Setting Up And Organizing Your Outline/Hierarchy

A common question is how to best setup and organize your outline, particularly when using Result Areas to represent life dimensions or roles. This article gives you some general ideas and guidelines based on years of experience and feedback from hundreds of users.

There are 4 levels of organization in the outline:

  • Categories – Used to group & organize related result areas into different groups, like personal and work.
  • Result Areas – Represent life areas, dimensions or roles
  • Goals/Projects – Represent outcomes within a result area or projects you are working on
  • Tasks – Represent actions or steps within a project


Categories are used to group & organize related result areas in the Outline into different groups. By default, you have two Categories to choose from: Personal & Work.

If you want to use more categories, or you want to change their names, you can setup the different categories using the Tools -> Options menu item and clicking on the Result Area Categories button.

If you’ve created a new category, you need to assign a result area to it before it will show up in the Outline. Here’s how to do that:

1) Double click on the result area in the Outline to open the Result Area Information form

2) Select the category for the Result Area from the Category dropdown in the form

3) Save and close the form

Now the result area should belong to the new category and you’ll be able to see it in the Outline.

Use Fewer, Broader Result Areas At First

When setting up your result areas, I recommend starting with a smaller number (4-8) of broader result areas, instead of creating a larger number of focused result areas, particularly when you are first getting started.

The reason is that having too many result areas can feel overwhelming and it becomes counterproductive.

So it’s better to start with a smaller number of result areas and add more if needed than to start with too many and feel overwhelmed.

The default Outline in a new data file has the following result areas…

  • Career – Represents your career path and growth
  • Health & Fitness – Represents your physical health, self-care, recreation and wellbeing
  • Personal Development – Personal growth including mental, emotional & spiritual wellbeing
  • Financial – Your personal finances and wealth building
  • Relationships – All the important relationships in your life
  • Work – Your work-related projects and activities

These cover the life areas and roles that most of us play in life and are a good starting point for most users.

From here, you can create more result areas if you want to add extra emphasis to certain parts of your life.

For example, if you want to emphasize your relationship with your spouse and children above all your other relationships, you could add Marriage and Children as separate result areas. If you want to emphasize self care above general health & fitness, you can add a Self Care result area to show that emphasis.

Just remember that in general, it’s better to keep your result areas manageable by limiting them to 4-8 areas. Don’t go overboard.

Don’t Use Child Result Areas For Organization

While AP supports creating child result areas, I recommend you avoid using them because it makes some of the other tabs harder to work with, particularly the Projects tab.

If you feel the need to better organize, categorize or separate projects/goals under one of your existing result areas, I recommend you use dreams, goals or projects to do that instead of child result areas.

This type of grouping dream, goal or project serves like a folder in your file system. It helps you organize your lower-level goals and projects.

Use Result Areas At the Top Of The Hierarchy

While you CAN create projects that don’t have a result area, Achieve Planner will work much better if you place all your dreams, goals and projects under a result area. Just trust me on this one.

If you don’t want to use AP for life planning and you only want to track work-related projects, I still recommend you use the Work result area for your projects.

Use Categories For Distinguishing Between Personal And Work-Related Areas

Categories help you distinguish between personal and work-related result areas. You can use categories to group result areas in the Outline & Projects tab, and they are used by some advanced features like the Task Chooser and Automatic Scheduling.

You can set the category for new result areas using the Result Area Information Form (double-click on a result area to open.) Just pick the category you want to assign from the dropdown.