Whether this is your first year using Tiago Forte's PARA method or you're a seasoned practitioner, this guide aims to help you quickly review and plan for the upcoming year with a simple checklist. Doing this regularly will keep you on track and make sure your system is up to date as your personal goals change over time.
Even though you're continuously using your system day in day out, taking some time each year to zoom out and review what's happened is a great habit to incorporate. As time passes, goals are met, and of course priorities and responsibilities change. This PARA yearly review is a quick way to re-align yourself to the current and future realities you'll face.
By the end of this guide you'll have a checklist you can simply duplicate and use each year, making the process simple, effective, and painless.
Let's start by going through our PARA sections one by one, starting from the most actionable and moving on the less actionable. For each category we'll need to gather some information and answer some questions. After we've gone through the three main sections (excluding the archive), we'll take a look at a fourth set of questions that will bring the different areas together and will make up your goals for next year.
We recommend that you either have two tabs or windows open side by side so you can see your PARA system on one side and the checklist on the other.
The Projects section
First, let's open up your projects section. Depending on how you handle finished projects, this might or might not be the best section to look at while filling this part of the checklist. Basically, you want to be able to see complete, incomplete, and open projects for this part.
Next, you want to go down this list of questions and give yourself some time to actually answer them. Keep in mind that the point of this exercise is not to fill everything out as fast as possible and get it over with. Among other things, it's meant to jog your memory and get you into a reflective and planning headspace. In other words, the process is the goal.
1. What projects am I most proud of?
2. Which did I struggle with the most and why?
3. What did I learn from this year's projects?
4. What new commitments have I made?
5. How satisfied am I overall with my process?
6. What changes do I want to make?
Once you've answered all the questions, you want to do a bit of organizing and decluttering. You want to figure out which of your existing projects should become areas and which should become resources.
Any active projects that have become new commitments or are part of habits you want to form should become areas. Also, if you have created any useful documents or templates you think could come in handy in the future, you should move those to the resources section.
Once you've done that, move on to the next section.
The Areas section
Now, simply jump over to the areas section of your Workflowy and continue by answering the following questions.
1. Which areas did I manage best?
2. Which areas should be present but aren't?
3. What did I learn from maintaining these areas?
4. Which areas did I struggle with the most and why?
5. Which new projects am I ready for?
6. Which areas are no longer relevant?
Once you've answered these questions, we'll move on to the cleaning step.
Think about any areas that have matured enough to the point where they should become projects. In other words, you've gathered enough information or are otherwise ready to turn an area you're focused on into a project.
Any areas you currently have that no longer make sense for you should be moved to the resources section if they contain useful information you might need this coming year.
And finally, anything no longer relevant should be moved to the archive section.
Once you've done that, move on to the final section.
The Resources section
For the resources section, the focus should be on both figuring out what information to save for future reference and which information you already have that might come in handy in the future.
1. Are any old resources relevant again?
2. What topics am I no longer interested in?
3. What interests do I want to cultivate or develop?
For this last section you'll browse through and decide if there are any resources that are again relevant, or could become relevant this year. you want to move those into the areas section.
If there are any concrete tasks or activities that might make use of information from this section, you should move those into the relevant project section.
Lastly, anything that you're no longer interested in should be moved to the archive.
And finally we're ready to move on to the last set of questions that will help us bring it all together.
The goals you set for the coming year are just one part of your plan. Equally important are the areas you establish to manage those goals and the projects that are generated by those. Without the structures in place to keep you focused and on track, goals will just become nice thoughts.
Use S.M.A.R.T. goals
When establishing your goals for the upcoming year, it's a good idea to stick to the tried and true S.M.A.R.T. method.
In the template we've provided you'll notice that each question has some hashtags. These are connected to the final set of questions, so that the previous questions will give you the information you need to answer the final set.
For each question in the final set, you simply click the hashtags of that question, and the appropriate questions from the previous sections will be filtered, giving you the information you need.
On to the questions.
1. What are my goals for this year?
2. How will I achieve those goals?
3. What habits should I develop?
4. How will I develop those habits?
5. What should I focus on first?
6. What responsibilities should I add?
7. What should I stop focusing on?
Now that you've gone through the entire yearly review and have established your goals, we want to figure out what new areas of responsibility you should add and what new projects that will entail.
Looking at the answers from the last set, start by going through your areas of responsibility and do the following.
1. Remove any areas you're no longer focusing on or that you're no longer responsible for.
We want to declutter your areas section so you're only focusing on those things you've consciously decided to develop.
2. Create areas to cultivate your desired habits.
What actions do you need to take regularly to cement those good habits? What new responsibilities will you have to take on to achieve those goals?
Turn those into areas where you'll keep track of your progress as you build those habits. This might also entail setting reminders on your calendar or in another task management app if you use one. Do so now while everything is fresh in your mind.
If you want to develop the habit of reading more, you could create an area called something like 'Reading' and inside that make a list of books and articles you want to read. You could also use this section to keep reading notes. Then as you start reading a book, you can mirror that particular book into your projects section. The idea is to make it easy to pick up where you leave off each time you read. By mirroring the current book into the place you're most likely to check regularly, you can ensure that it's always clear which book you're currently working on.
3. Create projects to achieve your goals.
Depending on what each goal is, it might make more sense to turn it into a project. If you don't plan to work on it until some time later in the year you can always put it in the area section with a date tag so it'll be ready for you when you get to it. The point is to keep it close and clearly label when you want to start working on it so it doesn't fall through the cracks as time goes on.
For example, if your goal if to learn to play the guitar - you might create a project called 'Learn Guitar'. Inside you would put things like a lesson plan, guitar tabs for beginners, links to youtube videos and so on. Basically everything you need handy to do your lessons regularly.
Again, it might make sense to set reminders in your calendar or whatever task management app you use if it's not Workflowy.
And that's it. By now you should have a clear list of goals you want to achieve for the coming year and have also set up the necessary structures in your PARA system to give you the best chance of succeeding.
A yearly review of your PARA system is a great way to clear out the clutter and start fresh. Like any system, the PARA method will accumulate some clutter over time. Your goals will shift and so will the habits you want to cultivate. By re-aligning them on a regular basis you can feel confident that your system is working in your favor, that you're consciously working towards the goals that make sense for you and not just churning away on things that you no longer care about.
We recommend you keep the original template and put it in your resources section. This way you can use it again next year and save yourself from having to look for a template.
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