PARA Starter Kit

Hey everyone,

I built a small starter kit for use with Obsidian. It’s a full vault to explore around and some of the methodology for P.A.R.A. and how to get started for yourself:

PARA_Starter_Kit_v2.zip

Installation:

  • Download the zip and unzip
  • Select the unzipped folder as a vault in Obsidian
  • Enjoy

Changelog

  • v2: Refactoring of the explanation and example to include stuff that was confusing some users
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Thanks for this. Gives me a nice launching pad!

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Thanks. It’s nicely formatted. I find that I need Domains and Sub-Domains as well as PARA. That’s mainly because I like to focus on particular Domains every week, and Sub-Domains every month. Areas and Projects are nested within those.

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Thanks for the helpful demo, Maxime!

How is this method working for you? I’ve read some of Tiago Forte’s stuff with interest, but now that I see it in action, am increasingly skeptical of the four-folders-on-all-devices part of his approach.

I understand the distinction between Projects and Areas of Responsibility. When I had top level folders in my task manager for Grantwriting or Home Improvements it was hard to get a feel for my workload, as those folders got cluttered with a mix of tasks, potential projects that I hadn’t committed to, and reference material. I’ve had much better results now that my list of projects are concrete objectives that could realistically be finished in the next year: “Apply for Grant A,” “Apply for Grant B,” and “Replace window well.”

I do not see the distinction between Areas of Responsibility and Resources. Why does Health have a standard to be maintained but not Cooking? In what way is How eating slow can transform your health and make you more productive more actionable an article than Easy Mini Quiche Recipe?

Do you get something out of the process of moving things between folders, as described in the 3 example workflows? Moving reference material between Resource and Project folders on a task manager, notetaking app like Obsidian, Google Drive, and hard drive or cloud service seems like a lot of work, with the potential to break links to source data and photos in some of the software I use, but I’d consider it if it helped me review and reflect on my ideas and documents.

I think there’s value in defining concrete Projects and envisioning their outcomes, and reflecting on the habits and workflows needed to support your Areas of Responsibility. With each new piece of information you collect, there’s value in thinking about how you might use it for a current or future project. But my inclination would be to link relevant ideas or readings to a project note, rather than move those notes into a project folder. With in line wiki-links, you could clarify exactly how you used the information in the note “Python Mock Patching” for a project, and it gives you the option to associate it with more than one active project, which you can’t do with folders.

I haven’t found much serious discussion of PARA (except for this this thread courtesy of @ryanjamurphy ) and am inclined to dismiss is as equal parts insight and snake oil.

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I have written a bit more about the value of PARA here:

However, I share many of the issues you raise, and have been working on a sort-of “fork” of PARA that I find much more conceptually straightforward. It isn’t quite share-worthy yet but I’ll try to remember to post here when I publish it.

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Thanks! Pace layers make sense to me. At a previous employer, aerial photos and other base layers for GIS mapping were stored on a shared server and used for lots of different projects. They were large files and updated infrequently, so it made sense to store them separately from work in progress so you could back up on a different schedule. However, frequency of editing is not the same as frequency of use. I used these files every day for my core job responsibilities (and can think of similar examples for reference manuals or databases or logos for graphic design) so the “hobbies and research” examples used to explain the Resources category fall flat for me. And in these cases, it makes more sense to drop a shortcut or pointer from a project file to the Resources folder than to copy or move things into a projects folder.

Looking forward to seeing your “fork.”

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Well, to get out of the way I wouldn’t call it snake oil in any form, is it completely new and never seen before? No, but is there really anything new? It is indeed an amalgam of various ideas from other places mix together in an interesting form, as it’s how his methods work really. But I have seen and live a significant transformation and increase in my output with it, and I know of many other people who did so to.

The thing with PARA is that’s it’s just 1/3 of BASB really, and a lot of other workflows make it actually works. By itself, it’s just a decent way to keep track of things if you don’t have links or you’re doing project-based organization. As for Areas vs. Resources, it’s a thing that trips everyone really. Those examples are just mine also, for me I don’t want to get better at cooking and improve or keep my focus on it over time, I just put recipe there for reference. In contrast, Health is a thing I’m actually actively looking into and want to get better at and learn more and improve. That’s the only reason why those are there in those categories.

The final thing is moving files across folders. I do that all the time when I’m creating a new project, but that’s not really PARA. It’s more JIT PM, which is another part of BASB enabled by PARA. It’s based on project workflows and moving things and finding interesting ideas as you do so. Can you make it better with linking? Maybe but then if you want to change a piece of information’s place, you have to edit it all the time instead of just dragging it around. It also becomes a lot hard to change stuff unless you have an app like Obsidian that can edit all links on rename.

Speaking of Obsidian, I am working on a mixed version of PARA that includes links and some other things since we can in Obsidian. For this kit, I wanted to explain PARA as it is not how I forked it. However, a lot of people often forked it because BASB and PARA are just the bare minimum working minimum that you build upon, not a final done product.

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I recently (sort of) took Building A Second Brain class, and I started my version of it. I have to say, I love it! I’m a graduate student and I was overwhelmed with the gigantic amount of information I was getting from different sources and in different formats. But it helped me a lot. Though PARA is just part of BASB, I can say that it is easily one of the most important elements of it.
Also for those who are interested, there is a great collection of illustrations by Maggie Appleton describing BASB including P.A.R.A. method and how to migrate to it.

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Very helpful @cotemaxime, thank you.

I actually pointed Obsidian to my existing PARA implementation on my work and personal computer, and they are very similar to the example you provide.

I think that’s the brilliant thing about Obsidian, how it fits itself around your existing folder structure with minimal impact.

Your starter kit is reassuring confirmation and a good template to get others started.

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Hey, your Para kit is very useful. I like the theme also. But I seem not to find it. Can you tell me which one you use?
Thanks

the theme was an early version of Nord if I’m not mistaken it was a while ago before we had the community theme plugins and easy way to see theme :sweat_smile: I probably will redo it with a current theme soon

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Nice. thanks for posting this PARA kit. I’ll check it out.

Tip: I like to name my categories with emoji’s at the beginning. For example instead of “Health” I name it “:hospital:Health” or instead of “Finance”, “:dollar:Finance”. At first I thought this was silly but eventually I realized I liked it much more with the emoji’s because it made it much faster to find the category I’m looking for (I can recognize either the word or the picture).

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yes emojis are super useful for this! I use them for most of my root folders in my own setup, but they can sometimes cause some syncing issues (especially with Dropbox) or other small glitches in previous version, so I didn’t include them here to be safe.

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This +1. Really helps me too esp when I used to have my SB organized on Dropbox Paper (I made a network of individual Papers linked together).

I am starting to move my SB to Obsidian with my vault hosted on Dropbox, so I can sync & edit on my iPhone with 1Writer. Works really well, except that Dropbox encounters sync issues with emojis in the .md note file names (e.g. notice tiny red X icon on bottom left below which indicates that it is not syncing) [edit: I just noticed @cotemaxime already addressed this and faced the same issue].

Not syncing
image

Synced
image

Note: syncing with Google Drive instead does solve this problem, but encounters other sync issues with iOS file system for some reason, making Google Drive unusable for my two-way PC/iPhone note syncing system.

My current “workaround” is to have headers on top of each PARA item/note where I can slot emojis, e.g. Areas>Health note would look like below:


:hospital: Health (this is the note header)


  • Content 1
  • Content 2

Obvious downside is that you still can’t see the emojis in your file navigation panel on the left pane, but I am trying to develop a “Control Centre” note that serves as my PARA-indexed landing page every time I launch Obsidian, where I then have links to all other PARA-related sections and notes, making the file navigation tab redundant for me (basically replicating my Dropbox Paper workflow, with the added advantage of Obsidian automatically updating links, and of course system-agnostic data ownership)

Hope that all made sense! Happy to share more once I have a setup and workflow that works well for me if any interest. First post btw, and loving Obsidian + community so far.

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This was super helpful, thank you! A couple of questions…

  1. Where do you store references in this system?
  2. What tools would you recommend for setting up an inbox?
  1. I don’t really keep reference in the academic sense where I will citation and such but if I was I would probably use another tool made for that like Zotero and just make the same hierarchy in it. Otherwise most of my content is some PDF which I keep locally or online in articles, video, books so I just keep an URL in my note if I even want to reference back
  2. I will greatly depends on where the content you consume comes from, but you could look into Integromat or Readwise (since now they do mass markdown exports) to help pull content from various sources into your inbox. Since most of my reading is in Feedly I just have Readwise pull the highlights from it and once a week or so I just download the Readwise export into my inbox for processing
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Thank you so much. I am trying out Obsidian (just started 2 days ago) and am wondering what took me so long. (HAHA!) Part of deciding to jump in is the accessibility (and readability) of forum discussions. I’m neither a techie person nor a digital stacks fanatic, so I’ve really appreciated what you and others share for kickstarting in Obsidian.

I was in Cohort 11 of BASB, and prior to BASB, I’ve had my own analog + digital PKM system which has served me well. I feel better in Obsidian, for whatever reason compared to having tried out Notion coupled with my existing Evernote graveyard (haha) as a capture, so let’s see how this evolves.

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Hi Ryan,
Did you ever complete your part 2 to this post- would love to read it. Part 1 ended on a real cliff hanger !

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Hah, sorry, no—at least, not yet. I wrote that post before linked thinking apps like Obsidian became a thing. When I started using them a whole bunch of new ideas showed up.

So, I’m still working on it. Just trying to refine it to a point that it’s not something only I can understand/use!

Apologies for the cliffhanger. :grimacing:

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