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Difference between Parallel projects and Single Action Lists Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi,

Omnifocus has changed my way of doing things in the week or so I've have it. I love it. I replace "EPIM" and my paper system. I absolutely love contexts and pretty much everything about it. (not to mention the ability to put it on my iPhone)

Anyway, I have not been able to understand the difference between the parallel project and a single action list. Does Omnifocus treat them differently?

Thanks,
Leila
 
There are two differences:

1. Items in single action lists are styled in blue text (by default), whereas the first item in a parallel project is purple and the rest are black.

2. Items in single action lists and parallel projects will all show if you filter to display "available" actions. On the other hand, if you filter to show "next actions", then all the items of a single action lists items will still show, but only the first item of a parallel project will show.

It's a bit of a compromise design. You can scroll back to the forum threads from 2+ years ago if you'd like to read some of the debates that raged about the definition of "next action" in a parallel project.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Curt has mentioned the differences between the two in how OmniFocus treats them differently, and there is also a workflow consideration. Projects, parallel or sequential, should be completed at some point and because of this, they may get stalled, need revision, or dropped altogether. Single action lists are nothing more than a bucket to hold unrelated tasks and while one may, at any given time, complete all the tasks on the list, the list itself stays in the database.

Because of this difference, I treat projects and single actions lists differently in my review process. I'll scan my actions lists daily, but they are not reviewed the same way as my projects are on a weekly and monthly basis. For that reason, I have action list set up to be reviewed annually while projects are set to be reviewed weekly and/or monthly. OmniFocus doesn't, by default, treat projects and action lists differently for review purposes but it does help me to threat them differently to meet my needs.
 
Thank-you, Curt. That's what I needed to know.

Cheers back.
Leila
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post
Single action lists are nothing more than a bucket to hold unrelated tasks and while one may, at any given time, complete all the tasks on the list, the list itself stays in the database.
Thanks. That helps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post
For that reason, I have action list set up to be reviewed annually while projects are set to be reviewed weekly and/or monthly.

I'm sure this is just a matter of how we all do things differently. I found your reply interesting. If you have a "project" that is a single action list, I'm curious about it only needing to be reviewed once a year. Are these a bunch of simple tasks to be done? Or do you use it more like a grocery list type thing? If it is the former, wouldn't you want to review it more often to make sure your things are getting done?

Or - have I misunderstood how you're using the single action list?

Thanks so much,
Leila
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leila View Post
If you have a "project" that is a single action list, I'm curious about it only needing to be reviewed once a year. Are these a bunch of simple tasks to be done? Or do you use it more like a grocery list type thing? If it is the former, wouldn't you want to review it more often to make sure your things are getting done?
My guess is that Greg's review is aimed more at assessing whether some of those tasks have outlived their usefulness, or others need to be added.

I use SALs in a similar fashion (for endless "projects" as well as miscellaneous collections) but review on a comparable schedule to regular projects. OF gives you the ability to set each project's review interval independently in the inspector, so I just dial that up or down as appropriate. For reviewing, I use a project/planning mode context that groups by next review, then just march down the list until I've covered everything that has a current (or past) next review date. I do the more frequent reviews because I have things like grocery shopping in there, with staple items set as automatically repeating items. I'll take a periodic look at the contents of the refrigerator and pantry as part of that review (or sometimes looking at the refrigerator and pantry will cause me to do the review) and adjust the shopping list. Didn't use many eggs this week? Bump the start date on the "buy eggs" action back a few days. House guests drank all the orange juice, or a baking frenzy used up the flour? Adjust the start date to buy more.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leila View Post
I'm sure this is just a matter of how we all do things differently. I found your reply interesting. If you have a "project" that is a single action list, I'm curious about it only needing to be reviewed once a year...

Or - have I misunderstood how you're using the single action list?

Thanks so much,
Leila
I believe I did not adequately communicate how I use the single action list (SAL). I don't have any SALs that are projects. At the top level of my OF organization, I have folders for each area, or role (holdover from Covey/7 Habits days) that I consider important. Within each folder I create the projects that are related to that area, and I also have a SAL in each folder for the single-step tasks that are related to the area, but not related to each other. In some cases, the 'task' in the SAL may not be a task at all, but data that I still want to keep in focus as I plan and work. As one example, I recently received an email from my wife with her travel itinerary for a business trip next week and I used the Clip-O-Tron 3000 to forward the email as a 'task' to my SAL 'Action List: Family Member'.

Quote:
Are these a bunch of simple tasks (GJ added: see note below) to be done? Or do you use it more like a grocery list type thing? If it is the former, wouldn't you want to review it more often to make sure your things are getting done?
As I mentioned, I scan my action lists daily as part of my daily review process, so single action tasks, along with the tasks in my projects, do get my attention daily. However, my weekly, monthly, and annual review processes all have a slightly different lens than does the daily review. Moving up the hierarchy from daily review to annual review is consistent with Allen's GTD concept the Six-Level Model for reviewing my work, and my life. Allen uses the metaphor of altitudes to describe the 6 levels, and my daily review is the 'runway' where I am most concerned with processing what was capturing to my inboxes and working the 'when to do' actions in my plan. Project tasks and SAL actions get high priority here.

Starting with the weekly review, the focus shifts to projects, or the 'what to do'. As a SAL, in my world, is not a project it requires no review of the actions contained in the list as they relate to the SAL. That doesn't mean I'm not looking at the tasks-I still do a daily review, 365 days a year. I just don't have a need to see if my SAL 'Action List: Family Member' is stalled, or needs clarification, or needs dropped, as it is not a true project where these parameters might apply. (also see note added below)

Monthly reviews shift focus on the 'why to do' as they relate to my roles and mid-range goals, and annual reviews focus on the roles and my long-term, life goals. As nothing is exempt from scrutiny during the annual review, then that's why I have set even my SALs to be reviewed as part of this process.

As a couple of side notes, the simplicity, or complexity, of a task does not determine if the task should appear in a SAL or in a project. A project is any desired outcome that requires two or more actions to complete. I have projects with multiple steps that in their entirety are simple to complete, while I also have complex tasks that appear in a SAL just because they require only one step to complete.

Also, the concept of a SAL as implemented in OmniFocus is a requirement of OmniFocus as single tasks cannot be placed in an area folder. If single tasks could be placed in area folders, as is how they are handled in Things, I would have no need for specific SALs. It's not a hinderance to productivity for Things users-they still get work done and conduct weekly/monthly/annual reviews without the requirement to have all single action tasks contained in specific SAL buckets.

Last edited by Greg Jones; 2009-07-28 at 03:50 AM..
 
 


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