PARA: personal knowledge management system
An area of personal organisation that isn’t much discussed directly is that of personal knowledge management. These days you can find pretty much any knowledge that you need, but once you’ve collected it and compiled it, can you actually easily find it again, or look over everything you’ve learned to put it together in new ways?
This is where the ‘PARA’ system comes in. It is not tied to any particular app (although there are some good ones these days; I’ve heard great things about Notion) and can be applied wherever you are storing knowledge, including in the file system of your computer, if you have the grit to tidy it all up accordingly.
PARA stands for ‘Projects’, ‘Areas of Responsibility’, ‘Resources’, and ‘Archive’. Projects are for the goals and short-term tasks that you are currently working on. Areas of responsibility refer more to the ongoing maintenance of various roles in your life—so things to do with being a better gardener, pet-owner, spouse, and so on, could be collected and stored in the appropriate role here. Then ‘Resources’ are for more general areas of interest, such as potential hobbies that you might take up one day, or causes that you want to learn more about. Finally, ‘Archive’ is for things you no longer need, but by not fully deleting them, you ensure that you can come back to it if needed.
I store things using this system in a big Scrivener document (Scrivener is like Word, but better for writing long documents; I used it to write this blog) and it is very helpful to have. When I know I’ve seen something somewhere I can usually find it saved in a logical place within that document. However, I don’t always save things in it, and I never got around to applying the same system across the rest of my documents or my internet bookmarks. Even applied incompletely, I’ve found it quite effective, so if you use this, go in expecting to never have absolutely every scrap of knowledge captured inside it.