#19: JARC: A framework to make sense of the world and manage time

During my Sabbatical this past year, I got really into Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).

PKM means different things to different people.  To me, it means two things: 

  1. how I make sense of the information that I consume

  2. how I manage my time

In the past, I was a collector of information. This means I only consumed information. Now, I am a creator of information. This means I take the information I consume, process it, and create something new to share with the world.

In this post, I’d like to share a PKM framework that I created called JARC. JARC brings together the best of two existing frameworks: SMART and PARA, and leaves out the rest. 

I’ll start with a brief summary of SMART and PARA and then describe JARC in detail.


SMART is a framework for setting goals. It was created by Peter Drucker and it stands for:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time Bound

SMART is really useful for setting goals, but it doesn’t provide insight on how to implement goals and how to track progress. That’s where PARA comes in. 


PARA is a framework and system for implementing goals and measuring your progress. It was created by Tiago Forte and it stands for:

  • Project

  • Area of responsibility

  • Resource

  • Archive

Here’s how PARA works:

  1. Identify the “spheres of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.”

    Examples of Areas are: Family, Health, Career, Friends. 

  2. List out Projects. Projects are tasks that are linked to a goal. They are specific and time bound things you work on.

    Examples of projects are: complete slide deck, write newsletter post, call mom, run a marathon.

  3. Create folders for resources. Resources are the topics that you’re interested in. They help you to complete your projects.

    Examples of resources are: product management, gardening, marketing.

  4. Create a folder for archive. This is where you will put all of your completed projects and their associated resources.


SMART and PARA can be game changers for setting and meeting goals. However, anyone who has ever set goals before, whether that’s going to the gym regularly or starting a new business, knows that actually achieving your goals is actually super hard. Why? 

Because achieving your goals requires building habits and emotional agility. You have to work on your goals, every single day, even on the bad days. And this takes more than sheer willpower. This takes motivation and emotional management.

How do you build motivation? How do you build emotional management? 

You start with Journaling. There are a few prompts that I’ve found immensely helpful to get me focused on the right things. Jessica Almedia deserves credit for these prompts:

  1. What area of my life needs my attention the most?

  2. Now that I have identified my area of focus, what change do I want to see here?

  3. What are some immediate action steps that I can start doing today?

  4. If I improve this area of my life, this will help me feel...

  5. If I get stuck, I'll remember that I'm working on improving this for…

Notice that the first question makes you think about Areas. Before you can answer it, you need to identify your Areas of Responsibility. These are the Areas from PARA. Refer back to the PARA section if you need. 

The next step is Reflection. I like to reflect right after answering the journal prompts and right after doing the action steps from questions #3. Reflecting before allows me to question and call bullshit on my journal responses, and reflecting after allows me to assess how I did so I can learn from my mistakes and challenges for next time.

To aid with my before reflection,I leverage the 3C Model of motivation. 3C was created by Professor Hugo Kehr at UC Berkeley and it is an “integrative, empirically validated theory of motivation that can be used for systematic motivation diagnosis and intervention.” Basically, it allows you to foresee problems ahead of time so you’re not spinning your wheels and getting stuck later. 

The 3C model questions (before reflection) are:

  • Head: Is this activity really important to me?

  • Heart: Do I really like this activity?

  • Hand: Am I good at this activity?

The questions I use for my after reflection are:

  • What did I learn?

  • Did I get stuck?

  • What can I do better next time? 

Lastly, is Community. Working on important goals means that we’re challenging ourselves and going outside of our comfort zone. This is, after all, what personal development is all about. Inevitably, we will not always have all the answers, skills, or even know where to go next. We will inevitably encounter roadblocks and challenges along the way. 

So, what do we do? 

We seek out community, of course! We look for a group of people, a collective intelligence, that we can learn from, validate our ideas with, get feedback from, and garner support.

As the African proverb goes:

If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.

❤️ Seriously, this post is 5x better thanks to my Foster editors: Dani TruscaTom White, Kenta Nagamine

If you want to apply to Foster, please use this link.