In the original GTD, as explained by David Allen, projects are described as anything that requires more than one action to be completed. Everything else should be a single item and go into a single-item list.
This makes sense on paper, but it’s also true that Omnifocus allows you to assign statuses at the project level rather than at the item level, so using projects in Omnifocus seems to have a distinct advantage when it comes to organizing and reviewing your work.
Hence my questions: is anyone here using single-action projects rather than single-action lists for organizational purposes? Is this something that can work in Omnifocus and would you recommend doing it?
I’m not sure that I understand what you mean. My guess is that you by single-action list mean tasks that are put inside another task in Omnifocus, instead of put in an actual project. In my case, most of the tasks I have in Omnifocus are single tasks in different categories rather than parts of projects. I always place such tasks in projects that you may call single-action projects. I normally use the project type Parallel, though, as that setting makes it possible to show only the first available task in every project in perspectives where I prefer that (the project type Single Actions has the effect that all tasks are shown even in perspectives set to show only first available).
To me, these single-action projects are as much projects as any other, and it’s for example essential for me to be able to review the single-action projects. I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t use single-action projects when you want it for organizing and reviewing.
As an example to clarify: imagine having a Next project with all your upcoming single action tasks. In this case, you can use contexts to group tasks but you are limited to that, you can’t put single items in this list on hold while keeping others active, for example.
So I was wondering if it would make sense, instead of having one project with a bunch of singleton actions in there, to have every item in this list converted into a project instead.
Oh, a separate project for every task? If you just have the project and no task, you will lose other functionality, as there are cases where only tasks would be shown, not projects. I think it would also create more clutter than you would like. A different way to put single items on hold would be to use a context set to On hold.
I categorized many things into their own projects when I first started using OmniFocus. Today pretty much all my tasks are under Life : Single Actions, Work : Single Actions, School : Single Actions.
Now I only use projects for actions that are constantly recurring or have a very definitive end in sight. This works far better for me. I would definitely advise not using too many projects unless it really makes sense. I would not make a Next project as it will require too much management, I would recommend making a Next perspective however.
If you put a plan in place, like to bake a cake with four steps, then that could be a project. I find in practice that planning this way isn’t necessary for me. Completing the first step triggers me to inbox the next step if there is one. And obviously, in a work environment, things often are not predictable enough to fit within our own pre-planned projects. But that’s just a system which works for me. I try not to clutter OmniFocus with more than needed, that way I can complete a quick and effective daily review.
I’m a huge fan of single action organization the way @zccassel is doing it, so I have a folder for each area of my life (school, work, home, etc.) and the first thing in each is a single action for each. Contexts then help sort things out further.
If I need to put a single action item on hold, I move it to an “on-hold” project, and then pick it back up either when whatever trigger that reactivates it happens or during my review.
So, for example my work folder looks like:
Active Projects Folder
– work one-offs (single action)
– project 1 (parallel or sequential)
– project 2 (parallel or sequential)
work hold (single action, on hold)
work someday/maybe (single action, on hold)
In fact, I have more single action projects than anything else. And that’s before I take it a step further, using Omnifocus to store things like books I want to read, places I want to visit, recipes to try, things I’m considering buying.
A lot of items in these lists go with a set of contexts for my moods, things like “learn”, “relax”, “low energy”, “study”. This way if, for example, I just want something to do before bed that doesn’t require a whole lot of time or energy, I can quickly find a book I was meaning to start or a forum reply I was meaning to write without having to hunt for it in the middle of a batch of more involved tasks.
Projects, whether they are parallel or sequential, should be completed at some point in the future and because of this, their status may be on hold, need revision, or dropped but they are actively being worked on.
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 and is not something that can be “completed”
What I do is have a folder for each of my areas of responsability and for single actions I place them all inside a project of type single actions in each area.
Then I give each task a context, and some of these contexts are on hold, but I don’t lose or block actions. If single actions become stale and old, I simply delete them or, if I want to maintain them I simply complete them and add in the subject, not done in date.
Project Single actions Home
Action 1 @computer___ (this is an active context)
Action 2 @wife_waiting_for (this is a hold context)
Action 3 @not_do (this is a hold context)
Project Single actions Work