Before you read further, please take a few moments to either grab, or write out, your current list of projects. Don’t worry, I’ll wait …
Very good – now look down the list. Do you see broad subjects like Hiring, Strategic Plan, Scheduling, or Direct Reports? If so, you don’t have a project list, you have an area list. Don’t understand the difference? In a recent post on his blog, Tiago Forte shares his PARA method of organization, in which he spends time discussing the difference between and area and a project.
You have projects you’re actively working on – short-term efforts (in your work or personal life) that you take on with a certain goal in mind.
You have areas of responsibility – important parts of your work and life that require ongoing attention.
In short, projects are finite, with a beginning, middle, and end. Areas are ongoing. So long as you are responsible for them, they never end.
This means when we organize our work, especially in a digital environment, Tiago recommends using the PARA Method. We just learned what the first two letters in the acronym mean. Here are the explanations for the remaining two letters.
Then you have resources on a range of topics you’re interested in and learning about.
Finally, you have archives, which include anything from the previous three categories that is no longer active, but you might want to save for future reference.
This simple formatting system allows people to organize their work landscape. In fact, the order of the letters in PARA are an indication of how Tiago views the primary driver of work – our projects.
Instead of organizing information according to broad subjects like in school, I advise you to organize it according to the projects and goals you are committed to right now. This is what it means to “organize by actionability,” a mantra I will return to again and again.
Read more about the PARA Method, with detailed examples, on his blog at Forte Labs.