Using PARA + Notion to handle any information
In February, a few days after have arrived in Portugal, I read an article from Tiago Forte (now, searching his Youtube Channel, I wonder why the url is “simulacrumsquared” 🤔) explaining about an method to keep digital information (in other words, every information) and got kinda curious about it. I was in the middle of a country-changing and visualized it like a good way to start, this time really 😅, to organize my things.
And today, after almost two months using it, I noticed that everyone should at least know it exists. For me, who have ADHD and use internet since 8 years old, it helps me to filter every information that I consume. If you are here, probably you pass much time browsing, receiving a million bytes of information per day. Of course, after years dealing with trash news and funny memes, you have built a natural filter in your brain that keep some data and throw away other, but this can be mastered when you write it down.
Beyond the filter, now I’m giving another view to my routine and objectives. I can see ALL MY ERRORS, so my sadness is bigger when I realize that I didn’t do 60% of what I want it (yes, just wanted, I didn’t even plan). This is really frustrating 😩, but is necessary because, notes give metrics, metrics show progress, and progress is what we all want.
Ok, no more lero-lero, sorry.
The PARA Method
PARA menas Projects, Areas, Resources and Archives. First, I don’t follow 100% of the method, it isn’t necessary start with everything, I began with Areas and Tasks, but with time I added what I was needing (also called JIT - Just in time ). A quickly resume:
- Projects: an objective to be done in a period of time. Is the most actionable item and probably the best point to start
- Areas of responsibility: things that you have to worry about sometimes. Its abstract, and has no a definitive end, like “Health”, “Studies”, “Travels”, “Money”.
- Resources: Notes and files that you could need sometime. You can put post links, youtube videos or anything. When you save something that you got interested but haven’t time in that moment, its exactly a resource to be stored.
- Archives: basically is the any of the tree above that you don’t use anymore. If you are a dev, is basically when you create the “doesn’t exist” column in a database table. When you don’t use an Area anymore, like if you moved out and decide not have a “Garden”, you don’t need to exclude, just drop in Archives field. I like to see them like Resources that you consider useless.
Also, there are three rules to maintain it.
- Magic Number 4: Do not create more than 4 categories.
- Mirror task/project management: Use the same structure in any software programs.
- Separates actionable from non-actionable: Know the order projects > areas > resources > archives.
How I use it
Okay, of course is much more besides that, many mini-definitions and methodologies that you can use in it. You can check it all here . But like I say, I the essential already helps me a lot, and I use in that way:
Yes, I know, I’m not a designer anymore and we can see why above 🥲. But, as you also can see, my organization isn’t perfect, but at least is an organization, ok?
To be honest, since I arrived in Portugal 🇵🇹 I don’t know exactly what I want and what I will do, I’m just following the life, so my project list was like “I want this and that but idk when and why”. Projects need to be detailed and accurate, I didn’t have any, so I start with Areas. Today I stay more on Areas page than in Projects page, that’s a problem ⚠️, but I’m fixing that as I define my new projects.
Right, basically I have a lot of N:N (many-to-many) relations in my Notion. The most important is ✅Tasks database. A task is the most actionable item in my workspace, is basically the productivity basis. In a common day, normally I have 4 tasks (diary, work, workout and always something more appears). Thanks to Notion , every task is a page (actually almost everything), so I can detail anything that I did in my work, my day, my workout. That’s good because NO ONE can remember everything everyday, even the important things, maybe we have it in mind but tree days is enough to replace with another info. My Tasks database are show mainly in a calendar view with all my tasks:
Sorry for the Portuguese + English merged 😅, I am brazilian 🇧🇷 so sometimes its just natural.
As you can see, I don’t write everything yet, but I’m trying, c’mon. Almost all my tasks have relation with the Areas and Projects. Sometimes, when in one task I’m writing something that can be reused, I prefer to link it to a Resource. Like, When I was translating the P.A.R.A article, it was a task but I linked with a page in resources and write there:
Look, I have the relation “Resource” in tasks database to link in my resources table. Also, to make easier to my brain, I use the same icon of Resources database in the task (🗃️). You can see that I use templates in my tasks to fill them faster along the day. For example, my Workout 💪🏼 template:
All of that is auto-written by Notion, so in my workout beginning I create a task, select the template and start filling it. I don’t have to select the emoji, colors, area or type. I configure it once and start using. I also have a template for my Diary 🗞️, where basically I have space to describe my day and a habits checklist (don’t ask if I check they all 👀). My Daily🗒️ template, where I summarize what I did in the job, also what I have to do in the next day. And finally a daily task ⬜ template, where I use this blank square emoji when create, but when I finish I put a ✅ instead.
Following the actionable order, Projects is where you put tasks. At least, was supposed to be 😅. Even though I don’t have many projects, there is a very good flow with they and tasks in Notion. All because I can create a relation between a task and a project and see the tasks in the project page. Notion have an excellent system of information input and output. Look my Projects page:
I know. Just two projects. I warned you. But look, I can create projects and change the status between To do, Doing and Done. That makes it easier to visualize everything. But everyone knows that, is a kanban. The magic is here, in each project:
First, every project has a due date. Second, every project has an objective. And of course, every project has tasks. All of this tree items can be modified by time, but when creating, is needed at least one aim, one due date and one task (even if it’s “getting to the goal”).
Okay, but now the cool part, because devs love automations ⚡. Notice that the tasks below the Aim is a view of my Tasks database filtered to show only the tasks related to this project and grouped by status (in case of you don’t know well the concepts of Notion views and databases, I recommend this video ). So, Notion also allow us to turn anything into anything, in this case, I made a unordered list (detailed) to my project tasks and drag it and drop on the “To do” field of the Tasks view. Notion turns each item of the list in a task to the database. If you detailed the item with children items, they will appear in the page of the tasks. I don’t know if I wrote this well so I made an video:
Also, you can see that I have a template for projects too, this is juts to remember the projects pattern and don’t lose time thinking “how I did this?”. Has another thing, when you create the tasks for the project, you can set due dates for each of them, then they will appear on your Tasks calendar view. I really like how Notion make this flow simple and fast 👍🏻.
My Areas page is basically my homepage. Is the start point to all that I need daily. When I create the page, I did put about 10 areas, but I noticed that was using just 5 or 6 of them, so I deleted and created a Resource “Future areas” to don’t forget the things that I want to worry about, but currently isn’t a priority. By example, money. Of course I have to worry about my money, and I need to organize it, learn and have financial goals, but now I can’t give time for this. Yes, my money is flying 💸
I need to be honest with myself, Isn’t good to maintain an Area if I am not doing anything about it. Do what you can do first, then after you have it all well done and feel comfortable to add an Area, you add it, without compromising other Areas. I didn’t mentioned before but “Areas”, originally, is “Areas of responsibility”, so I have to be responsible.
I like to create a database to my areas and show they in a gallery view, this allows me to put images and consequently see all my areas even if I just want one in that moment. By doing this, I can’t see my areas on Notion’s sidebar 😔, but I prefer that instead of creating sub-pages, but of course, just a personal thing. Here are my areas:
As you can see, I also don’t use much banners and decorations on Notion. I do this because, at least now, I’m not using Notion with 100% (I would say not even 70%) properly, I’m in the middle of the way yet, so I don’t think that add decorations (distractions) would help me, in fact, it would make it difficult. I’m hyperactive, can’t give me possibilities to distract myself.
Well, talking about an Area page, I like to think that areas are the bigger reference to any item in my Notion. Should be possible relate every item to an area. This is why up there, in my beautiful organization image, everything can be pointed to an Area, but the area itself don’t point nothing, just contain the things. Area pages contain specific content and links to the other items:
As you can see, I like to put an inspiring quote in some areas, I think that some glamour isn’t bad. Yes, cringe.
In right, I create a sub-page with a view to the tasks, projects and resources, filtered to that area. In left, I put pages about the area itself. I said joking about the quote, but many people like to use inspiration in these pages to motivate themselves, daily. I don’t think that is a bad idea, I just can’t give space for distractions ☹️ **
Well, last but not least, the Resources. This is simple, any information that you think that is useful you keep it here. Any content that you consume and have that feeling “Oh, this is important”. I personally save a lot of dev articles, youtube videos, podcasts and my own notes:
I use a lot of filters and tags to separate them, probably is where I keep most information.
- In browser, I use the notion-enhancer extension to use Apple emojis. They are better, admit.
- I learned how to use Notion properly with videos from Thomas Frank , this video and Tiago Forte .
- If you want to make a beautiful Notion, I recommend visit the Showcase in Notion Reddit .
- You can use more colors and fonts in Notion with KaTeX Formatting .
- If you are a dev and like Notion, I recommend you check Notion API . I ignored it for months and I regret it. Now I’m using it in the /contact page of this website.