A few days ago, I finished Building a Second Brain, an online course created by Tiago Forte all about productivity, organization, and personal knowledge management.
One of the most impactful things I learned was Tiago’s method of file/data organization, called PARA. I’ve applied it to all of my digital devices and it has completely changed the way that I interact with technology.
PARA is based off the idea that the hierarchical top-down approach that most people take is not the most optimal.
The majority of information from the past will never be relevant again. If you’re a student, think about all the information you’ve captured from your previous courses. How much of that content have you actually revisited?
Another example of this is old/vacation photos; while it’s nice to revisit them every once in a while, most people spend too much time sorting them and too little time interacting with them.
Even if the information that you’ve stored away does become eventually useful, search functionality has become so powerful that it’s usually a simple process to dig it up.
Creating new things is far more important than organizing and keeping them. Nothing you store really matters unless you regularly interact with it or create something new with it.
People usually tend to group information together based on topic or type. For example, in the past, I would store all of my science notes together, regardless of which notes I was actually using.
Rather, it’s much more important to organize based on how actionable the information is, as progress matters much more than storage.
Trying ask yourself this question:
How will this be useful or relevant to what I’m currently working on?
The answer to this will guide you to exactly where you should put that information.
PARA stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archive. It’s the framework that I’ve recently adopted and it has completely revamped my capture habits.
The beauty of PARA is that any information, no matter how novel, unique, or specific can be sorted into one of these four buckets, based on actionability.
Projects are the most actionable of the bunch. Anything that you are currently working on that takes more than one work session is a project, so long as it has beginning and an end.
For example, this newsletter is a project. Any videos, essays, or applications that I would create are also projects, because they all take multiple days and have an endpoint.
However, “health” would not be a project. Neither would “learning,” or “design,” because these things have no end. No matter how many times I go to the gym, it doesn’t diminish the importance of health in my life.
Areas are different than projects; instead of working towards an outcome, you maintain a standard. “Health” would be an area. You would never check it off the list, and it’s something that you’re constantly keeping up with and maintaining.
Resources are libraries of knowledge that you are currently gathering. They’re something that’s ongoing, but more in the background than areas.
Any topics that you enjoy or reference materials you are growing would go into resources.
The archive is composed of all inactive items from the other three categories. Anything that you’re completely done with, but you don’t want to totally get rid of would go into the archive.
PARA is extremely easy to get started with, and can be applied to any form of storage, such as your documents, notes, or Google Drive.
To get started, follow these specific steps:
PARA is a starting point, not an ending point. It provides a solid base that allows you to organize any kind of information quickly and easily.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out.
Subscribe if you'd like to receive a short weekly email from us with an original thought, plus updates on our content and products.