Single actions in a folder?

Hi, I’m stuck right now learning OF3 for iPhone. It seems to me that I can’t put a single action into a folder. Only if I convert it to a project. Is that true and if yes, why?

A folder can contain projects and other folders. As you discovered, you can’t add an action to a folder, only to a project.

On a side note, folders in my system represent areas of my life. For example, a “Fun & Recreation” folder (under a “Personal” folder) might contain a single action project (list) called “📦 Fun & Recreation” that houses one-off action in this area of my life (e.g. “Phone John about going for a hike”). This folder would also house parallel/sequential projects with define objectives (e.g. “🧭 Plan Trip to California”).

p.s. To make OmniFocus more visual, I prefix single action project (lists) with a 📦 emoji and parallel/sequential projects with a 🧭 emoji. I also use 🔁 for repeating projects (e.g. “🔁 Perform Morning Review”).


Thanks! So basically they force you to put at least one single action project into each folder to be allowed to put single tasks in this folder? It can probably dealt with, but is there a good reason for this restriction?

You’re welcome, @BobCube.

Folders are essentially a way to group projects (and other folders) to make the system more manageable and to make it possible to focus on specific parts of the system. For example, on the weekend I may choose to focus on everything within my “Personal” folder and not look at things in my “Work” folder.

By keeping actions in projects/single action lists, they can easily be moved between folders as your organizational system changes and evolves (i.e. these actions aren’t tied to folders).

I hope this helps.

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Thanks. I still don’t see why it won’t allow us to organize it differently (without a project) but I‘ll accept it’s just not possible.

I encourage you to share your feedback with the Omni Group. You can email them by choosing Contact Omni from the Help menu (Mac) or in Settings (iPhone/iPad).


I’ll think of a physical folder that can hold multiple sheets. I have a physical folder for work, another one for office, and a different folder for different projects (advertising, rental unit work, kid’s school tuition folder).

I have a sheet of paper for each project or checklist. My work folder will have a sheet for:

  1. HR Staffing
  2. Advertising
  3. Accounts Receivables
  4. Accounts Payables

These are either OmniFocus Single Actions Lists or OmniFocus projects.

If I have a task, I write that task down in the appropriate sheet.

  • Advertising an open position on LinkedIn will go to the HR Staffing page in my Work folder
  • Switch out the leaking faucet at the house will go into my Household repairs sheet in my House folder.

I am not writing my task on the folder itself. I’ll write it on the appropriate sheet. The Advertising an open position on LinkedIn task goes to my HR Staffing Single Actions List or I create a new project for it. I put the leaking faucet task into my Household Repairs Single Actions List.

You can put a project or Single Actions List in the root level of OmniFocus and it will act like a folder.


I‘m sure there are fine ways to organize it with projects within folders. But I just don’t see why they make this limitation for people who‘d like to do it differently. It’s just one extra layer of complexity that has to be added even if you don’t need it.

But I actually decided to go without folders at all. Revisiting how I manage my tasks I realized that I always add these extra informations (like „Home“ vs. „Work“ folders, tagged persons or whatever) that actually are of no use for me. It’s just for the feeling of having it organized. But actually, all I need is a system that shows me the tasks that are currently important and a way to review and not forget those that are important later.

So now I just have a flat list of all projects (and a project for all single tasks, as OF won’t let me put those on the first level) and everything is structured by review/defer/due dates. And some tags where I find it helpful. So I still can assign e. g. „Home“ as a tag if I want, but I don‘t need to decide in which folder to put a task if that isn’t something that gives me any relevant information. It feels much more free and organic to me now.

For me, both folders and single-action lists (SALs) are essential.

I implement the GTD methodology using OmniFocus. Top level folders represent areas of focus (aka Horizons of Focus), the 20,000-foot perspective (Responsibilities). The subordinate projects for a given HoF go into that folder or a subfolder. One of the biggest benefits of this for me is that if I click on an HoF folder in the Projects perspective, the list of projects and tasks is limited to just that HoF.

Folders aside, though, you could do that with tags (HoF-Home, HoF-Work, HoF-Errands, etc.).

For me, SAL projects are not throwaways. This type of project has a never-ending life span within HoF folders. There’s always a single action for them. It’s not enough for me to choose that as a project type, I also add the suffix "(SAL)’ to the project name.

  • Pay Bills (SAL)
  • Clean House (SAL)
  • Apply Software Updates (SAL)

Yeah, it takes a few seconds to create SAL projects, but if they’re meaningful why discard them?

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Hi BobCube,
in OmniFocus you have 3 kinds of objects which form different levels of a hierarchy.
Folder, Projects, Actions. You could also look at them as refinements.
As already said, folders typically represent Areas of Responsibility or Areas of Interest, name it like you want. If you want to break down an AoR you can create folders inside a folder if you like.
The next level projects is not exactly what David Allen would call a projects, that means something what requires at least two actions, but to make any sense at least one action. If you want to nest a subproject into a project you have to create a Group of Actions. You can do that e.g. by Organize>Add Inside to break down one action even further.
As you might have seen you can make a project parallel, sequential, or single action lists. Groups are either parallel or sequential.
For me single action lists indicate that the embedded actions can be done without referring to any other actions, that means for me I could also call them simple action lists. If I have to put them into a single actions list, that has the advantage that I can create a perspective with all single action lists showing me all from my point of view simple actions which I could accomplish without to much concentration and further analytical stress :-) And the fact that I have this perspective allows me even to access them without any thinking or searching.
So I think OF offers you a lot of ways to differentiate or classify your challenges in every way you want. Just try it out and find your way how to handle your challenges.

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I‘m sure there are many fine ways of using it the ways you describe. But if you want to keep it simple, I still think a reasonable way is to have folders for e. g. areas of life and inside those maybe several more complicated projects. But maybe just from time to time you also have a simple task, something that won’t stay in your database for long in the first place. And I don‘t see why such a powerful and customizable app shouldn’t let you just sort one of those simple tasks into its folder. Of course you CAN create single action groups for each folder, but if you have single actions only seldomly, why keep such a list? And you would need one in every folder.
As I said, I found a totally different approach now anyway. And I wouldn’t want the app to remove the possibility to do it as you describe. But why it wouldn’t just allow a different approach, I don’t understand.

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