Gaps in my understanding of PARA

One of the problems I have with PARA, and some similar approaches, is that I have constantly to change the organization of my informations. If it belongs to an active project, I have to place it there, if it is done, I have to Archive it, and if it pops up again I have to do the reverse.
From my point of view, this is very time consumption, and if I do not change it right at the moment, it also tends to become a mess, sooner or later.

If you’re using a purely topical organizational structure, in order to complete projects don’t you still have to pull info from many different locations while working, and then return that info when done? I don’t see there’s any difference in hassle, but that’s just me.

Putting all of the info into a project folder while you’re researching and collecting it saves the time of constantly going elsewhere to access it.

You can store things in folders in whatever structure makes sense and then just tag the files and documents that you need for a specific project. I use the EagleFiler app that can show me either the items in a folder or all of the items tagged for a specific project no matter where they are stored. Nothing has to be moved.

I’ll bet DEVONthink and other apps like it could do the same thing.

I could use tags, but choose not to. They’ve never stuck for me. I just do a search if I can’t find something.

And besides, in the file system I use I don’t need tags.

But you also said you gather project files into a project folder to avoid “constantly going elsewhere to access it.” If you were to use tags, you would not have to move anything.

However, and this is a huge caveat, tags do not necessarily translate across system or devices well.

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That’s okay for my use case. I use tags only within the EagleFiler app which is only on my Mac. :slightly_smiling_face:

Two things that helped me to sort this out:

First, I changed “resources” to “reference.” It’s a minor change maybe, but it makes a huge difference in how I think about what goes there.

The second thing was more impactful. I heard Tiago Forte say that your areas folders contain personal information, where the resources folders are more general. For example, an area might be investing, and you might also have a resources folder called investing.

Deciding what goes into each folder comes down to asking yourself, “If someone else wanted my input on investing, could I share this folder with them?” That should be a yes for resources/investing, but a no for areas/investing. In other words, research and general notes in one, statements and other personal info in the other.

He also visually differentiates these folders by capitalizing the one in areas, and using lower-case in the resources version.


My comment was not intended to be exhaustive as to how I gather files into one project folder. When I start a new project I open a new project folder. This starts with a new project template doc that I fill out.

As I do outside research for this project and find materials worth keeping, I place them in the project folder. (Once the project is done I can either leave them in the project folder or move them somewhere else; with search, there’s no real need to move them.)

For “inside” research where I find materials I already have somewhere in my system, I’ll often create a bidirectional Hookmark link, and copy the link to my project template doc. In my opinion, using Hookmark bidirectional links is easier and functions better than tabs.

At some point, all of my writing projects (which are most of them since I write a blog) will have a MindNode mind map. I normally use a bidirectional Hookmark link for that file as well, since I prefer to keep all of my MindNode file in subfolders in the MindNode iCloud folder.

It works for me. :smiley:

One of the strengths of the PARA system is that it is easily modifiable and adaptable to fit an individual’s desires and needs. Tiago Forte encourages people to toy with the entire Building A Second Brain system and “take what the want, leave what they don’t want.”

The personal vs. general distinctions don’t really work for me, but if they do for you, that’s great! I use Areas for “areas of continuing responsibility” and Resources as “material of continuing interest.” I’d likely have one folder for investing in Areas if I were involved in investing, or in Resources if I wasn’t involved in investing but had an interest in the area.

That’s exactly how I use PARA. Resources are interests not areas of responsibility. So for me PARA becomes PAIA (which isn’t a very catchy acronym).