Those using Forte's PARA Method-what do you put in Areas in your Task Manager?

For years I’ve used a system not dissimilar to PARA but with less rigid structure. Recently I’ve been rereading some of Forte’s material. One of the things that confuse me is why one would put AREAS of responsibility in a task manager separate from PROJECTS as shown in the screenshot below from one of the Forte Labs pages.

What do you put in AREAS in your project manager? If as defined by Forte "A project is “a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline” whereas "An area of responsibility is “a sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time”, what would I put in AREAS in a task manager?

For example, in my situation an obvious project would be to “Hire Head of department x on the senior team.” The area would be either HR or Hiring or Personnel. But I don’t see the point of having an AREA completely distinct from projects in a task manager when by definition items in AREA has standards, which do not necessarily have measurable actions with deadlines associated with them.

My tendency, which Forte does not recommend, is to list projects under areas, something like this:

AREA: Personnel
-Project: Hire Head of department x on the senior team
-Project: Complete SLT evaluations

In fact, in Forte’s example he uses Things. In the Things app, it shows the following, where projects are to be grouped into AREAS.

Screenshot 2023-01-01 at 8.18.23 AM

What am I missing in all of this?

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An area is something you have responsibility for even when there is no active project. If you make everything into a project, I can see where the confusion comes in.

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Agreed. So in other words, I would have AREAS in my task manager with some potentially having nothing in those areas, correct?

I find PARA to be very ambiguous too.

Maybe there is an additional, somewhat nebulous layer between Personnel and Project: x, Project: y.

Area: Work
- Maintain optimal staffing levels
—— <description of how you assess ‘optimum’>
——— Finding 2023-01-01: Senior team of department x needs head of department 
———— Project: Hire head of department…

I find the distinction between Resources and Archives to be ambiguous too.

No, you would not have projects (tasks with deadlines) in your Areas, but you would have recurring tasks or other tasks that had no specific deadline.

In other words, with PARA, the idea is that active projects have to have deadlines, otherwise they go into AREAS? The problem is that some active projects don’t have a hard deadline but are active.

An example is hiring. Following Jim Collin’s advice, we don’t hire anyone UNTIL we have found the right person. This means that while recruiting and interviewing for a given position is active, there is no deadline per se; we’ll hire when we have found the ‘right person’. In PARA would “hire the ‘right person’ for position X” go into active projects or an AREA such as Personnel or hiring?

Well, now you have introduced the term “active projects.” Don’t go down this rabbit hole.

Full disclosure: I do not practice the PARA method nor do I recommend it for the reasons you illustrate with your questions.

EDIT: Looking back, I see that I introduced that term. :slightly_smiling_face: In any event I prefer a lighter touch and less lawyer-ly approach to task management. If I spend a lot of time putting tasks into categories, I’m afraid I’m wasting my time.

That is what I was beginning to conclude! :slight_smile:

I have and still do segment current Top Priority Projects from all others, which are under Areas. This works for me.

If you find you have nothing (no tasks) under Areas, perhaps you could simply list what it is you care about in each particular Area.

I could but I’m more inclined to have an area that may, temporarily, not have a project, e.g., Hiring when all hiring has been completed, but keep a list of things I care about in my notes app instead. This will help keep my task manager more streamlined. At any rate, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that found the PARA distinction between Areas and Projects a bit confusing, at least as described on the website.

Happy New Year by the way. :slight_smile:

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What I’ve gotten from Tiago et Al over time is that the areas don’t have a fixed end date or state. So hire new head of IT is a project, even though you don’t have the date it’ll be done, because it will be “done”. The area “Head of school” is more like a combination single action list from GTD, and or recurring things for perpetuity, so you might have a recurring “send headmaster weekly email draft to the communications team” every Thursday in the area. You might make a project for “Develop, circulate and explain new guidelines for school dances” because that has a fixed end, even if you put the explanation in the weekly email.

In the end, it really seems like the big thing is that projects should be routinely archived, but areas only shift at major life events.

On the hiring example, I think Tiago would have you keep all your notes on hiring overall as a resource, then projects for each role.

I’m not sure why he doesn’t want you to put projects in areas, intuitively, I want to make areas be roles like @MacSparky and Shawn Blanc talk about, and tuck projects into them.

This does feel like an area to take what works and discard the chaff- Forte himself admits it’s a mashup of many ideas, and I think you’ve already combined ideas into your system.

I did see someone else labeled them Projects, Domains, Library and Archive, which I picked up because it felt more intuitively “what’s this thing for”. So I have a domain of “Marketing team leader” that’s basically a single action list.

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To give proper credit - this is where I saw the projects, domains, library, archive taxonomy.

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I like the alternate labels: projects, domains (areas), library (resources) and vault (archives)!

But the acronym is PDLV. Not what Tiago Forte was looking for, I would guess. :slightly_smiling_face:

From your screenshots it looks like you are using Things now? I thought you were an Apple Reminders person?

Projects, Library, Archive, Ideation, Domains



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No, I’m not using Things. That was a screenshot from Teago’s site. I have been using Reminders extensively, as I’ve posted previously. I had committed to using Apple’s default apps for a while now. I’ve pushed those apps about as far as they can go.

Sadly, “Apple forced” me to move on.

As I posted here, I’ve reluctantly lost faith in Apple Notes for my professional work (though Reminders has functioned flawlessly). The still unresolved issue with Apple Notes has made it impossible for me to trust AN for my meeting and project notes. And because I depend on the ability to integrate my notes and projects, once I felt compelled to leave AN, I also needed to abandon Reminders for my professional work.

Consequently, I’ve turned 180 degrees; I’m now back where I started—OmniFocus + Craft. Craft has an excellent plug-in that will transfer todos in Craft directly to OF with the link preserved. And, as most on this forum know, OmniFocus has about every feature one would need to project management short of professional project applications like OmniPlan and MS Project.

I’m disappointed.

Because of the deep integrations and the robust features of AN, I want to use Apple’s default apps. In addition to deep system integration and powerful features, Apple’s apps are free.

But, when one of the essential features of a modern app, dependable syncing, is not provided, I am forced to move on. Unfortunately, the issue with AN syncing is still not resolved. It will be, eventually, but I cannot afford to waste any more time trying to get things to work; I need to get my work done.

So, I have revamped my workflow, as shown below. I intend to keep this workflow for one full year with no changes.

In short, my primary apps are now, and for the foreseeable future, what I consider to be among the best in class for the purpose they were designed. I’ve decided that I will pay for the feature set and reliability.

  • Craft—notes
  • Ulysses—writing
  • OmniFocus—project/task management
  • DEVONthink—research storage (yes, I’m moving away from Obsidian. Since I’m changing my workflow I’m selecting the apps that give me the most power for my needs)
  • Apple Notes—for personal notes only. I export these monthly using the Exporter app to DEVONthink
  • Apple Calendar—considered BusyCal but my calendar needs are simple—a place to note appointments. This does not justify additional cost.


I’m sorry to hear that the Apple Notes syncing problems still exist. I thought they had finally solved that problem, but clearly not. I mostly use Obsidian for notes, but still use Apple Notes for a few personal things that aren’t that important and I wouldn’t be upset if they disappeared. It seems to be a matter of scale. Apple Notes works fine with a small number of notes, but starts to fail with a larger, nested system.

It performed well in my stress test a while back. I think syncing is just hard, and hasn’t been mastered by many developers.

Apparently. I’m not sure how “larger” should be defined relative to AN. I have 1,062 notes. Most of those are pure text. That does not seem like a large number to me.

I’d use Obsidian, I like the app, but its friction with organizing folders, creating tables, and adding PDFs, images and the like, while possible, is not efficient for my needs. Too fiddly. Craft is much better at this. The other key for me is I can send a list of nested follow-ups from Craft to OF and they appear in OF in the same format (nested) and with the Craft document link included. That is a perfect for my needs.

Eventually Apple will fix my Notes syncing issue but at this point I’ll only put unimportant personal items in AN. Everything else will go to Craft and DEVONthink.