I’ve ditched Tiago Forte’s P.A.R.A. system: good riddance. I’d been using it for a couple of years and thought it was a major breakthrough in my organizational skills, but I was very wrong, though I’ve never taken his “Building A Second Brain course” (it was too pricey for my budget when I first found out about it).
I read all the morsels of information publicly available, and later skimmed through his book and read through the sections that interested me. I knew early on that I was not really interested in a “Second Brain” and particularly not so if it had to rely on a tool like Evernote, which aside from being proprietary did not seem to be much concerned with privacy. In any case, I’m happy with the brain I’ve got, but I’ve been on a long journey looking for efficiency and better project management (and life management) skills.
P.A.R.A. stands for Projects, Areas, Resources and Archives, and as far as organizing my file-system was concerned, was supposed to work as follows: Projects for projects with an end date, Areas for ongoing projects with no end date, resources to support the first two, and archives to, well, archive what I no longer wanted in the other three sections, but didn’t want to delete.
The result, over these couple of years, has been a rather unpredictable and chaotic system, which has metastasized elsewhere in my work and personal life. To be fair to Tiago, the pandemic completely destroyed my GTD setup, which I’d been using for the better part of a decade. How much of the chaos coincided with the pandemic and how much with my adoption of P.A.R.A. is difficult to separate, but there’s one tell-tale clue.
About a week ago I discovered and implemented a project organizing system known as Johnny Decimal. I’ve bent the rules a bit: my folder hierarchy is a bit deeper than suggested in some areas. I’ve also kept a folder on the top level named “Projects,” where I’m thinking I may copy project files temporarily to as I work on them. I’m still not sure how that will work out. I may ditch the idea in favor of links to my projects directly in my TODO list on Org Mode.
There’s one thing I can say with certainty: Reorganizing my files using the Johnny Decimal system has removed a thick layer of fog from my thought process, and I’m steadily starting to get my life and systems back under control. It could be a coincidence of course, but I’m attributing most of this clarity to the system change.
I should have known. I’m not sure why I was seduced by the P.A.R.A. approach in the first place. It may be a good approach for people who are not hoarders, but I’m a hoarder and I like it. My file system contains worlds. That’s the way I like it, and I like to be able to find things when I want to.