Some thoughts on actions

Maybe I’m the slowest GTD’er on the entire Internet, but I can’t seem to figure out how to create actions :/. I can create projects just fine though. Pressing enter after the project title creates a sibling and pressing tab converts the project into a sub-project. So far so good. But I can’t seem to figure out a way to add an action. If I click on “Create action” while in the projects view, the action ends up at the bottom, below the projects, regardless of where I was in the structure when creating the action. When I try to drag the action onto/into a project, it gets converted into a project instead.

If I’m on the next action screen and choose create action, the action is not put on that list either. Not sure where it ends up to be honest.

And when creating an action, it is very unclear what list is actually selected, due to the fact that the colors are very similar for all lists so maybe light-grey (as a hightlight color) could be changed into a more distinguishable color.

And finally it would be nice to be able to add tags and select a project directly when creating the action. Just my two cents :).

EDIT: Having another color on actions, as opposed to the one used for projects, would also make actions easier to distinguish.

Yes, I recall having a few problems like that initially, too. I am sure it could be made more intuitive for newcomers.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, though, adding actions is very simple and flexible. You can place your cursor anywhere in the main list and start to add actions right there, for example at the end or middle of a particular existing subproject etc.

And you can keep the edit screen constantly open on the right for quick access to any task you place the cursor on in the main pane.

As for default placement of new tasks, I agree that it should be possible to specify the project (node; folder) in the edit pane.

I also think new tasks should be placed consistently on top as a general rule.

And I think that the automatic default setting when just “dropping” a task onto a project heading should be parallel to the first task. This is always safer, and it is also more convenient for those of us who also use the project feature as “buckets” of various kinds.

Tasks on top - agreed. Parallel to the first task when “dropping” on a project - agreed as well :).

But I still don’t get it to work with the actions. If I place the cursor after the project name in the main window and click on “Create action”, it will end up at the bottom, below all projectst and not in the project itself. When I try to drag it up into the structure and drop it, it becomes a project. I must be really thick because I just don’t get it :(.

Note: I’m using Chrome, latest version, on Windows.

Yes, I remember having problems with “create action”, too. (Needs to be fixed. I also cannot use it.)

What you do is place the cursor where you want the new task and hit the return key (enter key) to start a new “line”. Then to indent that line you hit Tab (i.e. to make it a subtask, subproject, subfolder etc). And you can un-indent it, too (but I cannot recall which key it was or where the shortcuts are listed - they are around here somewhere)

(And to drag tasks around you use the little black cross that appears on the right when you hover over a task. The indentation will tend to auto-adapt to something that suits the indentation where you drop it.)

HI @Elurven - Yes, that is a bit confusing as it currently doesn’t work like you are thinking about it. We will look at that.

If you have ever used an outline app like workflowy, the method of doing input will be familiar. We anticipated that most people would just use the outline view, as it is really easy to enter tasks that way. Pressing ENTER at the end of a task creates a new one at the same level. Using TAB and SHIFT+TAB allows you to easily indent or outdent (is outdent a word?)

Pressing ENTER with your cursor at the start of a task creates a new one above your current task/project/subprojct.

Does that make sense?

I guess @Elurven just doesn’t see the difference between Action and Project.

It’s really simple:

  • every item in the project tree that has no sub-items is an Action;
  • every item that has sub-items is a Project.

So when you hit enter on the project view you actually create an action; pressing tab on it you move the action to the project (or create a Project out of owning Action if it was an Action before).

@Elurven, if it helps, I created a quick video on how we envision people adding actions/projects/sub-projects.

Thanks for your post!

I cleaned out the old projects list, and started a new one, using the “Create action” function. After that, things were very intuitive. And after this first time, I did not use the “Create action” button again, just enter at the end of an action. Not sure what I did wrong before to be honest ;). I like the video that you did as well. But if you are a new user, maybe it would be good to display an entirely empty projects list and then you use “Create action” to create the first one and then display how to create projects from there. Just a thought. Works well as is too I think :).

EDIT: It would be nice if the Inbox would behave exactly like the Projects view as well. Meaning, that you are instantly put into edit mode and can continue to add actions and projects. As it is now, once you have created an action in the inbox with the create action button, you are taken out of the “edit mode” and you can see the item that you added without the added info from the projects view (info button, Area and Next action status). And none of the items added in the Inbox view gets any Next action status automatically as in the projects view. This means that I tend to add items in the projects view directly instead of in the Inbox view, since it seems more logical and fast. But that also means that I’m mixing the collection phase with the organizing phase, which is not strictly the GTD way of doing things I assume.

If the Inbox could be used for rapid entry, much like the Projects view today, then one could create actions and projects directly in the inbox. The actions/projects could then be set to active and moved automatically into the Projects view. Alternatively, a hierarchical projects view in the left-hand menu could be used to drag the actions/projects onto, and thereby transferring them out of the inbox.

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Good feeback thanks!

Yeah, we have some work to do on inbox feature. It’s really just a placeholder for now. thx!

I am much slower than you my friend.

Not only can’t I figure out how to create a single next action, I still can’t figure out how to create a project. At least I don’t see it in the projects list.

I don’t even see a “Create Action” button anywhere and where did you find the “Create Project” button?

I am more confused after watching the video. Does everything live in the projects area? How is it possible to have next actions in the projects section?

What is the next actions section for if it’s a duplicate of the projects section?

This is so confusing.

If this is a problem at all, which I do not think it is, I think it is related more to terminology than to the actual feature. It is simply handy to be able to have “all of it” available in one place. I have no problem with the term “All Projects”, but I would not have a problem with alternative terms such as “All Actions” or “Actions & Organization” or “Organization” or simply “All”. Or Review & Organize (like zendone)

Would you also wonder what the Waiting For list is for if it is a duplicate of some of the “total”? Or the Someday/Maybe list?

In all these cases the answer is that these “Type” lists (Next, Waiting etc) will (or should, anyway) only contain actions that are “current”, i.e could be meaningful for you to keep an eye on and consider doing something about at this point in time. What is excluded are all upcoming sequential actions, which could be an awful lot of actions, or tasks from inactivated projects. Also excluded from the current “Type” lists is the whole organizational structure (the trees; the parent nodes of the actions, e.g. sub-projects, projects, super-projects, project folders, task folders, whatever), which exist primarily for review purposes, but also to make automatic progression possible in projects.

Personally I think it is an excellent foundation, but I can agree that the whole terminology used in the app could benefit from a review. For example, I have a strong objection to their use of the term Active for Next action in the edit pane, and to the term Force Next, both of which are misleading. And I would easily agree with a change of the term All Projects to, say, Review/Organize or All Actions.

Would I wonder what the Waiting For list is for if it is a duplicate of some of the “total”? No. Because they are Next Actions.

Next Actions and Projects are not the same thing and should not be lumped together without a clear separation between them. Next Actions, Waiting For, Someday/Maybe can be lumped together with a filtering option or in separate lists. Projects on the other hand should not be lumped together because it’s confusing to see what has multiple steps. This is my opinion at least. In Zendone, there is a clear separation between projects and actions which works perfectly.

The terminology or method used here reminds me of Nozbe and you know how I feel about that app. It’s not GTD.

It is pretty much the same here. In Zendone’s Review & Organize pane you get the single actions first, and then all the projects. Same here, generally. My single actions that I have entered seem to always come first. If that is not always the case, then I suppose that could be made into a hard default.

I think maybe one good solution is to rename All Projects to Review & Organize. I would definitely second that.

We are thinking about renaming this, but no final decision on if, or what it would be. I do like “Review and Organize” so that’s in the running. :slight_smile:

In today’s build we now show an icon to represent projects (open or collapsed) versus single actions when you are in the “All Projects” view. I hope this takes care of any confusion. . It adds a bit more clutter to the UI, which I’m generally not fond of, but if enough people were/are confused by what a project is versus an action then the trade-off will be worth it.

Thanks for your thoughts!

@James I honestly don’t think that adding a folder was the issue here. If the projects were in a different section of that list, it would probably clear things up. Why not have all single actions on top and a simple thin line that separates the projects below. If the project titles looked a little bold or slightly different than the sub task, it would probably be easy to understand.

Lumping them all together with no separation and the name of the list is what confused me. The fact that it was hard for me to tell what was a project and what was a single action also made it confusing. This is why I suggest the project title be bold or have a slightly different look or something that would tell me it’s different than a single action.

Just some thoughts.

You will never please everyone so don’t stray too far from your original vision.

Oh, just to be clear, it’s not an actual folder. it’s just a picture of one. Like below picture. Bold is another idea of course too. The idea of putting single actions in a separate place would be confusing I think, since some users may want the to order the entire All Projects view having the items in separate areas would prevent them from doing that. Thanks for the thoughts!

I would tend to agree with this, and not only the distinction between single actions and projects but also between projects. I have noticed that, too. Yeah, maybe a thin line before each top level project node will do the trick, which also means there will be a line after the single actions part, and an even thinner line before each lower level project? And maybe say three different fonts, too - top level, intermediate levels, action?

The folder icons did not really do the trick; it just made it more “cluttered”.

But I do not think it needs to be as customizable as Todoist, where you can select font and color and what not for each and every item. It is OK to have it more “standardized”, “office styled”, IMO, but maybe with a bit of variation, as discussed here.

I also see that as a possible disadvantage - not for me, but maybe for others. It would seem to contradict the idea of freedom and flexibility etc of the whole outline approach. But I do, in fact, prefer my “unorganized” single actions on top.

The reason why it works perfectly for me already as it is is the combination of the drop-on-top default and the fact that I have a firm “project” structure in place, with “groups of AoRs” and goals at the top level. Any new single action will land before those by default. This is nice. I do not have many “single actions” in this sense, because those that are “long-term” single actions I file properly in an AoR container within my structure (for convenient review), but I do have “unorganized” single actions, sloppily entered without tags or anything, for things that I write down and expect to get done later the same day etc. And I do prefer those on top, and that is exactly what I get today.

I never “drop” an entire project onto the “All Projects” heading (if that can even be done), but that is the only thing I can think of that could cause accidental disorder - unorganized single actions mixed with projects by accident. Maybe this is what happened to @Proximo? Can projects be “dropped”/“tossed” etc? If so, then maybe the drop-on-top default could be modified just a little bit, such that when a project gets dropped onto “All Projects” it is dropped immediately before the first existing project. This will guarantee that the desired order (single actions first) is always maintained as long as the individual user does not deliberately drag projects and single actions into some other mixed order.

If people deliberately drag projects and isolated actions into some mixed order, I do not see why that should be forbidden (although I personally would not do it; nor would I complain if it were forbidden).

Another, possibly simpler, solution is to just drop unorganized single actions into a default “system” container (“top level ‘project’”) called “Single actions” (from which those who so wish can drag their actions to some other place).

yes, I was thinking this as well. For people who really want to see all single items on the top… They can create a project called “Single Actions” and turn on “Force Next” for the project or folder as it would be in this case. Then any new items added to this folder would be automatically a Next Action.