• If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.


No announcement yet.

Goals and areas of focus - a need for greater clarity

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Goals and areas of focus - a need for greater clarity


    *Which comes first goals or areas of focus?

    I'm in the process of taking my gtd understanding to the next level. I've always had a niggling doubt that my understanding of goals and areas of focus could do with greater clarity.

    Defining goals first then working on areas of focus feels uncomfortable. To my mind the more logical approach is the other way round. Having a solid definition of the areas of focus and then working out the goals you want to achieve in them.

    I really don't want to miss something fundamental about the overall approach or logic.*

    Grateful for other peoples experience and views in this area.*

    Many thanks in advance


  • #2

    Simply put, David Allen is a genius, but he's got it wrong on the 20,000 foot horizon. Everything is consistent until this level. While areas of focus is important, and Covey speaks to the importance of roles, there is no doubt that there is an advantage to to map 30K goals to 20K objectives to 10K projects to runway next actions. I respect you David, but... as Emerson said, "a foolish consistency is the hobgolblin of little minds" we must remember that "foolish: is the operative word, let's be consistent.


    • #3
      Hi Richard,

      I have had no problems with the consistency of the Horizons of focus model.
      Your goals (in terms of projects) exist under an umbrella of certain responsibilities (20k feet). Yes, it's true that other goals (30k and 40k) can also be said to go under the areas of focus, but is that really so important?

      As far as I know, there is no "order" in how to approach the Horizons of Focus. You dont need to go bottom up, or top down and stick to the same strategy all the time. The purpose is to give you a perspective at the different levels of your life and how they link to each other. I've found out about some of my 20k areas going bottom-up, and found others by going top-down.

      I think it makes sense the way it is. Most of your areas of responsibility will change when there are life changing situations (employment, house, involvement with your surroundings, etc), and that changes mostly because you set some goals at 30k and 40k, and not the other way around

      Take care,


      • #4
        I'm at the same stage as you and I struggled with Goals too.

        I suspect that one of the speed bumps to get over is thinking that the horizons must be a hierarchy in which you drill down from top to bottom, deconstructing as you go, or combining as you rise. Instead, I think of each of the horizons as serving my Purpose, but in different ways. I think David Allen chose the word 'horizons' very carefully for this reason. They represent different timescales as well as different levels of abstraction.

        I think Areas of Focus are Key Success Factors. They serve your Purpose in that as long as you keep your eye on them and feed them with at least one project at any one time, your life will stay in balance and you will not lose momentum. Mechanically, they are quite simple, you just make sure that you have a best Next Project per AOF, in the same way you make sure you have a best Next Action per project.

        Goals then are a way of adding extra drive in the medium term. You set yourself a target that is large enough to get you excited and is reachable in a reasonable period of time: Getting the job, passing with a distinction, moving into the house, etc. And these will behave like parent projects in that they follow the Natural Planning Method but then break down into projects rather than actions.

        Reviewing AOFs and Goals for consistency, both up and down, would add confidence that all your systems are pointing in the same direction, but I don't think that Goals and AOFs need to be tightly coupled. They both generate Projects.

        Anyway, that's as far as I have got in trying to add Goals to my system, but I'm re-reading Making It All Work now to try and get it right.
        Last edited by pxt; 03-30-2011, 03:36 AM.


        • #5
          I totally agree! "Areas of Focus" don't fit in the Horizons of Focus.

          I am aware this is an old thread but it is the first one I've found with someone having the same struggles as me. I totally agree that the 20k level of focus seems inconsistent with the other levels.

          I see the horizons of focus as a way of specifying a life purpose (How you would like your life to be) and then having a cascade of visions, goals and projects down from this. Having a traceable path from your projects right up through to your life purpose seems logical and makes sure your projects are building towards your goals and higher. The 20K "Areas of Focus" seems to break this chain.

          I'm glad that someone else is on my wavelength as I had assumed that it must have been my lack of understanding.

          My thoughts on this situation are:

          "Areas of Focus" seems more like an abstract grouping (or additional source) of your projects and thus does not sit nicely in the hierarchy.

          Therefore I might keep it in the "horizons of focus" but not as it's own level but as a grouping at the project 20k ft level. The areas will not only group projects for logistical purposes but also inspire projects themselves.
          This fits nicely with several GTD software packages eg. Things, Nirvana etc.
          Goals will now relate directly to projects.

          Hope this makes sense. I would love other's feedback on this.


          • #6
            Perspectives and Hierarchy

            Originally posted by soilboy View Post
            Having a traceable path from your projects right up through to your life purpose seems logical and makes sure your projects are building towards your goals and higher. The 20K "Areas of Focus" seems to break this chain.
            Very nice subject and points of view. Thank you! I would have 2 comments on this very interesting issue.

            1. I really don't think hierarchy is the way to go here. It would be great to have everything linearly organized, but that would be reducing the richness of perspetives to mere grouping folders. And in my opinion it's much more than that.
            Each perspective is a pair of glasses on its own. A different view of your life. It's not just up a level, it's a different filter. And its richness lays in how this filter relates to different sets of values behind the goals. Giving an example: imagine one of your important values in life is your relations to other human beings and how you feel you would want to positively relate to and influence them. That value can be expressed in all your projects, regardless if it's under the hobbies area, your family area, your professional area or whatever division you have. There's really no hierarchy there. Or better said, it could be, but it would be a waste of all the rich multiple dimension evaluations you can get from switching glasses. It may be called Getting Things Done, but it's not just about executing stuff, is it?

            2. Though it would be wonderful to push all the perspectives into our GTD linear system, I was way more pleased to find the power of a separate approach about perspectives: I draw them! I make schemes (with date), with the freedom of representations. The idea is to clear up the desired DIRECTION, and linear systems/ lists don't really help me that much as to see I may me lacking some inner sense of overall tranquility, for instance... I enjoy organizing, but this one is more about a tool for reflection!

            Hope it's a valuable contribution.
            Once again thanks for the strong theme.

            Gonçalo Mata


            • #7
              Originally posted by soilboy View Post
              I am aware this is an old thread but it is the first one I've found with someone having the same struggles as me.
              Hi, soilboy. Your way of thinking of it is somewhat similar to mine. See my chart which is the fifth post in the "Defining goals in vision" thread: