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Real difference between a project and single-action list with GTD? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Trying to stick with GTD but confused with some of the options OF has to offer. My understanding is that a project is anything which has more than one action and a s-a-l is a bunch of unrelated actions. Simple so far, except, when due to added complexity, a single action becomes two related actions. So in this case is it an "action group" or does it become a "project" living within a SAL.

I guess where I'm confused is exactly how action groups are supposed to be used.

Also, is it against GTD to use a project with ONLY one action?

Thanks, sill reading the book-

If you've got a project ("Host birthday party"), an action group ("Prepare food") can help you organize within that project.

Host birthday party
- Invite Guests
- Prepare food
  - Bake cake
  - Buy drinks
  - Find birthday candles
- Clean the house
If you find yourself creating related actions in a Single Action List, it might be a hint that it should really be its own project or single action list. But it could also be okay to just leave them in the single action list.

For one person, "Make Cat Toys" and "Buy birdseed" are just two mostly unrelated actions. For someone else, they are both part of the very important "Entertain the cat so she stops destroying my couch" project.

In the end, it's not about following the GTD rules, it's about organizing your stuff in a way that helps you, well, Get Things Done. :)
Very good advice from Lizard above. I would go one step further and encourage you to actually try different approaches and see what works.

It took me a good 6 months of trials and errors to get to a relatively good/stable first iteration (that's me though :) ). Also, sometimes I find myself trying to find a "one size fits all" approach without realizing it ("only projects!", "as much actions groups as possible!"), and I have to learn to go with what is the most natural approach for each situation.

In the GTD book, David Allen defines a project as any outcome that requires more than one standalone task to complete. Using this as a basis, I set up my projects as;

Example of a sequential project where each task must be completed in order:
Order print job A from company X
1. Email Company X for quote
2. Place purchase order with Accounts Payable
3. Email Company X purchase order
4. Receive and check print job A
5. Receipt print job A on system

Example of a parallel project where tasks can be completed in any order:
Income Reconciliation 2012
1. Compare actual income against projected income for last month (recurring)
2. Ensure all invoices raised last month are accurate (recurring)
3. Check aged debt reports and refer to collection agencies (recurring)

Technically, the parallel project is a single action list but, as the tasks are all related to the same outcome, it is a project.

As a last resort, I would only use a single action list for miscellaneous individual tasks that are not related, for example;

Single action list: Miscellaneous
1. Process internal post (recurring)
2. Return Jim's call regarding his IT issues
3. Sign up to knowledge hub at website A
3. Pay money for lottery syndicate (recurring)

Hope this helps.
You're a bit restrictive on the use of single action lists. They also work for areas of responsibility, which can be viewed as projects with no outcome. What would be the outcome of a collection of yard maintenance tasks? Keep lawn healthy and attractive until I move somewhere else? Stay fit and healthy until I'm dead? :-)

You can put action groups in single action lists to handle sequences and groups.
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
What would be the outcome of a collection of yard maintenance tasks? Keep lawn healthy and attractive until I move somewhere else? Stay fit and healthy until I'm dead.
Sound like reasonable outcomes to me :-)

Seriously though, I do this to avoid throwing tasks into ever growing miscellaneous lists. Works for me.

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