Projects vs Areas

Do you have something that is lingering on your to-do list? If so, it could because you have confused a project with an area.

David Allen has often said that the major challenge for knowledge workers is defining their work. Unlike task workers whose duties are given to them by others, the knowledge worker must figure out how to complete their assignments. In many cases they have to determine the specific tasks that needs to be done.

One stumble that knowledge workers encounter is mixing up projects and areas. Failure to differentiate between these two can lead to frustration. In a recent blog post, Tiago Forte clearly identifies the difference between the two.

project is any endeavor that has 1) a desired outcome that will enable you to mark it “complete,” and 2) a deadline or timeframe by which you’d like it done.

An area of responsibility has 1) a standard to be maintained that 2) is continuous over time.

In short, projects end, while areas continue indefinitely.

Understanding this can help clear up a lot of confusion. To explain further, Tiago provides examples:

  • Running a marathon is a project, whereas Health is an area
  • Publishing a book is a project, whereas Writing is an area
  • Saving 3 months’ worth of expenses is a project, whereas Finances is an area
  • A vacation to Thailand is a project, whereas Travel is an area
  • Planning an anniversary dinner is a project, whereas Spouse is an area

Learn more about how to approach projects and areas by reading through Tiago’s post.

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