As part of his introduction of the new Ideaverse sample vault for Obsidian, Nick Milo has focused on the difference between projects versus efforts – and has settled on using the Efforts name for one of the folders in his new ACE folder structure. Efforts are different from projects and Nick believes that name is better suited to be part of a PKM system. In his fourth video introducing Ideaverse Nick Milo noted: “Why do some projects get done, and other projects get stuck? It might be because projects don’t work well with ideas.”
Of late I’ve enjoyed bouncing ideas around with Claude, the chatbot from Anthropic. I asked Claude to help me understand the differences between projects and efforts by writing a musing on that. I found Claude’s response quite useful:
Projects and efforts both require time, energy, and focus to accomplish something, but they have some key differences.
Projects are more defined, with a specific scope, timeline, and set of objectives. They have a clear beginning and a desired end result. Efforts are more open-ended, without rigid parameters. An effort may continue indefinitely as part of an ongoing process.
Projects follow a linear progression, with planning, execution, and completion phases. Efforts evolve organically, with starts and stops, detours, and gradual refinements. Projects aim to produce a deliverable, while efforts may have less tangible outcomes.
Projects can be handled individually or by teams. Efforts often involve loose collections of people contributing in diverse ways over time. Projects have project managers overseeing them. Efforts lack that formal hierarchical structure.
When projects finish, they are done. Efforts may pause or change direction, but they often persist in some form. We celebrate project launches and project completions. Efforts reflect continuous investment without fanfare.
Both projects and efforts require diligence and group coordination. But projects allow for more top-down control to keep work narrowly defined. Efforts rely more on bottom-up participation, following passion and drawing in a wide base of support.
In essence, projects impose structure on objectives, while efforts supply energy to ambitions. Both are vital and mutually reinforcing. A singular project can advance an expansive effort, just as an ongoing effort can spawn many delimited projects over time. By balancing closed-ended projects and open-ended efforts, we can direct our limited resources toward achievements with lasting impact.