My derivate of J.D (and P.A.R.A.)

I came across Johnny.Decimal some weeks ago via a blog post by NotePlan maker Eduard Metzger. While I’ve since (after some back and forth) settled with Agenda instead of NotePlan (side-note: both apps IMHO are very good, though I’d say more different form one another than a cursory glance might suggest), Eduard still has some interesting ideas he also blogs a about and after initially dismissing P.A.R.A. (as “simply not for me”—after coming from and probably still kind of thinking in Things, where for me it would have felt absurd not to put projects under the respective areas …), his personal (or rather “promoted“) combination of PARA and J.D got me thinking.

I realized that I, of course, do not have to adopt systems like these completely, but (Duh, I know! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:) can just treat them as kind of toolboxes from which I may take just what I need and recombine and modify it to my personal needs. In that I am probably not yet at the end of my journey but I thought I’d share my current setup here anyway. :relieved:

So right now I’m rolling my own combined version of both J.D and PARA.

PARA kind of turned into PARP—projects, areas, resources, personal. I wanted to separate personal stuff from work stuff, but get away from a binary work/personal top-level. And of course (?) “work” is far more extensive … :smirk:

I want to use the system both in Agenda (where I kind of live now) and for my files. But I had to recognize that these days most of my work tends to produce relatively few (local) files (which was the case even before NotePlan/Agenda times, when I used a combination of mostly Things and mostly Ulysses for quite a while). Consequently I’ve started with setting the system up in Agenda and am now in the (probably longish) process of sorting my files (and simply archiving a lot of old stuff) whenever I have some time “spare” time.

I’m still not sure how much overlap between files and Agenda I should try to enforce (regarding specific “projects”)—and whether that is actually of much importance beyond a more theoretical realm. (It would certainly mean leaving “blanks” on one side or the other. And keeping track of those.)

Also with J.D. it makes more sense now to put files in the respective “iCloud app folders”—and simply start the filenames with the (project’s) J.D numbers. (For example I somehow find it very, well, “comforting” to have all Mindnode files in one place etc. I don’t know why. :man_shrugging:t3:)

As for the “archiving part“ of the (original) PARA: In Agenda the built-in archiving takes care of that. For the files I’m setting up separate Archive folders “at the end“ of each “category“, so that eg. 10–19 Projects contains a folder 19 Archive etc., thus mimicking Agenda’s behaviors which suits me very well.

As for my own version of J.D, since the actual projects live relatively far down in the (albeit quite flat) hierarchy I’ve decided to give myself a little bit more leeway on the ID-side. If this really pans out, 99 (smallish!) projects is not a lot, not even over at the moment four (unevenly distributed!) categories. So I’ve come up with a “11/001” etc. schema instead of the “classical” and recommended “11.01” schema. I dismissed the . as a separator because I live in one of those parts of the world that uses it as a thousands separator—and so “11.001” would just look too much like a number (ie. “11,000”).

So far I’m quite happy with all this.

This is by the way what it looks like in Agenda right now:

(The emoji in the project names are an additional experiment for more immediate status overview.)


Hi! Great post, I love this.

This is exactly why I recommend having an ‘index’ to keep track of your IDs. If you’ve got some (but not all) in Agenda, and some (but not many) in your file system, you’ll need to know what’s where. These days I lean towards using Airtable for this sort of thing as it’s so flexible. But you could also just store ‘blank’ numbers in Agenda (to indicate that there’s a file in the file system), or some other trick.

Yes! This is a recent development – since JD started – and yes, it kinda screws with the system! But I’m a Mac person and I agree, it is really nice. At least for documents that are still just in that draft, not sure if they’re really going to be useful stage. I don’t have a solution yet, I’d love to know what you end up doing.

Nice. I often use the 9 (x9 or 90-99) for an archive.

This is all really cool. I love seeing how people adapt this system. Please keep us in the loop!

Thank you for your feedback!

Initially I skipped a separate index but as your are arguing, the filesystem should not be the index—and so neither should be Agenda for me. So I think I’ve seen the light there. :relieved:

I took a brief look at Airtable (basically to be able to look at your template :wink:), but I found that Apple Numbers actually can do something similar quite nicely—and I own that anyway.

PS: The project status emoji didn’t make the cut, by the way.

Oh nice, I didn’t know Numbers did that. Do you have some sort of grouping going on there? Mind sharing how?

Sure. You just select a column or a cell from the column and add a category via the Organize (?) menu (don’t know how it’s called exactly in English).

You can then add more …

… and edit (reorder etc.) them via the Organize (?) pane:

(I just found out about this yesterday, so I can’t tell you more. :man_shrugging:t3::innocent:)

By the way, I did not expect how good it somehow feels to have that index! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks. That looks good. I also didn’t know you could do that in Numbers. I will try it as well.

My “big picture” index is in Mindnode. I go through the names there at least once a week to see if I need to tinker with my system. My brain finds it real easy to go through it there and then I just drag a node to where I want to change it and “voila”. I then make the changes on my Finder.

That being said, my Finder is my main place with ALL numbers. I haven’t made a Mind Node (or anything else) adding, for example, all client numbers.

I set up my system as for example, 20-29 Client Work, and then divided them up into the types of work the client needs with say, 21 - X type of clients, 22 Y type of clients, 23 - Z types of clients, etc. I then create, say, a 101.21 number for a client and so on. Then, the work I do for each client is set up as say, 101.21.01, 101.21.02 and so forth.

Are your numbers, say 11 and 12 nested inside 10-19? I can’t figure out how to create “subgroups” of that sort on Numbers. I created the 10-19, but then, I can’t add subgroups. I can’t figure out how to organize them.

I made a Gif …

2022-02-16 15.58.10

Thanks. I did get it to work (and learned the word “wert” today) :-). That being said, I’m having an issue related to Numbers. For some reason, 20-29 got moved to the top of the spreadsheet, as you’ll see above. And, I can’t copy or cut and then paste it between 10-19 and 30-39. Any idea why?

Not sure. Sounds/looks like you’ve accidentally also tripped some kind of auto sorting?

But I only dabble in Numbers very infrequently, sorry. :man_shrugging:t3::innocent:

THanks. I don’t use Numbers that much either. I haven’t figure out what kind of sort it is that puts 20-29 ahead of 10-19. Once I enter other numbers, they then get put below 10-19 in order as well…that’s where I get confused as to what happened to 20.

This is really weird! Could you take any personal information out of the file and upload a copy here? I’ll take a look.

Thanks. So here is what it looks like. I took a couple of screenshots of the spreadsheet, and took a picture of how the spreadsheet is sorted. The odd thing also is that it created a “category 2” column on the far rights which you’ll see here as well.

I have moved my entire jD Index from Google Sheets into Notion a while ago. Haven’t played too much with it but since I am currently also working on establishing Notion as my “control panel” for pretty much everything its nice to directly relate to the jd index database in that way.

There is also a lot you can do with views to filter the list as it gets more populated with numbers.

I am a little bit busy at the moment but I can share some screenshots of it (or technically even the template I suppose) if people are interested

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Nice. Can I dig in to understand a little here… ? PARA and JD is also something I’m pondering…

So you have…

10-19 - Projects
20-29 - Areas
30-39 - Resources
40-49 - Personal

I notice that, for example, your IZUS projects (11) don’t correspond to your IZUS area (22). I think my brain would want to correlate subjects such that IZUS has the same number, wherever it is…

I am contemplating allowing an Area-specific project to carry an Area-based ID even if, and for as long as it is in the Project folder. So, regardless of the fact that IZUS projects are (11), I an contemplating Projects/22/003 Project Name, at least for as long as the project is active and not archived.

How do people feel about that?

I haven’t fully dived into PARA and can’t yet wrap my head around how Projects, Resources and Archive could, in my opinion, all live hierarchically under Areas/IDs. All Projects surely relate to an Area/ID - I could imagine keeping them in Projects for as long as they are active and need attention as projects, but then I’d consider moving them into the relevant area. However, doing PARA within every ID may get tiresome.

In Notion, tackling this was straightforward, because I’d have parallel databases, Projects and Areas/IDs, relationally linked. But, in a folder-based system, it’s a bit different.

I’ve long given up on PARA, so I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I guess especially the differentiation between Areas and Resources was something I kept struggling with and something I felt that kept holding me back in terms of “good” J.D structure.

While I’m at it I have to make another confession: I gave up on J.D for my notes altogether, too—simply because I switched to Logseq and the approach I sketched in AC.ID for notes and files did not really work there for me, since tags in Logseq are links, too, and the difference is purely cosmetic; against this backdrop J.D was beginning to feel too much like a burden. (I think I’ll keep J.D for files and am in the process of building a new index with those in mind.)

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I still haven’t got in to the connected-note lifestyle, but Logseq looks interesting enough to try.

I’ll be starting a new job soon which is always a nice time to start on some sort of new system.

Any tips?

A solution could be to correlate the second digit:

1 Projects
11 Projects from Area 21
12 Projects from Area 22


Tips—good question. I’m still a new user, I guess. I guess the best tip would be: Take you time to play around with it.

Some random thoughts on Logseq …

The way some aspects of Logseq work (AFAIK as opposed to otherwise similar apps like the ever-present Obsidian (?)) needed some rethinking of note-taking for me. At least the fact that tags really are not, well, tags in the “classical” sense but merely different visual representations of page links, threw me off at first. Like I wrote I tried to (more or less) fit my “old” approach to J.D’d notes from my NotePlan days in there and it didn’t work. I’d have eg. a page “11 ILIAS” but would not want to use that as a tag, too (eg. in the Journal’s daily notes)—but “#ILIAS” of course gave me an additional page “ILIAS” for the same thing.

Giving that up the strict J.D approach made note-taking feel a bit “lighter”, a bit more unconstrained again, though—not a disadvantage. (After all J.D was borne chiefly for files. :man_shrugging:t3:)

Some reasons why it won me over in the end (only after it finally got mobile apps) despite the fact that Agenda is a very, very good note-taking app:

  • Open source
    • The question of what happens to something like Agenda in 10, 20 years got me thinking
    • Of course there is no guarantee for open source projects to survive that long—but a least Markdown files living directly in the filesystem are, in theory, more portable
  • Cross platform (which incidentally also is a big negative—I don’t now what framework they use but IMHO they are all crap)
  • It’s an outliner
  • No, really, I’m not talking about indented bullet lists—it’ a really frickin’ Dave-Winer-approved OPML im- and exporting outliner (and I used to live in the likes of CircusPonies Notebooks and OmniOutliner almost, well, almost twenty years ago (fsck, time flies :joy:)) while sporting probably most of if not all features you’d expect from the latest generation of “backlinking” note-taking apps
  • Did I mention it’s an outliner? 🥹🤣
  • It has a decent journal implementation baked into the core (AFAIK with Obsidian you’d have to get functionality like this via a plugin)

Some things I don’t like (and have made my peace with):

  • Cross-platform hell, see above
  • Also theme and plugin hell—I otherwise prefer clean, “opinionated” apps like Things or Agenda
  • Not exactly a Mac-assed Mac app, duh! :smirk:
  • Some quirks you have to know (eg. “/” in note names will actually create two notes with a (”true“) hierarchical relationship)
  • Stuff like Logseq raises $4.1M to Accelerate Growth of the New World Knowledge Graph — I mean, come on, the headline alone reeks of pure, 100%, weapons-grade bullshit :see_no_evil:

(Neither list is exhaustive. :wink:)

I use the Journal/daily notes a lot (I was even “simulating” those with a kind of Logbook → Year → Month → Day structure in Agenda).

No, I don’t zettel, bro. :wink: (I’m not an academic in a narrower sense and I’m not trying to write (academic) books or journal articles (where a “Luhmannian“ Zettelkasten approach might make sense) …)
I just link notes. I actually don’t have a central index note. I do have a few topical “portals”, though.

I don‘t obsess about my “graph”. I actually looks kinda messy, I guess. Sometimes the feature seems useful for finding outliers, though.