WNW Areas and Projects Compared

Lets take a second and compare Projects and Areas now that we have spent a couple of weeks looking at both.

WNW Areas and Projects Compared

Let's take a minute to compare Areas and Projects.

How they are similar

For both projects and areas:

  • I create a folder in my notebase and My file system.
  • I use templates to create "home notes" that act as sort of the entry point, or top level note in the notebase folder.
  • I capture my intentions in those home notes.
  • I also store resources, links, and ideas in those home notes.
  • The home notes also contain links to "branches" which can start a "thought train" (series of linked notes) to cover and explore ideas.
  • I also often use PeopleCards with these notes to capture information about people I care about, interact with, or work with in the context of that project or area.
  • Both can contain other types of useful templates, like my Travel template, or a Dossier Template.
  • I link all notes to the Daily Note file on the day they were created to anchor them in time.

How they are different

Project and Areas are different in small, but significant ways.


  • Are meant to be done soon, usually within 90 days.
  • You can think of these as EOS Rocks.
  • Are Aligned with Goals, things I want to achieve.
  • It is perfectly appropriate to use SMART planning for projects (and goals)
  • Projects are about action, I am trying to get something done.
  • Projects are about progress.
  • I have multiple ways of thinking about and planning projects, from 3X3, to Going to Dinner, to Detailed task analysis (which I confess I do very little of.)
  • I use a simplified Engineering Problem Solving process.
  • Projects are moved forward driven by tasks.


  • Areas I do not expect to finish soon, or ever.
  • Areas are driven by standards. How do I want to show up in the world?
  • Standards are based upon my values. In fact, you can think of a standard as a hybrid of beliefs+attitudes+values.
  • Standards aim toward something, like a North Star. They capture an intention.
  • Areas are manifested by practices and habits.
  • Areas also represent duties and obligations.
  • Areas can connect to projects, but I am not religious about maintaining this kind of linking.
  • Areas are often dominated by people, and hence PeopleCards.
  • Areas tend to focus more on Roles and Expectations than Tasks and Plans.
  • Areas can store attribute data, information about your possessions, your responsibilities, and yes, even you.

The Intent

The reason to split Areas and Projects for me is to create what some people would call work life balance. The reality is that, over the decades when I was learning about "productivity", I started to learn about ideas like Impact, and I started to discover parts of my life that do not respond at all to being finished, or respond negatively.

For example, during the Pandemic, I exercised regularly (all I could do was ride my bike, and hike so I did - there wasn't much work to do) and I lost a lot of weight. When I hit my target weight, I'd achieved my goal, then acted like I'd graduated. "I'll never have to do any of that again." Over the course of the next 3 years, my weight crept back up to where I'd started.

I now realize some things that take time, energy, and effort have no end date. Separating my personal productivity from my areas of responsibility - gave me the clarity to pursue balanced effort on both.

It's hard to build a business with no effort or progress on projects. It's hard to build a meaningful life with no relationships, and no energy spent taking care of yourself or the people you love.

One other Bonus: Whats your purpose?

Since this week as been about areas, I want to touch on one other thing. If you want to live with purpose, where would you capture, write down, or figure out your purpose?

You might create a project, to find your purpose, but once you get clear and find it, is it finished?

I hope not. For me, my purpose, is captured in my personal area (yeah, I call it Area - Personal, a folder I hope to never archive, my progeny will have to do that for me.)

But having areas gives you space to contemplate the big questions. Like, why am I here? What are my gifts? Ever taken a personality assessment? Where would you put it? I keep mine in my Area - Personal.

Exploring my purpose, discovering how to best live my life for me is best served by having space to capture ideas, thoughts, quotes, and notes on how I do this.


Exactly how you capture these ideas, what tool you use (whether it is Obsidian, or Notion, or Evernote, or Logseq, or Notepad), is not important.

The idea is to start. Start simple. And grow organically. I first started exploring building a second brain in 2018 when I learned about taking "smarter notes" from [[Sönke Ahrens|Sonke Ahrens]] and his book [[library/How to Take Smart Notes|How to Take Smart Notes]]. Then I discovered Tiago Forte, and for a couple of years I had this mishmash of systems. I moved through multiple tools - but each time, I kept moving forward and processing.

It all grew organically.

What I have learned, is that the most important thing is to organize your information like you organize your home. Put all the things in the same room where you expect to use them. Everything you need to go to sleep is in your bedroom. What you need to get dressed? It's in your closet. Your bathroom has what need to groom and clean yourself up. Most homes have A laundry room with the appliances, sink and faucet plus supplies, needed to clean your cloths. Your kitchen is probably the best example - so many different kinds of tools, objects, perishable supplies all gathered together in one space so your a nourish your family.

At home it seems obvious to put things where you need to use them. To organize by purpose (or what Forte calls actionability).

We never think twice about that. But when we get digital... technology has forces us to think about it backward. It's like the manufacturer has decided how you will organize your home - all objects by brand. Imagine if you had to put all your Samsung stuff in the same place - TV, Fridge, Washer and Dryer, laptop, and cell phone. I hope you see how silly and unintuitive that is.

So start small, start simple. And grow it organically. Like you did in your first apartment, or college dorm. You didn't have everything, but you had what you needed. And as you progressed in life, your workspaces became more sophisticated, more functional, more luxurious, more satisfying and enjoyable.

You can do the same thing with your information, your work and your productivity.

My goal for myself, and for you is to make technology serve you, not you serve it.