I’ve read some posts about combining P.A.R.A and J.D.
I’ve been using P.A.R.A for two years and thought I could share my thoughts.
I’ll be using the P.A.R.A nomenclature here, so an Area will refer to a P.A.R.A area, not a J.D. area.
Disclaimer: I have not yet fully migrated to J.D. I’m in the process of working through the workbook and have been thinking about this since April.
TLDR: I’ve found P.A.R.A to be useful for working with projects, but have trouble with the archival aspects I want from my system.
What I’ve found, in summary:
- Projects are useful
- The P.A.R.A structure is unbalanced
- P.A.R.A’s top level folders doesn’t guide you
- Areas and resources doesn’t work
- I don’t really move things
Projects are useful
This is not actually from P.A.R.A, but Getting Things Done. Creating a folder for a project, small or large, is (for me) a great way to dump down things list testing notes, plans, small summaries, etc.
Many of my projects are mapped to our companies issue system(s). So, if I’m assigned a task/issue there (that spans more than a days work) I’ll generally create a new project and keep my notes, calculations, findings, etc. there.
I’m trying to incorporate this concept into J.D., but haven’t really found a good solution yet. That is one reason I’m not fully migrated yet.
The structure is unbalanced
At the first level you get four choices. This is also hard-coded; you can’t have more and you can’t have fewer. This is inflexible as it is your first entry point to finding stuff.
However, at the next level there is no limit. In general, I don’t think its a problem, you can find your way. (But the first level is the hardest; see the next point)
But then you are out of levels. In essence you only have one level. The first level is predefined and doesn’t really guide you. The second level is (for me) pretty well defined. The last level is just a file dump with no structure.
For instance, say you have an Area that is House. Now all your housing things are dumped in a single folder. If you want to split up House, P.A.R.A. doesn’t give you the tools. (Tiago Forte is a bit inconsistent about this, but he does say that you should put folders beneath this)
So in P.A.R.A. you’ll end up with Areas → House → Lots of files. There is no other way.
In J.D. you have options:
- 30-39 Living → 31 House → 31.01 Heatpump instructions
- 30-39 House → 31 Inventory → 31.01 Heatpump instructions.
- 30-39 Inventory → 31 Heatpump → 31.01 Heatpump instructions.
You decide. Which means that you can make a system that fits your needs, rather some others.
I think P.A.R.A. fits when you are in a very dynamic environment where information a couple months back is seldom important.
I think it works extremely bad in an organisation.
J.D. works well for archival, long term aspects of a system, and much, much better if you are sharing the setup.
The top level is not guiding you
The first level is Projects, Areas, Resources and Archives. The idea is that it will help you find what you are actively working on. But, say that you have written some instructions to do a certain task. Then you need to decide:
- I’m I developing this or using it in a project?
- Is the instruction there to help you with a responsibility (Area) or just a general instructions you want to keep handy? (Resource)
- Did you write it a long time ago, so you’ve archived it?
Contrast this to J.D. where the system is designed to actively guide you to the information.
P.A.R.A favour recency and working inside a specific folder, but it neglects finding old information. I think this is the philosophical difference between the two systems.
Areas and resources doesn’t work
I can sort of find this distinction useful. I have a few areas that are very specific to my current employment and if I were to switch jobs these would be useless. Good for cleaning up.
But it creates a bit of friction and ambiguity. (For me) I can find information that is useful for both my work and as a general “I’m a professional, and this is generally useful information for my profession”. This creates two issues:
- Friction: You need to decide if this is general information or particular to your Areas.
- Loss: If you put it in an Area and you archive that area, it’s likely you remove information that would be generally useful.
I don’t really move things
P.A.R.A. is about moving your information around, “keeping it at your fingertips”. I haven’t found this to be either true or useful.
When I complete a project, I take a look in the project folder. It typically contains 10 files or so. 99% of the time, I just dump the project file in Archive for later reference when someone asks me about something related to that. Sometimes I’ve made something that is useful otherwhere and I’ll move it to an area och resource, but I would say <1% of the files do that.
Next to never do I move anything between areas and resources. Sometimes I’ll resurrect a project that was archived, because it turned out I wasn’t actually finished or I had missed something.
In other words; Projects and Archive moves, Areas and Resources are static.
This means I could implement a P.A.R.A system in a J.D. fashion, but I don’t really see the point.
Anyway, that was my two (long) cents. I hope someone finds them useful.