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Single action lists and color coding Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I'm slightly confused as to what the difference between the single task setting and the parallel setting in project mode. I was just curious as to what circumstances you guys would decide to use each.

Also I can't seem to be able to work out the difference between a task in purple and a task in black. As far as I can see both have the same complexion in terms of due date, project, context ect. I genuinely can't seem to find one difference and yet one obviously exists!

A OmniFocus elder's assistance would be more than appreciated.
 
Single action lists and parallel projects do behave pretty similarly, but there are some differences, as you've noticed.

Single action lists have all of their available actions presented as if they were next actions, whereas parallel projects (or parallel action groups) show only the uppermost one in the list. You see this difference only when you've got the view bar set to show only next actions. Single action lists also style all of their actions differently by default so they can be readily identified in a commingled list. It is possible to configure single action list styling to style the actions like ordinary actions (see the Style preferences) but they will never be identified by next action styling, unlike ordinary actions. Or you could style them all like next actions, but then you lose the ability to discern which is which.

Single action lists are provided so that you can have a "catch-all" container for actions which might otherwise have little or no connection with each other, and don't merit project status. I put a Miscellaneous SAL in most of my big folders to capture the bits of flotsam that just need a single action.

Another use of single action lists is to handle areas of responsibility. The canonical GTD notion of a project is that there is a goal, and once you've reached that goal, the project is complete. Okay, that's great, and matches well with OmniFocus projects, but what about the many things in life which are ongoing responsibilities, perhaps with no defined endpoint? A project to maintain your health in 2011 seems a bit silly, as presumably it will also need maintenance in 2012. Similarly, who wants a "Take care of pets until dead" project? Wouldn't a single action list called "Pet care" be a more cheerful encounter? You can still have sequential groups of actions if you have multi-step tasks, and those groups can be set to repeat if appropriate. With the use of start dates, future actions can be hidden until ripe, so you don't have to skip over tasks to get the cat another rabies shot next year to get to the one reminding you to buy more cat food or clean the litter box.

Tasks in purple (with the default style settings) are next actions. If it is in a sequential project, it is the next thing to do to move the project to completion. If in a parallel project, there may be other actions which could also be done, but this is the first in the list, and OmniFocus presumes that it is first among equals and styles it as a next action. Next action styling is overridden by due soon or overdue styling.
 
Gotcha. Wicked reply thank you.
 
Thanks, whpalmer4!

In my on again - off again flirtation with Things I was trying to see how I could replicate the Areas of Responsibility from Things in OF. Last week, while I was playing around with OF, I had the idea to set up Single Action Lists for all of my areas of responsibility. This made sense to me. For example, one of the things I do in my job is manage 7 - 8 grants, which are annual and on-going. In the past I had them set up as projects which didn't make much sense to me. It's nice to have you validate my idea to use single action lists in this manner.
 
So just to try and paraphrase would I be right in thinking that the sequential projects are for groups of actions that have to be completed one after the other, parallel projects are for groups of actions that can be completed in any order but are preferably or usually completed in a certain order one after the other, and single action tasks are for groups of actions that have no reference to each other and can be completed in any order.

Does that seem like a sound sum up or am I missing something. The differences are so subtle that thats all i'm able to discern.
 
Because I don't quite understand what makes single actions groups unique when it comes to managing ongoing responsibilities.
 
Let's see if I can make this more confusing :-)

There are parallel and sequential projects, and parallel and sequential action groups. Single action lists are a special class of parallel projects. Action groups are just nested actions, allowing you to break a task down into smaller components. Both projects and action groups can contain action groups of either sequencing type. For example, you could have a project that has 3 main tasks, each of which is a sequence of actions which must be done in order, but you could work on any of those 3 main tasks at any time. Or you could have a sequence of tasks that had to be done in order, but in the middle of that, have an action group with a bunch of parallel actions which can be done in any order, but they all need to be done before you can move on to the next part of the sequential chain. Parallel projects and action groups are treated by OmniFocus as if the order in which you have placed the actions is important to you, but that is merely for your convenience.

As for single action lists and ongoing responsibilities, the distinction is mainly that you don't expect to complete the "project" in any meaningful way. There's nothing stopping you from doing so, however; it is just a convention. There's nothing wrong with using a parallel project for the job if the behavior suits your workflow better. It's just a few clicks to switch it from one to the other, and no state is lost in the change, so you can freely switch between the two.
 
Brilliant. Getting clearer and clearer.

Good god when the art has been mastered Omnifocus could be powerful working in conjunction with Omniplan.
 
 


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