While the LIFT principle provides a clear set of principles to avoid feeling overwhelmed and quickly find what we need, the Johnny decimal system provides a “framework” for better organizing our information.

As we will see, just like the PARA method, the Johnny Decimal system can be used across tools and platforms, which makes it another excellent tool to add to your information/data/knowledge management toolbox.

How the Johnny Decimal system works

The Johnny Decimal system is a simple three-step process to organize information:

  1. Divide everything you want to organize into 10 areas (at most!)
  2. Within each area, divide your content into 10 categories (at most!)
  3. Assign a unique number to each area and category

During the first step, you need to:

One of the core ideas of this system is to group related information together.

With the Johnny Decimal system, you can create at most 10 areas, each containing at most 10 categories. That’s it. The reason for this limitation is to keep things simple and manageable.

The first step of the process aims to force you to broadly organize your content. The limit on the number of areas is there to force you to keep things simple. The fewer folders you have, the easier it will be to identify and locate (cfr LIFT principle) what you are looking for or want to store.

The second step is key. Categories are where your content actually lives. Each category should hold very specific information/content.

Finally, the last step has multiple purposes: