Organizing Information

Just as time is one of the limited commodities of life, so is attention.

Not all information is equally deserving of your attention. Suppose you own a bakery. An upcoming invoice for your regular delivery of flour probably merits your attention. The shoe size of a stranger you’ll never meet probably doesn’t.

Attention worthiness is not some static attribute of a piece of information–it’s also contextual. Consider an invoice you gave an organization for catering one of their events at the beginning of last year. If you’re doing your taxes for the year, that invoice probably merits your attention. If you’re about to throw a batch of bread in the oven, that invoice probably doesn’t.

I’m taking an online course called Building A Second Brain.

One of the topics this course covers is this idea of PARA. PARA addresses this topic of attention by providing structure to information you’ve collected. It does so by organizing that information by how immediately actionable it is.

PARA stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives.

Tiago Forte has defined these as follows:

A project is “a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.”


[…]

An area of responsibility is “a sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.”

[…]

A resource is “a topic or theme of ongoing interest.”

[…]

Archives include “inactive items from the other three categories.”

Projects are things that you’re actively working on. These are the things that most immediately and frequently require your attention.

Your archives are things that aren’t related to your present work or interests. These are the things that least require your attention.

By grouping information by actionability in this way, you can avoid diluting your attention. This allows you to maximize your return on attention.

Accurately and quickly categorizing things into the appropriate group is still a practice for me. I’ve been using this flowchart to try to quickly bucket things:

Flow chart used to categorize information into PARA

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