Notion PARA system: a how-to guide
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the number of tasks, projects, and resources you need to keep track of? Do you struggle to stay organized and find yourself constantly switching between different tools and apps? If so, you're not alone. Fortunately, there's a solution that can help you streamline your workflow and keep everything in one place: the PARA system.
Basically, it’s a framework developed by productivity expert Tiago Forte that helps you organize your life into four distinct categories: Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives. By dividing everything up into these four categories, you can create a system that's easy to use, flexible, and customizable to your needs.
Benefits of the PARA Method
Tiago Forte’s method offers several benefits that will make you stay organized and productive:
1. Clear Organization
One of the biggest benefits is that it provides a clear and organized structure for everything in your life. By dividing everything up into four distinct categories, you can easily find what you're looking for and stay on top of your tasks.
2. Increased Productivity
Another benefit is that it can increase your productivity. By having a clear structure and a way of organizing your tasks and projects, you can stay focused and avoid getting distracted by non-essential tasks.
3. Customizable to Your Needs
The PARA method is also highly customizable to your needs. You can adapt it to fit your unique work style and preferences, and you can add or remove categories as you go.
How to Build a Notion PARA System
Notion is a powerful tool that is perfectly suited for this use case. Here's how to get started:
To build this framework in Notion, the first step is to create a Projects database. It enables you to keep track of all your active projects and will be linked to Areas and Resources. Required properties include:
- Project name
- Relation to Areas
- Relation to Resources
Optional properties may include:
- Person (if you work with other teammates)
- Sub-items (can act as tasks)
- Relation to other databases (e.g. "Invoices")
I strongly recommend implementing multiple views, testing them for a few weeks, and then deciding which ones you use most. You can try a Gallery view that displays your most important properties, a Calendar view to envizion everything over time, a Board view grouped by status to follow progress, a Timeline view if you use sub-items (very useful when it comes to making dependencies), or a simpler table or list view (in that case, I recommend grouping the database by status).
Tiago Forte’s framework does not include a specific task management feature, but there are three options for incorporating them:
- Use simple checkboxes inside each project's card.
- Use sub-items, which function similarly to parent projects and can utilize the same properties. Timeframe can become the deadline for these tasks.
- Build an additional tasks database and link it to Projects. You can also implement a self-referential, filtered linked view of the tasks database inside the parent item.
If you want to get rid of a project because it's no longer relevant or was completed a long time ago, drag and drop it into the Archives database. More information on that is provided below.
The next step is to create Areas, which refer to the different zones of responsibility in your life, such as work, personal life, hobbies, etc. It's a way to categorize and organize all the different aspects of your life that require your attention and action. By having a dedicated database for Areas in Notion, you can keep track of all the tasks, projects, and notes related to each area in one place.
First, define your different areas. Most common ones include:
However, feel free to customize it as you wish.
Now you can build your database. Keep it simple by adding only relevant properties. Then, build a template where you'll be linking self-referentially filtered views of your "Projects" and "Resources" database. This ensure that when you create a new area, you'll instantly have access to all related Projects and Resources.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Create your Areas database and link it to Projects.
- Add a new template and name it something like "[new area]."
- Inside this template, add a linked view of the Projects database (your preferred one).
- Click "Filter," select "Areas" (the relation property), and filter by Area contains [new area].
That's it! Repeat the same operation for Resources, and you're good to go.
Pro tip: You can use columns to have your Projects database on the left and your Resources database on the right.
Now you can select this template as the default and start adding your first ones.
Resources is where you store all your reference materials, such as books, articles, and websites. This can include anything you might need to refer to later on, whether for personal or professional purposes. Having a dedicated database for resources in Notion allows you to keep all your reference materials in one place and easily access them when needed. This can ensure that you stay organized and save time searching for information across different sources. You can think of it as your personal library.
I strongly suggest you read my blog post Save Links to Notion, where I explain how to build your "Content" database (which, in your case, will act as Resources) and how to use Notion's Web Clipper to save all your links.
Once you're done, don't forget to add it to the [new area] template, if you haven't already.
Archives is the final category in Tiago Forte's PARA framework. It is where you store all your completed items, as well as any other items that you want to store for future reference. This can include things like old notes, research materials, or documents that you want to keep for historical or reference purposes. By having a dedicated database for Archives in Notion, you can keep all of these items organized and easily accessible when you need them.
I suggest that you keep it as a page, so it doesn't take up too much space (select your database and click "Turn into page"). Whenever you need to archive something, simply drag and drop it onto the page, and it will automatically become a new Archives item. You can then add "Type" or "Topics" properties to better filter and organize the items.
I love minimalistic layouts. For this website, I suggest using a "square" layout with Projects in the top-left, Areas in the top-right, Resources in the bottom-left, and Archives in the bottom-right. Consider using simple gallery views for each of your databases, with "Card preview" set to "None".
I also suggest using linked views of your original databases in the layout and storing all the original ones in a toggle.
The PARA method is a powerful framework that can help you stay organized and productive in your personal and professional life. By dividing everything up into four distinct categories, you can create a framework that's easy to use, flexible, and customizable to your needs. By using Notion to build your PARA system, you can take advantage of a powerful tool that can help streamline your workflow and keep everything in one place.
In addition, if you already use Notion for other personal or business organization purposes, integrating it with your existing pages and workflows is extremely easy.
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