One of the biggest benefits of PARA is the organizational flexibility it gives you. This flexibility can also lead to confusion though - it's tough to figure out how different notes, ideas, and tasks fit in projects, areas, research, or the archive. I'm here to help you figure that out!
My big aha! moment came when I was planning the everything for my podcast Connect the Dots. I'll show you how I used the PARA framework throughout each stage of planning, launching, and running the podcast - even what would happen when I stop the show.
Connect the Dots started in Resources (and most things do). I wasn't committed to a launch date or even if I was even going to launch the podcast at all! But as I took notes, outlined topics, talked to friends, and studied other shows, I decided it I was actually going to start a podcast.
Now that I had decided to launch the show and had a date in mind, Connect the Dots moved from the research stage to a Project. During this time I listed all the to-do items, deadlines, and early episodes I wanted to record for the launch. These are critical parts of a project: what do I need to do and when is it due. For me, this was launch.
After the podcast launched it moved again from project to an Area of Responsibility. Because now there isn't a deadline (put a pin in that) but a responsibility to show up and keep shipping new episodes for listeners.
See the difference in Project vs Area? Launching the podcast is a project, running the podcast is an area of responsibility. Another example is that buying a house is a project, owning a home is an area. Make sense?
So you see how the podcast starts in Resources, moves into a Project, and then becomes an Area of Responsibility. Now it could have just been, "Okay, I'm doing a single Project. Just doing some audio recordings then I'll be all done." Then it would move into Archive. But right now it's an area.
At any time though I can say "Okay, I'm not going to do the podcast for a little while, or maybe I'm just done with this version of podcasting," then Connect the Dots as a file or a page or a notebook moves into Archive.
But even in the Archive - if I ever think "Hey, I'd like to start Connect the Dots again." I just go into Archive, pluck it out, and move it back into either active Projects or Area of Responsibility.