How to set up the PARA system in your digital systems

Written on March 11, 2022
Updated on June 2, 2023

PARA is a system for organizing digital information created by Tiago Forte.

PARA is an acronym for, Projects, Areas of Responsibility, Resources and Archive.

The benefits of PARA is that it is a system in which each category or section has a specific function.

I won’t go into the what and why of the PARA system. Tiago does a much better job explaining the benefits of the PARA method and the principles behind it, so please check out his article or his excellent book, Building a Second Brain.

What I wanted to do in this article is share the how.

How to set up PARA in digital systems.

I’ve done it a few times now across various systems – wikis, Second Brain, OS file systems and online systems like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive – and I wanted to share with you what works best for me.

Naming structure

Following the acronym PARA, I’ve found putting my folders in the exact order as the acronym is useful.

Which means, my projects folder is at the top, next would be my areas folder, then resources and finally archive.

PARA set up in OneDrive

The reason for this is that you build on muscle memory. You can quickly go to each implementation across different systems and know the location of each section.

By default, most file systems will organize your folders in alphabetical order. Which means if you name your folders and sort by alpha, you’ll get AAPR instead of PARA.

To fix this, I prefix my folders with numbers.

By doing this, even if I’m implementing PARA in a new system, most of the time, the PARA folders will show up at the very top of the list.

001 Projects
002 Areas
003 Resources
004 Archive

Sprinkle in some fun

Along with the numbered prefix, I also like to add emojis to the end of the folder names.

PARA setup with emojis

What this does is adds some visual excitement to my folders.

What I’m currently using for the various parts of PARA are:

  • Projects – 📐 - protractor because I’m actively working on projects
  • Areas – 📚 - stack of books because I’ll use these to reference
  • Resources – 🪵 - wood because, I play Settlers of Catan
  • Archive – 🗂 - labelled, manila folders because in my real world, I archive documents in manila folders

Strict PARA?

As you can see in my implementation of PARA in the macOS file structure, it isn’t strict. The reason for that is, I don’t want to mess up any system structure that the OS has set up by default.

PARA setup in macOS with system folders

This may be true in certain contexts.

In scenarios like my Second Brain in Obsidian, I have other folders alongside my PARA set up. This is because I’m still organizing my notes into the PARA system, but also because, something like Journal, I want to be able to access fairly quickly and don’t want it buried in one of the PARA subfolders.

PARA setup in Obsidian


Upon discovering PARA, I’ve found it helpful to organize digital assets in both my personal systems and also professional systems shared with colleagues.

This is how I’ve set up the various systems I’ve been part of and have found it helpful in navigating my work.

If you use PARA for organizing your digital systems and it differs from my setup, I’d love to hear how you’ve done it differently. Please share on Mastodon @msl

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