How to Define and Use Everdo Areas Effectively

When following Getting Things Done, you will eventually have hundreds of actions and dozens of projects. It is often the case that these items can be split into groups in such a way that each group can be worked on separately. This approach can reduce the number of simultaneous projects and actions that you need to deal with. This in turn makes your GTD system better organized and easier to use.

In Everdo the independent groups of actions and projects are called Areas.

In this post we consider the principles to keep in mind when creating and using areas. We also identify some common issues and pitfalls associated with using areas.

What are the Areas and how to create them

An area in Everdo is implemented as a special kind of a tag. When you create a new tag, initially it has the type label. In order to transform a label into an area, you need to find it in the Tag Manager dialog and select the area type, as shown in the animation below.

Creating a new area

Once an area has been created, you can select it in the Area Selector at the top of the application window.

When an area is selected, Everdo hides all items that are not associated with the selected area. In other words, an area acts as a global filter for your actions and projects.

The principles for defining areas

We have established that areas act as global filters. When you select an area, you lose the ability to view items associated with other areas. For example, the Next Actions list no longer includes all your next actions, since it is now limited to the current area. This can create friction unless you take care to define areas appropriately.

In essence, areas need to be defined so that you can concentrate on a single area at once without needing to switch between areas too often. This principle guides us towards defining fewer areas in order to avoid excessive fragmentation and area switching. On the other hand, defining too few areas means that each area is bigger and is more difficult to manage than necessary.

For example, Work and Home are areas where there is a clear separation of concerns. When dealing with work, you don't want to see your home-related tasks and vice versa. This means that creating Work and Home areas is appropriate, since it does not introduce any switching friction into the system. At the same time the Work/Home distinction may not be granular enough to take full advantage of the Area concept. For example you may have different responsibilities at work that could be better organized as their own areas.

To summarize, the principles for defining areas are as follows.

  1. Areas must correspond to well-defined and independent environments, contexts or time blocks, so that you never need to work on multiple areas at once.
  2. Having more areas is better, as long as the first principle is maintained.

Everdo areas vs GTD areas of responsibility

Everdo areas should not to be confused with areas of responsibility described in Getting Things Done as one of the horizons of focus.

The list of areas of responsibility is a tool to track and evaluate all the commitments that you have. On the other hand, Everdo Areas are intended for applying top-level filtering to your projects and actions to reduce clutter and simplify the choice of next actions.

In general, it's not optimal to create an Everdo area for each area of responsibility. Instead, you should use the principles outlined in the previous section and try to clearly partition your items by context, environment or a time block.

Using time blocking in combination with Areas

Time blocking is a technique to divide your day into blocks of time, each dedicated to a particular kind of work or even a specific task.

Time blocks are typically created in a calendar app. They can be made repeating so that the overall time block structure is similar from day to day, but you can adjust each particular day as necessary.

Time blocking is a valuable tool because it creates structure in your day and ensures that the different concerns are handled as planned.

You might notice that the concept of a time block can work with the concept of an Everdo Area quite well. For example, you could

  • Create and schedule daily or weekly time blocks for each of your areas. This will ensure that each area gets your attention at a specific time interval, as long as the time block exists. For example, I have an area for home chores and a corresponding time block in my calendar. This reduces the probability that I forget to do these tasks or ignore them.

  • Create additional areas to increase focus. Since time blocking ensures clear boundaries between different sets of tasks, you can create more areas that would otherwise be too granular. For example, every work day I have Coding and Writing time blocks where I focus on the corresponding tasks. In this scenario I don't need a shared Next list containing both kinds of actions. So because of this clear separation of concerns, I can create a separate area for each type of work instead of having a single, less focused, Work area.

Common pitfalls in using Areas

Creating too many areas. When starting out, it can be tempting to define more areas that you really need and can manage. Remember that the goal of areas and tags in general is not to classify all your tasks perfectly in some abstract sense. The goal is to create a way to filter the tasks in a useful way. So if a tag or an area is not useful for filtering, then it shouldn't exist, cluttering your system. If you find that you need to switch to "All Areas" often, it indicates that you might have partitioned your tasks in a less than optimal way by creating too many areas.

Not creating enough areas. A symptom of this is having a long Next Actions list and spending too much time trying to identity the Next Actions that you want to tackle at the moment. Partitioning your actions into areas could reduce the length of the Next Actions list that you need to handle at any particular time.

Ignoring some of your areas. Since working within an area hides all unrelated actions from the Next Actions list, it's easy to overlook important actions unless you deliberately dedicate time to each area. This is where time blocking can be helpful, as discussed earlier.

Conclusion

Now you know how to create and use Everdo Areas effectively and avoid some common mistakes. Applying the concept of Areas will make your GTD system more manageable and focused. I have been using this approach for several years and I hope that you will find it useful as well.

Please comment below to share your thoughts on the topic.

Subscribe to keep updated!