How I brought order in the chaos


I have been exploring different methods to enhance my productivity and note-taking system. Additionally, I am striving to establish organization within my personal archives stored on my Synology device. During my research, I came across the following methodologies: Johnny Decimal, Zettelkasten, PARA and the Build A Second Brain approach.

My objective is to integrate these four methods in a way that enables me to:

1. Effectively store, retrieve, and manage my notes in an orderly manner.

2. Establish a systematic approach for storing and retrieving personal documents on my Synology device.

3. Implement a coherent structure across all the applications I utilize and require.

By combining these methodologies, I aim to streamline my note-taking and document management processes while maintaining a consistent organizational framework across various applications.


PARA (Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive)

Tiago Forte is a prominent productivity expert known for developing the PARA framework, which stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives. The PARA method is designed to help individuals organize and optimize their digital information and tasks. It involves categorizing information based on project-specific tasks, broader areas of responsibility, essential resources, and archival items. The PARA methodology aims to improve focus, efficiency, and clarity in managing personal and professional workflows.

On his website mentioned above, you find all the info you need, there is an ebook too on the matter.

As I am a Dutch guy, I took the Dutch translation for the PARA acronym

  • Projecten
  • Aandachtsgebieden
  • Redmiddelen
  • Archief

Within the folder “Projects” and “Areas” I created the 10 most common Areas of Attention.

  1. Health and well-being: This includes physical health, mental health, fitness, nutrition, and self-care practices.
  2. Family and relationships: This area includes family members, friends, romantic relationships, and social interactions that are important to you.
  3. Career and work: This encompasses your profession, career development, work goals, and professional achievements.
  4. Finances: Managing your finances, including budgeting, saving, investing, and debt repayment.
  5. Personal growth and development: This includes pursuing new skills, knowledge, and personal growth, as well as setting goals for self-improvement.
  6. Leisure and hobbies: Activities that provide you with pleasure and relaxation, such as hobbies, sports, arts, and other recreational pursuits.
  7. Living environment: Organizing and caring for your home, living space, and personal belongings.
  8. Community involvement: Volunteer work, charity work, or other activities that contribute to your community or society as a whole.
  9. Personal values and spirituality: Exploring and cultivating your personal values, beliefs, and spiritual growth.
  10. Time management and productivity: Developing effective time management and productivity habits to achieve your goals.

I try to fit my Projects and my Interests in those 10 those 10 areas.

For “Resources” I have not some a strict list of areas. This more fluid. These are an area that build over time.

For “Archive”, this is your “freezer” of information. Here is information that you don’t need anymore, but can be de-frosted when needed.

Johnny Decimal (JD)

Johnny.Decimal is a personal productivity system created by John Poelstra. It is based on the idea of organizing and categorizing information using a numeric hierarchy. Each level in the hierarchy represents a different category, and items are assigned unique numbers based on their location within the hierarchy. The system is designed to help individuals manage their digital and physical information effectively and improve their productivity.

On his website (mentioned above) you will find a detailed description of how JD works and can be implemented in your folder structure across your apps.

Fusing PARA and JD

If we fusing these two together (JD and PARA) I came up with something like this:

It’s all in Dutch but you get the picture.

I made 4 “root” folder

  • 10_Projects
  • 20_Areas
  • 30_Resouces
  • 40_Archives

The 20_Areas (or in Dutch 20_Aandachtsgebieden) is wat you see in the image as an example. From 20.00-09 till 20.90-99 you have your 10 MAIN Areas.

As I open here the Area “20.50-59 Leisure and hobbies” (or in Dutch 20.50-59 Vrije tijd en hobby’s) you can see I summed up all my hobbies in the subfolders.

  • 20.51 Fotografie
  • 20.52 Programming
  • 20.53 Koken
  • 20.54 Schrijven
  • 20.55 Piano
  • 20.56 Computers
  • 20.57 Apple
  • 20.58 Vertier

And within “20.51 Photography” I have al the individual items I care about in Photography (for now).

  • 20.51.01 Phonographer
  • 20.51.02 Albelli
  • 20.51.03 Info

Can I see how the Johnny.Decimal Numbers all nicely lock in place. The advance is that if you share the folder structure with someone or you want to refer to a item in the structure you can simple say:

“Hey, look in 20.51.02 Albelli”

And that person (or yourself from a note), will know the PATH to that location without having to tell them:

“Goto /Users/marco/Resilio/20_aandachtsgebieden/20.50-59 Vrije tijd en hobby’s/20.51 Fotografie/20.51.02 Albelli”

They exactly where to find this folder and it’s content. It’s all locked in side those numbers. Easi-Peasi! And you can do this in apps too. Say for instance in Things3 or like in the image blow in an app called Noteplan3 where I keep all my text-notes for stuff I find interesting.