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The PARA method

Sébastien Dubois /

5 min read

In this article, I will introduce the PARA method for organizing digital information.

Picture courtesy of Jan Antonin Kolar: https://unsplash.com/@jankolar

This content is part of my Obsidian Starter Kit

Introduction

The P.A.R.A method has been introduced and popularized by Tiago Forte. It is a system to organize information. It is one of the main methods that I recommend as part of the Obsidian Starter Kit.

PARA is an acronym that stands for:

  • Projects
  • Areas
  • Resources
  • Archives

PARA recommends organizing most of your information within these four containers. You can create these everywhere:

  • In your Obsidian vault (what the Obsidian Starter Kit does!)
  • In Notion
  • In Atlassian Confluence and other Wiki systems
  • In Google Drive
  • In Microsoft OneDrive
  • In your local file system
  • In your bookmarks
  • At work
  • ...

In the Projects folder, you can store the information related to your ongoing projects. For instance, here’s what my projects folder currently looks like in Google Drive:

My projects folder in Google Drive

Once a project has been completed (or abandoned), you can either delete it entirely (not recommended!) or move it to the Archives folder. I recommend the latter, as there might be interesting ideas and content to retrieve later on.

The Resources folder can be used to store all kinds of resources: screenshots, PDF files, images, templates, scripts, programs, etc.

Finally, the Areas folder is for your interests, your passions, and your roles in life, including your work. In summary, areas are “topics” you are invested in, responsible for, or curious about.

For instance, I consider the following to be areas (for myself!):

  • Writing articles and books
  • Reading articles and books
  • Meta-learning
  • Personal Knowledge Management
  • Software development
  • Product development
  • Productivity
  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Cognitive sciences
  • Health
  • Finances
  • Personal Development
  • Professional development
  • Business
  • Education
  • Parenting
  • ...

Difference between Projects and Areas

The difference between Projects and Areas is that projects have goals that need to be achieved in a specific period of time. Areas, on the contrary, are not limited in time.

Areas evolve together with you. Your tastes change. Some things come and go as we move through life. Some areas will be there forever. Others will stay for a while and will later be abandoned.

Projects could often be placed under a specific area, but it makes sense to regroup all of those together. It makes it much easier to see which projects you have and to quickly find the one you need.

Difference between Areas and Resources

Compared to Areas, Resources are less actionable. Resources are reference material, inspiration, research, and "utilities".

For instance, in the context of my PKM system, I store the following resources inside Obsidian:

  • Screenshots that I include in my notes
  • Templates that I use to quickly create certain types of notes
  • Diagrams that I create
  • Scripts that I use to automate certain tasks
  • PDF files and images I find interesting/inspiring and want to explore
  • ...

Resources can be transient or persistent. Some are here to stay, while others will be deleted once "consumed".

Benefits of the PARA method

The PARA method is interesting to use because it provides a very simple skeleton to organize information. Using this approach makes it much easier to find your way around, independently of the tool/platform. It helps with consistency and predictability.

The PARA method helps me to make sure I respect the LIFT principle, which is part of the key design principles of my PKM system.

Its main benefits are:

  • The simplicity of the system
  • The flexibility of the system: it evolves with you
  • The fact that the structure is as flat as possible makes it much less taxing to explore
  • The fact that it makes it straightforward to locate what you need when you need it
  • Looking for something you’re working on right now? Check in the Projects part
  • Looking for an old project from 5 years ago? Search in the Archives part
  • ...
  • The scalability of the system: whether you have only a few things or terabytes of information, the method continues to work
  • The fact that it works across platforms and tools

In conclusion, PARA is a simple technique to organize anything consistently. Use it everywhere you can to properly organize your information.

Pitfalls to avoid with PARA

Although PARA is a very simple organization system, you should be careful about how you use it. For instance, it may be tempting to create complex folder hierarchies under your Areas or Projects. Don’t. Your folder hierarchy should always remain as flat as possible. This applies to all the places you might want to use PARA, including Obsidian.

Conclusion

In this article, I've introduced the PARA method, a simple system to organize digital information. Now that you know about it, you can start using it everywhere!

That's it for today! ✨

References

About Sébastien

Hello everyone! I'm Sébastien Dubois. I'm an author, founder, and CTO. I write books and articles about software development & IT, personal knowledge management, personal organization, and productivity. I also craft lovely digital products 🚀

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