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Tasks, Projects and Appointments – What’s the Difference and Why Do I Care?


Tasks, Appointments, Projects

Let’s talk about a simple but important distinction between 3 things – tasks, projects and appointments.

I was helping my girlfriend get set up with a task management platform a couple of weeks ago, and I was explaining to her the process of putting her stray thoughts and ideas down into her Inbox, and she asked – what’s the difference between a task and an appointment?

Now in the productivity space we sort of take this for granted – after all, we spend all day geeking about talking about not only tasks, but also contexts, action groups, efficiency quotas and well.. you get the idea.

The distinction goes like this:

A Task is a discrete action you take, and once it’s done, it’s done. We would also suggest that all tasks take less than 20 minutes to complete – this helps with mental organization and classification.

A Project is a collection of tasks with a given end point. That is it say, each project has many tasks, and once those tasks have been completed, the project is completed. The important thing here is that the project HAS an end point and at some point you can say “I’ve completed this project”. This makes them different from…

A List is an ongoing collection of tasks with no given end point. For example, even though you may “clear” your shopping list every week, next week it will be full again with new groceries and things to buy. Another example would be lists in Agile Results that relate to different areas of your life – these are ongoing and have no defined end point.

An Action Group is similar to a project – a collection of tasks with a given end point. The difference is one of mental organization – action groups tend to be used to expand upon a singular tasks and to help clarify how that task proceeds. Say for example you have a business project. And one of the tasks in that project is to write a quarterly review email. That task of “Write Quarterly Review Email” can actually be an action group that includes sub-tasks such as “Locate and attach assessments for all major teams”, “Attach powerpoint presentation” and “Write email”.

An Appointment is something you have to do at a set and specific time and once that time has elapsed, the appointment ends. Appointments usually involve other people and while many tasks can be completed over course of the appointment, they are usually more about the time period than anything else.

And that’s pretty much it. If you’d like to find out more about each of these, check out our articles on:

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