Notion As a PARA-based Second Brain

If you are like me, you have journaled for years and collected bits of information that resonate with you. By now you have archived thousands of notes, articles, images, notebooks, and items you intended to do something with, but have not had the time.

I began using Evernote on November 16, 2010. The first note I ever entered: “Some stories should never be told for the pain’s too great for those left behind.” In August of the next year, I spent a week scanning every piece of paper in the house and office into Evernote. It was what I had always wanted, a digital repository, and I was the librarian.

So Much Raw Material

Over the decades, thousands of notes and documents were added and the library grew. Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials helped me organize the notes. The powerful search feature put everything at my fingertips. The three column format gave me familiar access to my Notebooks, Note Lists, and individual documents. Search allows quick scans into the contents of the digital notebook, just as thumbing through a book in hand is easier than swiping through an e-book.

But there was a flaw in the my system. I had intended Evernote to facilitate my writing, but the more I collected the more overwhelmed I became. I needed to learn how to curate my collection, and stop being a librarian.


I owe a debt of gratitude to some anonymous source that motivated me to write a note that simply said, “Check out Notion.” And though I do not remember who it was, I can thank the others along my path.

Adopting the PARA system

PARA gave structure to my notes by separating everything into four buckets: Projects & Tasks, Areas of Responsibility, Resources, and Archives.

This system allows me to curate my notes based on actionability rather than by categories. Enabling items to bubble up as needed and disappear into the archive when no longer active. PARA simplifies the GTD process and is technology and application agnostic.

Building a Second Brain

Often we try to keep our most active projects and tasks “top of mind.” Though the brain is a poor storage device, and makes makes retaining an overload of information difficult. You would never buy a computer that lost as much data as our brain does every year. Memory is not the brain’s primary or best function. Processing, pattern recognition, and decision making are its greatest strengths. Our brains are more like the CPU in our computers, rather than the hard drive. For this reason the old adage is still true.

“The weakest ink is better than the strongest brain.”

So like many I started keeping a journal early and moved over the years from an analogue, paper-based storage device to digital technology.  The change lead to greater freedom and more confidence in recovering desired notes in the future.


Kim Sai of wrote a blog post that was republished on the Praxis blog in which he listed point by point the advantages Notion. The detailed analysis in the article was the tipping point for my decision to move from Evernote to Notion.

Video link:

…In Part Two I will describe my experience with Notion in detail and in Part Three I will explain my final decision and the choices I made. 

 If you are interested in learning more about Tiago’s Building a Second Brain, a new course is starting in a couple of days.

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