How to declutter your desktop in 60 seconds (PARA Method)


Digital clutter kills our productivity. A Princeton study found that it restricts our capacity to process information, impairs our ability to focus, and ultimately keeps us from doing our best work. Fortunately, there’s a simple way out of the chaos.

What to do

Organize your digital life in line with your projects and goals – by setting up the “PARA Method” in 60 seconds.

Why it works

In his latest book, productivity expert and “Building a Second Brain” author Tiago Forte (pictured above) shares a simple and brilliant observation: there are only four categories that encompass all the information in your life — ProjectsAreasResources, and Archives. That’s why the book is entitled “The PARA Method: Simplify, Organise and Master Your Digital Life”.

Projects are short-term efforts in your professional or personal life that you’re working on now (e.g. launching a new website or planning a birthday party). Areas are long-term responsibilities you want to manage over time (e.g. direct reports or health). Resources are topics or interests that might be useful in the future (e.g. personal productivity or photos). Archives are inactive items from the other three categories.

Instead of organizing information according to broad subjects (like in school), Forte recommends organizing your digital life according to the projects and goals you are committed to. In his new book, he shares a 60-second guide for adopting PARA on any digital platform. Here’s how to use that guide to declutter your desktop folder in three simple steps.

How to do it

1) Archive existing files. Rest assured: as digital objects don’t take up any physical space, you never have to throw anything away. While you can keep everything, you can’t keep it front and center in your attention. So, select all the folders and files in your desktop folder and move them into a new folder called “Archive (Today’s date)”. That’s it. You just got a decluttered desktop. You’re welcome.

2) Create project folders. Once your desktop is decluttered, you’ll need some structure to keep it that way from now on. To do so, create a new folder called Projects. Inside that folder, create a subfolder for each of your active projects. Again, these are short-term efforts in your professional or personal life that you’re working on now. The former include things like writing a report or preparing a presentation, while the latter are things like buying a new computer or renovating the bathroom.

3) Create additional folders as needed. Since areas and resources are less actionable, you don’t need to come up with sub-folders for these categories as you’re getting started organizing your life with PARA. Instead, create sub-folders for the two as soon as you need them. Since doing this takes less than a second, there’s no reason to do it now.

As Forte writes in “The PARA Method”, “follow the same three steps above with your cloud storage drive, note-taking app, and anywhere else you store information, and your digital world will become a PARAdise (get it?) of simplicity and efficiency.”

I used to be terrible with digital clutter. PARA has changed how I go about my digital life forever. Give it a try and see what happens.