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another Single Action List vs Project question Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
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Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
For me, the difference in behavior regarding next action vs. available between parallel projects and SALs is inconsequential, in large part because I don't make much use of the next action view. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Thanks a lot, whpalmer. This is very useful and elucidating! May I just ask for a clarification regarding your quoted excerpt above? I actually thought there is no difference in the handling of next/available actions between action groups in SALs and projects...
 
Everything in a SAL that is available is treated as a next action, whereas in a parallel project (or parallel action group), only the first available action is treated as a next action.







Thinking back to the SAL as a box of potentially unrelated tasks, it makes sense that the SAL shows all available actions as next actions, and the parallel project, which is presumed to be more closely related tasks, allows you to specify which of potentially many tasks should be the next action by the order in which you list them.

To be continued...(forum doesn't let me paste in enough images)
 
Now here's the tricky bit:

With my pet care example, most of the tasks are going to have the same context, but what if that wasn't true? With a parallel project, a next action view would only show the first one, and if they are in a bunch of different contexts, it might not show me an action that I could do in my current context, even though it is available, leading me to think that I couldn't make any progress on that project (a problem that wouldn't be an issue if I used the available view). Imagine that I'm at the office when I look at the views here and I think you'll see the problem.







If I'm looking at that project in the Available or Remaining view from some neutral point (not in any of the contexts which have actions), trying to decide where I should go first to make some progress on the project, I would probably go home, because that's the context of the first action on the list, which is nominally the most important, and that's the one shown. If I do the same with the Next Action view from that same neutral point, again, I would go home. But if I do the Next Action view while at the office, or running errands, the actions for that project are out of sight and out of mind.

This issue goes away with use of a SAL, at the cost of potentially putting more data on your screen. As it turns out, much of my SAL stuff has start dates and tends to get knocked off quickly in the morning, and coupling that with my preference for context views grouped by start or due date, I don't usually have to look at anything I'm not going to do, even when casting the relatively wide net of an Available or Remaining view.
 
whpalmer4 : FINALLY, I see the difference between the items, and why they disappear sometimes. Thank you!!

I think the issue you just illustrated above is a major problem with OF. Especially as the documentation and tutorials don't spell out the differences/attributes clearly enough between SAL and Parallel Project.
 
I'm not sure I see it as anything more than a documentation issue. If you restrict your viewpoint sufficiently (using Next Action only) you might screen out some things you want to see. The same is true if you narrow down your view by only selecting part of the sidebar contents.

How would you have it behave differently? You told it that the first action in the parallel project was the one you wanted to be the "next action" by putting it at the top of the list. Is it supposed to magically guess which context(s) you are most interested in and show you the first available action from one of them instead? Or maybe show as many actions as needed to have one from every possible context?
 
Bill's detailed illustration of the differences between "next" and "available" actions underscore why I almost never use the "next action" filter -- I simply find it too restrictive. The "available" filter suits my workflow much better, although it's nice to have the "next action" filter handy for times I'm feeling overwhelmed. :-)

My use of SALs and parallel projects is virtually identical to Bill's as well.

-Dennis
 
Bill,

Thanks so much. This is essential information that should have been in the documentation. The distinctions are very important and useful. Come think of fit, I do agree that this is the optimal behavior; i.e., I see this difference between action groups in SALs and projects with regard to the 'next action' as conceptually sound.

OmniFocus really needs to highlight this distinction, however.

On another plane, I wonder whether David Allen (GTD creator) would find action groups within SALs unattractive. Not that it makes that much of a difference to me, really, as long as the setup works. It is just curiosity in me that provokes the question: Having multiple "next actions" in general, are action groups in SALs a "hack" that bypasses the "single next action" principle in GTD? This is probably more of a question for "GTD theorists" :-)

Last edited by macula; 2010-02-09 at 09:53 PM.. Reason: Added comment on GDT.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by macula View Post
On another plane, I wonder whether David Allen (GTD creator) would find action groups within SALs unattractive. Not that it makes that much of a difference to me, really, as long as the setup works. It is just curiosity in me that provokes the question: Having multiple "next actions" in general, are action groups in SALs a "hack" that bypasses the "single next action" principle in GTD? This is probably more of a question for "GTD theorists" :-)
Macula,

Great question. After scouring the internet for any and all interviews people have done with David - though he is a great 'presenter', I actually find I get more out of it when he is being interviewed - I suspect he might say. "Who cares if it is a hack if it works for you."

:)

Great thread!
 
 


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