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I am just getting going with Omnifocus and got totally confused because I did the following:

I setup Folders for different work areas as such:

DayJobCompany
SmallBizCompany1
SmallBizCompany2
ProfessionalDevelopment
FamilyStuff
HomeImprovements

Then I used Inbox to create a ton of random ToDos that I dragged and dropped into these different Folders. I then dragged some of the ones that related under each other into projects.

I then proceeded to try and assign a Context to each one and became quite frustrated in trying to do it. Now I just figured out that all these things I dragged over there that don't have anything beneath them are "single actions", but the way I did it they were Projects with no actions... thus no context can be applied. I kept thinking I was doing it with the Inspector, but was assigning a "Default Context".

So how to convert all these Projects to Actions? I have concluded that it can't be done as long as they are beneath a Folder. Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't seem like it.

So I discovered the Single Action List. Great, I created one in each of my folders... seems kind of redundant to me since its kind of the same thing as a Folder. So then I think, can I drag a real Project with subordinate Actions into the Single Action List? Yes, I can. So what is the point of this. The Single Action List, isn't really a Single Action List if it can contain Projects, right? The Single Action List seems to be what I really wanted when I picked a Folder. It would seem to me that Folder is kind of useless unless you never want a Single Action in there and I'm not sure how you'd know that.

Off to convert all my Folders to Single Action Lists... er, I mean replace them with Single Action Lists.

Please let me know if I'm missing something here.
 
Slow down, turbo.

You are missing something, but this will be a lengthy response. So sit tight!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent View Post
I am just getting going with Omnifocus and got totally confused because I did the following:

I setup Folders for different work areas as such:

DayJobCompany
SmallBizCompany1
SmallBizCompany2
ProfessionalDevelopment
FamilyStuff
HomeImprovements
That sounds right.

Quote:
Then I used Inbox to create a ton of random ToDos that I dragged and dropped into these different Folders. I then dragged some of the ones that related under each other into projects.

I then proceeded to try and assign a Context to each one and became quite frustrated in trying to do it. Now I just figured out that all these things I dragged over there that don't have anything beneath them are "single actions", but the way I did it they were Projects with no actions... thus no context can be applied. I kept thinking I was doing it with the Inspector, but was assigning a "Default Context".

So how to convert all these Projects to Actions? I have concluded that it can't be done as long as they are beneath a Folder. Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't seem like it.
I'm not so sure that you want to. Probably some are actions, some are projects. Without hearing some idea of what they are, it's hard to tell. Are some of them related and working towards accomplishing one of them that has some marked ending/goal? Then that one should be a project and the others should be actions underneath the project.

Projects can be converted to actions by, in the sidebar, dragging and dropping them into the project (or single action list) to which they belong.

Quote:
So I discovered the Single Action List. Great, I created one in each of my folders... seems kind of redundant to me since its kind of the same thing as a Folder. So then I think, can I drag a real Project with subordinate Actions into the Single Action List? Yes, I can. So what is the point of this. The Single Action List, isn't really a Single Action List if it can contain Projects, right? The Single Action List seems to be what I really wanted when I picked a Folder. It would seem to me that Folder is kind of useless unless you never want a Single Action in there and I'm not sure how you'd know that.

Off to convert all my Folders to Single Action Lists... er, I mean replace them with Single Action Lists.

Please let me know if I'm missing something here.
I have folders, similar to yours. Most of my folders DO have a single action list, because most of my areas of responsibilities have some things that ARE just single actions.

But all of my folders also have many, various projects, and also some have a few single action lists and other folders which also contain projects and single action lists.

An Example:

Folder-Home (which contains the following folders)
Folder-Health (which contains a couple single action lists and a couple projects)
Folder-Pets (which contains a couple single action lists and a dog training project)
Folder-Home Environment (which contains a single action list--chores--and a couple cleaning-type projects)
Folder-Finances (which contains a single action list and a couple projects)
Folder-My misc. (which contains a single action list and many little hobby/interest type projects)

I use the single action list vs. project distinction in a fairly pure GTD way, the way I understand it, in that single action lists don't have a completion, but projects do. As far as OF is concerned, they're the same (the way I understand it) except for the icon (which you can change in the inspector) and the default styling (SAL items are blue...which I always change back to black).

Something you asked about being 'under' a folder...you can change the hierarchical structure in the sidebar using Edit>Outlining...there are various choices there.


Keep asking questions.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by malisa View Post
Slow down, turbo.

You are missing something, but this will be a lengthy response. So sit tight!
Turbo... haha... that's a good one. :)

I think I have a good understanding on what a project is, vs. what an action is. That wasn't really my question. My question was more about the difference between a folder and a single action list. As I said, you can put a project in a single action list, so it seems redundant to set up a separate single action list for every folder.... rather than just putting everything in the single action list.

That said, I'm doing it now like you suggested because I noticed the color difference for single action lists and figure there is more to this than I can comprehend at this point. I am also naming my projects with a folder prefix in the name so that they sort orderly in the Context view.

I'm a veteran certified project manager, so as you can imagine... I'm really seeing lots to like here, but I have to be careful that organizing my work doesn't become so much of the project that doing it falls to the back burner. So far though, I think I'm going to like working with this once I get my initial set of stuff organized and in here. I have spent a couple of days researching these tools and trying to get going. It is such a time commitment to invest in a tool like this that I really, really don't want go down the wrong path.

I think the big thing is really understanding how Omnifocus handles all this stuff so that I pick the right combination of stuff to get the expected outcome. For example, I have a website forum I run... similar to this actually. I have a project called "Update Website X". I am using it to just collect things I need to do on the site... with no particular order right now. The thing is that some of the actions I've dropped into this project, I know I will eventually develop into full blown projects on their own... because they will take me weeks to do once I start them. I've dropped a lot of other actions into the same project that can literally be done in 5 minutes and need to be done soon... for example, adding a new forum for a particular product that was recently released. When I look at my Context view, I am only seeing one action cued up to work on for this project since they are parallel, its picking a "next". If I had put the shorter actions into a separate single action list, I think that OF would be showing the all as next... then I could just pick one and do it. I need to re-read the "book" to remember which is better. One is less "focussed" and one is more "focussed". The reality is that several of them relate to a context that is literally "updating forum software", but I don't want to micromanage my contexts like that. I do in my mind try to group activities like that because I can do them all quicker if I do them at the same time.

Sorry for the long winded response... just rambling on here.
 
To paraphrase David Allen, a project is an outcome that will take more than one step to accomplish. The steps are actions.

Single-action lists and folders are not equivalent. A single-action list is just that; a list of single actions which don't have any particular interconnection (must do this one before that one, etc.) A folder is a collection of projects and/or single-action lists which are related in some way, whether it be subject area, priority, etc. but without any interlocking to dictate ordering. So, you might have a folder of home renovation projects that take planning and multiple steps (remodel kitchen, paint garage, put in vegetable garden), and a single-action list of weekly chores that don't require that (mow grass, take out trash, clean toilet). Many of my folders have a catch-all single-action list for the miscellaneous little things that don't really fit into one of the projects. For example, my photography folder, besides having various photography projects ("photograph school Halloween festivities for newsletter", "collect book fair photographs for contest entry"), also has a miscellaneous single-action list that has things like "recharge batteries" (repeating weekly) or "buy another flash card" and so on.

While it may look like you can drag a project into a single-action list, what you are really doing is converting the project into an action group, which is sort of like a lightweight project. You don't get to review it separately, or put it on hold or drop it, see its name in context mode, and there are probably some other differences that aren't coming to mind at the moment. You can turn it back into a project by simply dragging it to the sidebar, or outdenting it. I don't think there is wrong with having a "throw-away" project as an action group in a single-action list if that's where it makes sense to have it. I do this sometimes when I'm doing something that normally I do all at once, but get interrupted and can't finish at that time. I'll make the action into action group showing what I've done and what remains.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent View Post
Turbo... haha... that's a good one. :)

I think I have a good understanding on what a project is, vs. what an action is. That wasn't really my question. My question was more about the difference between a folder and a single action list. As I said, you can put a project in a single action list, so it seems redundant to set up a separate single action list for every folder.... rather than just putting everything in the single action list.
No, you can put a action group into a single action list. You can not put a project into a single action list. I would say more, but I'll just dig up threads where others have said it better than I can. There are a lot of differences between action groups and projects. They're easy to promote/demote to one another, but they are definitely different.

ETA: and whpalmer posted stating some of those differences...so I won't go looking for threads :)

Quote:
That said, I'm doing it now like you suggested because I noticed the color difference for single action lists and figure there is more to this than I can comprehend at this point. I am also naming my projects with a folder prefix in the name so that they sort orderly in the Context view.

I'm a veteran certified project manager, so as you can imagine... I'm really seeing lots to like here, but I have to be careful that organizing my work doesn't become so much of the project that doing it falls to the back burner. So far though, I think I'm going to like working with this once I get my initial set of stuff organized and in here. I have spent a couple of days researching these tools and trying to get going. It is such a time commitment to invest in a tool like this that I really, really don't want go down the wrong path.
No argument there. I've revamped my folder/project and context structures two or three times in two or three months.

Quote:
I think the big thing is really understanding how Omnifocus handles all this stuff so that I pick the right combination of stuff to get the expected outcome. For example, I have a website forum I run... similar to this actually. I have a project called "Update Website X". I am using it to just collect things I need to do on the site... with no particular order right now. The thing is that some of the actions I've dropped into this project, I know I will eventually develop into full blown projects on their own... because they will take me weeks to do once I start them. I've dropped a lot of other actions into the same project that can literally be done in 5 minutes and need to be done soon... for example, adding a new forum for a particular product that was recently released. When I look at my Context view, I am only seeing one action cued up to work on for this project since they are parallel, its picking a "next".
You can choose to look at it like this or not with the view bar. Under View>show/hide view bar will bring it up if it's not showing currently. You can choose to show next action, available actions (hiding those that aren't available due to future start dates or sequencing of actions in sequential projects...and maybe something I'm forgetting), remaining actions (with those just mentioned showing, but still 'blocked'), completed actions, or actions with any status (all of the above). Something else you said makes me think that you haven't experimented with the view bar yet. Mine is always showing.

Quote:
If I had put the shorter actions into a separate single action list, I think that OF would be showing the all as next... then I could just pick one and do it. I need to re-read the "book" to remember which is better. One is less "focussed" and one is more "focussed". The reality is that several of them relate to a context that is literally "updating forum software", but I don't want to micromanage my contexts like that. I do in my mind try to group activities like that because I can do them all quicker if I do them at the same time.

Sorry for the long winded response... just rambling on here.
There is also a duration/time estimate column, which I thought I'd never use, but I find it helpful for sorting by duration to knock out quick tasks. I use that often, but don't really ever use next actions. I know that many people do use next actions, I just haven't ever gotten into the swing of that. You can show the duration column (hide it if you don't want to use it) and several other column options also by going to View>Columns.

Last edited by malisa; 2008-11-01 at 02:44 PM.. Reason: messed up quoting
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by malisa View Post
You can choose to look at it like this or not with the view bar. Under View>show/hide view bar will bring it up if it's not showing currently. You can choose to show next action, available actions (hiding those that aren't available due to future start dates or sequencing of actions in sequential projects...and maybe something I'm forgetting), remaining actions (with those just mentioned showing, but still 'blocked'), completed actions, or actions with any status (all of the above). Something else you said makes me think that you haven't experimented with the view bar yet. Mine is always showing.
Some other things that will hide/block actions from being available:

no context assigned

context assigned, but the context itself is on hold or dropped
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by convergent View Post
Turbo... haha... that's a good one. :)

I think I have a good understanding on what a project is, vs. what an action is. That wasn't really my question. My question was more about the difference between a folder and a single action list. As I said, you can put a project in a single action list, so it seems redundant to set up a separate single action list for every folder.... rather than just putting everything in the single action list.
You give up a fair amount of control by dragging projects into single action lists. You might have to spend a bit more time with the tool before the difference becomes apparent, however. The good thing is that you can always promote those action groups out of the single action lists and back to being projects if/when you reach OF enlightenment :-)

Quote:
I am also naming my projects with a folder prefix in the name so that they sort orderly in the Context view.
You might also check out the grouping options in the context view for an alternative take on this. You can group by folder, for example, which would put all of your actions from a given folder together in a single group, and you could hide the others while concentrating on one area. Again, something to explore at your leisure.
Quote:
I think the big thing is really understanding how Omnifocus handles all this stuff so that I pick the right combination of stuff to get the expected outcome. For example, I have a website forum I run... similar to this actually. I have a project called "Update Website X". I am using it to just collect things I need to do on the site... with no particular order right now. The thing is that some of the actions I've dropped into this project, I know I will eventually develop into full blown projects on their own... because they will take me weeks to do once I start them. I've dropped a lot of other actions into the same project that can literally be done in 5 minutes and need to be done soon... for example, adding a new forum for a particular product that was recently released. When I look at my Context view, I am only seeing one action cued up to work on for this project since they are parallel, its picking a "next". If I had put the shorter actions into a separate single action list, I think that OF would be showing the all as next... then I could just pick one and do it. I need to re-read the "book" to remember which is better. One is less "focussed" and one is more "focussed". The reality is that several of them relate to a context that is literally "updating forum software", but I don't want to micromanage my contexts like that. I do in my mind try to group activities like that because I can do them all quicker if I do them at the same time.
There's always just one next action, whether it be in a serial project, parallel project, or single-action list. If you want to "prioritize" some of those actions in a single-action list or parallel project or parallel action group, you can just drag them into the desired order, so you'll see them sooner in the next action barrel. If you only view next actions in context view, you'll have this problem (unless you splinter your stuff into so many pieces that each piece only has one available action). Viewing available or remaining actions at least occasionally will help obviate this a bit, as does looking over all of your projects during the regular review process. The review stuff isn't in the default toolbar, and I think that is unfortunate, because it really does help make sure you get your eyeballs on everything on a regular basis, and that is a big help to keeping things moving.
 
Thanks for all the discussion... this is a great forum. I am good for now. I was conflicted with the idea of putting a project into a single action list, but now I realize from the discussion here that it was converting it to an action group.

As a side note... I think that some of this in this thread creates a major frustrating hurdle for someone new. I at least had read "the book" so understood the whole notion of actions, projects, and contexts. I got thrown off because little known to me when I dragged all my stuff out of the inbox they all became projects with no actions... thus I couldn't assign a context (I thought I was assigning a context, but in reality was only assigning a default context for the project). So then when I looked at the context menu and nothing was there it was confusing. I think that the Omni-guys either need to create more introduction videos with a holistic view of the major components and a little case study to go with it, or they need to somehow create some wizards to get you going. Otherwise I think a lot of people will abandon this before they give it a chance. I came close, but now I think I've gotten through to where I can work with it and learn the rest. It was a major effort for me to break through some of this.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post

There's always just one next action, whether it be in a serial project, parallel project, or single-action list.
Sorry, I shouldn't have added single-action lists to the list. With a serial or parallel project you only get one next action displayed, but single-action lists will show them all.
 
 


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