Difference between a goal and a project


What’s the difference between a goal and a project except the following points?

Project (Horizon 1):
- more than 2 steps
- reachable within 1 year

Goal (Horizon 3):
- relates directly to the vision
- areas of responsibility and focus follow from the goal
- reachable within 1-2 year

Does this mean, that a project can not follow directly from a goal?
Projects can only be created from areas of responsibility and focus (Horizon 2)?

For example if I would like to speak fluently Spanish.
I think that this would rather a goal than a project.
From this goal follows the are of responsibility „Spanish student“ and are of focus „Spanish language“.
From „Spanish student“ follows the next project „attending Spanish lessons“.
From this project follows the next step „searching on the internet for Spanish classes in my city“.

Do you handle goals like that or do you also create projects directly from your goals?
But what is then with the Horizon 2, which would be ignored?

Thanks a lot!


A project can originate from any level. This includes next actions, areas of focus, and all other horizons.
The relation is meant to be helpful and flexible.


Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
A project can originate from any level. This includes next actions, areas of focus, and all other horizons.
The relation is meant to be helpful and flexible.
I agree. There are many ways one can follow here. I do have goals directly related to an Area of Focus and then projects to help me achieve that goal. I also may have a goal then stems from my vision. Again, there may be projects associated with this.


I understand. Actually for me it also feels natural to create projects directly to a goal or vision.
But why did he build then the horizons and didn't put for example Horizon 2 (Area of Focus) and Horizon 3 (Goals) on the same level?
I think I still didn't catch the whole or correct meaning of the horizons...

How do you separate goals and projects or rather how do you you if the captured thing is a goal or a project?
For example I could also say that "speaking fluently Spanish" is a very big project with many subproject.


Well, Spanish is a language you can only speak fluently or not at all…

Kidding aside, in your example, if you start with the goal and then create the project directly, the AoF "Spanish student" would still appear at some point.

I think all you need to do is stop thinking of a strict hierarchy. It's different levels and the connections are more like a network.


I don't believe in subprojects. So if a body of work naturally seems to have what others might see as subprojects, I'm likely to regard that body of work as either a goal or an area of focus.

I would see your desire to speak Spanish fluently as a goal, one that would trigger a number of projects--researching study methods, booking and attending lessons, maybe joining a club dedicated to Spanish conversation, and so on.

So where does Area of Focus show up? I've never felt that this is a direct hierarchical flow. To me, the Area of Focus would look like "Student".


What the heck man? Now you've thrown me off. How can you not believe in Santa Claus? Have you ever been to the North Pole?
When Niels Bohr, one of the fathers of modern quantum physics, opened a a new institute created for him, there was a horseshoe over the door. He was asked, “Professor Bohr, surely you do not believe in such superstitions as that?” He replied, “As a scientist, of course not. But I understand it works whether you believe in it or not.”


Think of it in terms of how often you review them. The higher the Horizon the less frequently you review.
Your next actions are daily, ideally your projects are weekly during your weekly review.

Going on from there, your areas of focus should be reviewed every so often (monthly or so?) so that you try to keep balance in your system. During these reviews you may realise that you're too focused on certain areas, and other areas are not getting the focus they should. This would typically manifest itself by looking at which projects or single actions you have for the areas.

Goals, Vision and Purpose are even more infrequently. Goals are not something you review weekly, or even monthly, but rather you want to review them to be sure you're still headed toward those goals, same for vision.
If being fluent in Spanish is something you're going to be reviewing frequently, then it is probably at a lower level in the horizons of focus model than a goal.

Disclaimer, this is how I understand it. I have not reached this level of practice in my GTD yet.