Parallel vs. Single Actions

Hi All - I get the distinction of sequential vs. parallel (in sequential projects, you can’t do step 2 before you do step 1; in parallel projects you can work on multiple things at the same time). I don’t really understand the difference between parallel and single action… Perhaps I’m not understanding parallel but they seem the same to me. When would you use one versus the other?


I’ve only really used parallel tasks when I tried using sub-projects in 1.0, with those sub-projects in sequential. In the end I abandoned that because on the iOS platforms it showed the project, not the sub-project in the view, which made it a bit harder for me to track. There were also issues around next actions vs. available that I can’t remember, probably in the way I built perspectives. For me I just use sequential and single actions at this point.

From a conceptual point of view, a project is generally about achieving a goal, like ‘Go on Vacation’ or ‘Buy Christmas gifts’. Whether the actions are parallel or sequential, you probably plan to do most, if not all of them, and then mark the project done. A single action list, on the other hand, is a loosely related group of actions that don’t share a goal with a defined completion. For example “Movies to watch” or “Minor household repairs”. Since they have no relationship to each other, they’re all “first” in a sense.

From a more functional, how does the app work, point of view, the difference between these projects is mostly whether or not actions should show when various View options are selected.

All of these actions are remaining… (i.e. not yet completed)

The sequential project only has one available action though…

And only the single action list can have more than one “first available” action…


The way I look at it is like this:

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”

Another example from older Omnifocus help is:

  • A parallel project is a project whose actions can be completed in any
    order. For example, a pay bills project whose actions are pay rent,
    pay cell phone bill, pay water bill, etc. This project would be
    considered parallel because it doesn’t matter what order you pay your
    bills in; it just matters that they all are completed.
  • A single action list is a special kind of project that usually consists of projects with only one step to complete or an assortment of related actions (like, buy groceries). Often times, it is helpful to create a miscellaneous project to keep things organized.

Thanks @lizard ! This had been one of those little “I wonder why…” questions I’ve had but really didn’t investigate further. (Most of my projects are either sequential or single action items for the unrelated minor things that always come up.) This helps to explain it nicely.

1 Like

I guess for me there just isn’t a radical difference in the way these two projects work. What I would really like to see is a way for sub-projects to show the hierarchy instead of just the top level project. To me then the parallel track makes sense. Right now I just build a folder for organizational continuity and have individual projects inside that are sequential for the tasks. To me something like pay bills is still a single action task, I just have all those tasks grouped in single action lists.

Quick question. I understand the concept of Sequential and Parallel projects but am a bit confused about single action list you show. Do you create only one project called “Single Action list” and then add all items from your inbox to this on project or do you create several single action projects depending on the content or action involved. For example you want to do the following: Buy a lemonade, go for a walk, take a photo of a particular place, talk to the neighbor about the truck in his yard. To me, these are all single actions. Would I dump them all into the “Single Action list” or try to create several single action lists and try to fit each action into the closest matching list? As you can tell I am totally new at this…

I put all these in my project miscellaneous which is a single action list.

I mostly agree with @kkirsche but I do have several other single action lists for repeating tasks that are in a maintenance folder such as water the plants at work, clean out the dryer vent every 90 days, weekly SuperDuper backups, etc. These are the things that have to happen to keep my life moving forward but are really single actions that happen on a regular basis. I have a number of these lists grouped in to categories (plants, house maintenance, computer maintenance, etc.) to make it easier to organize for me to review and organize the different tasks.

For things like the grocery store or DIY store they go in the miscellaneous single action list.

1 Like

Oh haha. I think maybe the logo is what’s throwig me off from reading the comments above I’m wondering why the icon doesn’t look like 8>o instead of 8=8.

thank you lizard. you are like a wizard.😉

1 Like

Old thread I know - but for me the difference is simple/mechanical. Single Action list do not offer the function of “complete with last action” and parallel list do offer this function.

Personally I have only 1 single action list, “Misc.” which are single action items… everything else is sequential or parallel and I turn off the "complete with last task option if I need, which is especially handy with nested actions. This means my misc list has a distinct project type maker - and I only have one of those list per area of work.

1 Like