamline your work with the free project management software that allows you to create, iterate, and communicate in one simple platform.

A person writing down a list of their goals.
Jenn Huls // Shutterstock

Goal setting

Outlining what you're going to do and how you'll do it gives your brain more room to be creative. Business coaching service Lucemi Consulting supports setting goals because it helps increase focus and motivation while boosting productivity.

Setting goals may offer more time for creative thinking or projects, according to a 2022 academic study. Researchers found that an individual is able to engage with more creative thinking when a specific goal is laid out, whereas they can be distracted, be less creative, and go down unproductive rabbit holes without one.

Improving your focus makes you more creative by giving you deadlines and measuring your progress.

Thought leader Amy Climer often discusses goal-setting as a creativity tool and recommends that writing down goals can make them more real.


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An aerial view of a person sitting at an organized, decluttered desk.
Vadym Pastukh // Shutterstock


Sensory overload can cripple the flow of ideas and slash productivity. Decluttering can help foster creativity.

Whether you declutter your physical or digital workspace—like those unread browser tabs or your notes—these efforts can reduce the mental load you spend on finding and remembering things. That frees up time and brain energy to get stuff done.

Marie Kondo, a leading expert in decluttering for optimizing creativity, recommends discarding anything that does not "spark joy" and organizing what little remains in a clear, functional way. That means paying attention to where an item is placed in a room or digital space to ensure it leaves a clear space for creative thinking and action.

The key to addressing clutter, ultimately, is up to you. Creativity coach Beth Ann Dailey recommends not keeping more than you need nor getting rid of more than you're comfortable with—some people function well in a bit of chaos, so Dailey suggests finding what works for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

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