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-   -   NEED assign to multiple Contexts (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=5787)

Journey 2007-11-24 08:34 PM

NEED assign to multiple Contexts
 
If I want an activity to "Phone my friend Sheryl", I want to put it under the contexts of "Phone" and "Sheryl". This is obvious. There are numerous other examples. A large number of projects and activities have to be organized by appropriate contexts, without the compromise of having to fit an activity into one context when it naturally fits into more than one.

The GTD methodology is not designed specifically for electronic organization. For a paper-based system it makes sense to put an activity into one context most of the time because otherwise there will be manual duplication in which the activity would have to be written more than once. This can be time-consuming. Electronic systems do not have that problem.

I have implemented GTD electronically in many different ways, including:

- Splash Shopper Palm and Desktop programs. An activity was coded as a shopping item, and the program allowed assignment to multiple stores, which were used for contexts.

- A program for the PC and Pocket PC called List Pro. In that case, I coded multiple contexts simply by having a context field and separating multiple contexts using commas. The filter of that program enables search of a field by substring, so all the activities for a context could be determined, even if the activity was assigned to multiple contexts.

Omni Focus is so close to being a great program. I hope the need for multiple contexts will be determined and implemented in the alpha / beta stage before release.

TheSteveW 2007-11-24 09:13 PM

I agree. Context can be an available tool (phone), a location (airplane), a person (calling the boss now...), a mood (only rote work right now), a weekday (Sat chores), a goal (get some momentum going on fitness) etc.

This isn't about making things more complex as some have argued - it's about adapting to the way people work. Just because I'm online at Starbucks doesn't mean I want to only do the "online" tasks.

I think the key here is tagging which has been discussed elsewhere especially with regard to the pending alpha release of [URL="http://culturedcode.com/things/"]Things[/URL] by CulturedCode. My vote is to add tagging to OF and reduce some of the complexity and rigidity of the rules. At least provide some options in the prefs to override/modify some of the rules so I can tailor OF to the way I work. I really like OF but the more I use it the more I'm worried about whether I'll spend so much time worrying about the tool and whether I'm missing something that eventually I'll need to revert to something simpler.

But then again, OG apps usually kick butt and this is still an alpha right...

OOO 2007-11-24 09:46 PM

For your example, I would put "call Sheryl re: xyz" under "Phone" if it was a one-time phone call I needed to make, or just "xyz" under "Sheryl" if Sheryl was someone I contacted regularly. There's also the search function to pull out anything that mentions "Sheryl".

Journey 2007-11-24 10:01 PM

[QUOTE=OOO;25979]For your example, I would put "call Sheryl re: xyz" under "Phone" if it was a one-time phone call I needed to make, or just "xyz" under "Sheryl" if Sheryl was someone I contacted regularly. There's also the search function to pull out anything that mentions "Sheryl".[/QUOTE]
Working around a lack of multiple-contexts using a method such as you suggest (OOO) doesn't work well for me because I have a large number of projects and activities and I'd rather use a system that is designed correctly (multiple contexts) than try to remember how I worked around that using various coding schemes.

If Omni Focus will not have the ability to assign an activity to multiple contexts, then I will more likely copy / paste an activity into multiple contexts so it is duplicated but shows correctly where it should. It would be a shame to have to do that when a well-designed program would put one item into all the contexts in which it naturally falls.

OOO 2007-11-24 10:27 PM

It's not incorrect or poor design, just a different design than what you want. Personally, I always look for a single context for my actions, so to me the simpler design is just right.

TheSteveW 2007-11-24 10:30 PM

The point I was trying to make (and didn't do very well) is that while there are ways to find the info, those ways aren't necessarily the way [B]my[/B] mind works - either in the planning or context mode. Adding the [B]option[/B] of tags and/or multiple contexts would help me a lot. And if I have to search for something then why not just use OO or some other non-GTD specific app?

curt.clifton 2007-11-25 06:13 AM

Not to dismiss anyone's need for multiple contexts, but I wanted to make sure you were aware that you can select multiple contexts in Context Mode and see all of the included actions. Cmd-click the contexts in the sidebar to select them.

You can even save these as perspectives. For example, when I'm at the local coffee shop with my laptop, I use a perspective [I]Traveling with Network[/I] that shows most of my computer contexts (omitting the machines that aren't with me), plus my phone and briefcase contexts.

I understand that selecting multiple contexts is not the same as putting a task in multiple contexts. But I've found that in a remarkable number of my use cases the "single-context-per-action, multiple-contexts actionable" approach works well. (The main gap in my system is for things that fall into two completely disjoint contexts. For example, I could buy a new shirt on-line or in a store. But I'm never simultaneously in my Web and Errands contexts, so I have to choose one.)

brianogilvie 2007-11-25 06:20 AM

I wouldn't want to use arbitrary tags, but after using OF for six months, I've decided that it would be nice to allow an action to be added to multiple contexts.

That raises some UI issues, though. If you drag an action from the outline into a context, does that change its context or add a new one? I'll often drag an action from my Office or Study context into Briefcase, when I put the relevant support material in my briefcase: in that case, I want to change the context. On the other hand, if I need to talk to Sue and it doesn't matter whether I do it face-to-face or on the phone, I might want "Talk to Sue about the brochure layout" in both my Office and my Phone contexts.

But what if Sue decides to start telecommuting before I can talk to her? I might then want to change the Office context to Email, without deleting Phone. Do I do this by dragging, and if so, how? By switching to Planning mode and deleting the Office context? How are multiple contexts going to be represented? How much code would need to be rewritten to allow an action to appear multiple times in Context mode when actions are grouped by context?

In short, a lot of thought needs to go into multiple contexts before they can be implemented effectively. And for me, the marginal return on going from no contexts to one context (i.e., implementing GTD) is much, much greater than it would be in going from one to two contexts for some actions, so I'm content to wait a while for multiple contexts.

And as Curt noted, you can select multiple contexts. My base work at home perspective includes half a dozen contexts.

Roger Barre 2007-11-26 03:56 PM

I second this post. Giving us the option to add multiple contexts does not stop GTD's strict constructionists from sticking with single contexts, but it opens up huge possibilities for those of us who want to use OF for database and project management uses beyond GTD.

ptone 2007-11-26 04:13 PM

Let me add another voice to this request thread.

I immediately recognized the need for this after watching the first screencasts over the summer long before I had my hands on the beta. I put in a question about this in July and at the time Omni said "not for this release". Now that I'm using the beta I feel the need for it more than ever.

The problem for many people in using an app like this is how to set it up (since it is uber flexible). Omni would do well to have several different starter templates based on different roles (Real Estate Agent, School Teacher etc) with some preset contexts, like iCal starts with Home and Work. (in addition to the generic ones it comes with).

The benefit of multiple contexts is that of relational databases, or aliases - and is the strength of electronic data. One thing can exist in two places at once.

If I have a phone call that I have to make from the office - do I put it under office, or phone. So many people are used to free-form tagging, this wouldn't be far off.

If I use the approach for hierarchy, and put it under Office:phone - there is no simple context method to see all my phone calls. I have to use a filter or perspective (which I haven't yet even dug into).

I don't think the UI issues are insurmountable.

Journey 2007-11-26 04:52 PM

I like your post ptone. I agree that a lot of thought would need to be put into having multiple contexts.

I have implemented the GTD methodology in many different ways -- all of them relied on multiple contexts as the foundation of the method working.

I want to be able to enter "Phone Sheryl" under both "Phone" and "Sheryl". I want to be able to easily, without much thought, as I enter tasks, to simply think of all the contexts and enter them.

Microsoft Outlook allows tasks to be in multiple categories. For a task, multiple categories can be selected via a multiple-checkbox list.

I am OK with not having priority functionality in the first release, but multiple contexts, I believe, is key to making this a very useful program. Not having them diminishes its usefulness and leads me to look into some of the other programs available. I like Omni Group and would like to stay with this product, but multiple contexts are a key feature that would make this program work.

al_f 2007-11-26 10:56 PM

I really try to think of contexts in terms of "what do I absolutely need to have to accomplish this task?". If you think of them in this way (and you're rigorous about your processing) there is really very little if anything that needs multiple contexts. For example, in Brian's example the only essential thing there is Sue, since it doesn't matter how he communicates with her, so I'd put it in the @agendas context under Sue, or in @Sue if I had it set up that way. In ptone's phone call example, do you actually need to refer to anything that's in your office when making that call, or do you absolutely need to use work's phone line (if it's an international call, for example)? If so, it goes in @office. If not, it goes in @calls as all you need is any phone. I invite other problem cases to see if I can knock them down. :)

I disagree with SteveW's definition of contexts - I think that mood, days of the week and goals aren't contexts. For me, mood/energy is one of the factors you use in choosing what to do (along with context, time available and priority). Tasks specific to a day of the week go on my calendar ("hard landscape" as David Allen calls it) for that day. Goals go on my 20,000ft, 30,000ft etc. lists as appropriate depending on their timescale and scope.

Finally, how would adding tagging to OF make things simpler? Isn't it just another layer of stuff to fiddle with?

gamov 2007-11-27 12:45 AM

TaskPaper does it / Priority-Importance
 
I'm also for multiple contexts. Even the sublimely simple TaskPaper supports them (@house @office).

Priorities/Importance is also a must. Nothing fancy though, but something just like iCal:
- None
- Not Important
- Important
- Very Important

This should replace the flag/un-flagged icon, then we can use the flag/priority filter to have an overview of important tasks quickly and not having them buried too much within the task lists by mondain tasks...

@ Being able to select multiple contexts is not the same as assigning multiple contexts to a task. It's beautiful nevertheless and a reason I love OF!

ksrhee 2007-11-27 12:58 AM

[QUOTE=al_f;26386]I really try to think of contexts in terms of "what do I absolutely need to have to accomplish this task?". If you think of them in this way (and you're rigorous about your processing) there is really very little if anything that needs multiple contexts. For example, in Brian's example the only essential thing there is Sue, since it doesn't matter how he communicates with her, so I'd put it in the @agendas context under Sue, or in @Sue if I had it set up that way. In ptone's phone call example, do you actually need to refer to anything that's in your office when making that call, or do you absolutely need to use work's phone line (if it's an international call, for example)? If so, it goes in @office. If not, it goes in @calls as all you need is any phone. I invite other problem cases to see if I can knock them down. :)

I disagree with SteveW's definition of contexts - I think that mood, days of the week and goals aren't contexts. For me, mood/energy is one of the factors you use in choosing what to do (along with context, time available and priority). Tasks specific to a day of the week go on my calendar ("hard landscape" as David Allen calls it) for that day. Goals go on my 20,000ft, 30,000ft etc. lists as appropriate depending on their timescale and scope.

Finally, how would adding tagging to OF make things simpler? Isn't it just another layer of stuff to fiddle with?[/QUOTE]

I would agree with you on this one. I used to think having multiple contexts would be a useful tool. Some programs would call it having multiple categories, etc. However, after using OF for several months, I have gone away from this thinking. I would argue that multiple contexts are great when it comes to organizing (planning?), but not so effective when it comes to taking action. After all, isn't context view all about taking action, not planning?

Besides, the way I use OF now would make using multiple contexts almost impossible. How would you handle the UI issue if you are displaying multiple contexts? If I assign a task into multiple contexts, would they show up in all contexts? This would duplicate the task across multiple contexts I'm looking at, and it would just make things more confusing than helpful.

Also it would artificially create higher # of tasks I need to complete. For instance, when I scan the context sidebar I would see 4 tasks needing to be done, but no, it's only one task assigned to 4 contexts. This would not be accurate.

As far as an example someone provided about making a phone call to a person, I think it really comes down to your own situation. If you are a person who is likely to make multiple phone calls to your clients when you are making phone calls, then it makes sense to put the item into phone since this is where your action needs to take place. However, if you have client called Sue, and you need to keep track of all the things you need to take care of her when you see her or work on her project, then I would put it under Sue, not under phone. So, when I'm working on "Sue," it would show me that I have to call her, write a report for her, etc.

I think multiple contexts not only make things more complicated in terms of UI, but probably not an effective way to manage one's time or tasks.

Now some of you might argue that I should only be looking at only one context at a time (e.g., phone, etc.), but that's not really helpful or realistic. Let's say I have contexts labeled @phone, @office, and @computer. All those are different contexts, but could be applicable when I'm in my office. I can make phone calls in my office, work on my computer, etc. So, how do I decide what to work on at this moment, or how do I decide what to work on in the morning when I come to my office? Well, I need to scan these multiple contexts in order for me to decide what needs to be done first at this moment, not only look at the @office context. Having the same task show up on all these contexts would not be helpful for me.

Remember, OF is designed not simply to help organize our lives but also get things done so that we can be more effective. I think there is ever a greater temptation to over organize our lives and not enough impetus to move us to get things done. In this respect, I appreciate OMNI folks for showing restraints for not jumping into creating more features into the program.

Also, I think it's great that there are now multiple product out in the market offering their own unique approaches to organizing or getting things done. I think we need to select a tool that would make us become more effective in what we do. So, I'm all for having diversity in this arena and not for OF to be a clone of some other program. In the long run, I think OF will be more successful sticking to a overall system that makes sense rather than trying to incorporate every feature that we want.

eronel 2007-11-27 01:54 AM

Multiple contexts create the possibility of a kind of sloppy ambiguity; are the contexts OR'd or AND'ed? When a task is in @Email and @Phone, they are probably OR'd. How about when a task is in @office and @computer?

If OF had multiple contexts, or tags for contexts, I'd probably find them useful and use them, but I fear this kind of sloppiness would appear and create a kind of cognitive dissonance that would subtly affect my confidence in my system. On second thought then, maybe I wouldn't use them.....

mcoad 2007-11-27 04:59 AM

ďSloppy ambiguityĒ... ďCognitive dissonanceĒ... ďIf youíre rigorous you donít need themĒ... Phew! Please, everybody, a rule of thumb: GTD good, dogma bad. I love a good theoretical discussion as much as the next dude, but GTD ainít religion and nor is OF even designed specifically as GTD app, as the Omni folks themselves emphasize. People will differ over good GTD practiceĒ, whatever that is, and anyway most other explicitely GTD apps [I]do[/I] indeed include multiple contexts on one guise or another. Other users will only be dimly aware of the minutiae of GTD, but still have perfectly satisfactory systems for which OF is a brilliant tool, and for most of them the lack of multiple contexts is glaring. One personís sloppy ambiguity is anotherís necessary flexibility.

In short, many users do indeed find that they require multiple contexts. If you donít like them, you donít have to use them, for crying out loud. So what - UI issues apart - is the problem?

eronel 2007-11-27 05:46 AM

I'm sorry if I put you off. Dogma does not appeal to me either.

In the first paragraph above I was bringing up a potential problem with tagging.

The second paragraph is my personal thoughts. I wasn't trying to compel you or anyone to agree with me. In the end, I was able to make a decision for myself about how I would or would not use tags.

mcoad 2007-11-27 06:07 AM

Sorry, too - I was a bit heavy, I realize, using your quotes like that when other posts were the ones I was talking about more. I couldn’t resist “cognitive dissonance”! Seriously, though, I meant that a simple and very reasonable request was getting drowned under a flood of arcane theoretical noise, very worthy as much of this may be. It’s something I’ve noticed elsewhere in the forum - though generally it’s a very good forum, with excellent discussion.

Me, I feel much the same about tags as you warn about multiple contexts. I like the latter very much but am wary of the former, and don’t think they’re exactly the same (especially after seeing the potential chaos tags could produce in Things, or so it seems to me; there, contexts are just another subset of tags). But I certainly wouldn’t oppose the use of tags on some ground of GTD theory if they’re what help a large proportion of users and don’t fundamentally throw the app out of kilter.

Cheers

Malcolm

eronel 2007-11-27 06:56 AM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26423]I couldnít resist ďcognitive dissonanceĒ![/quote]
Yeah, maybe that was a teensy bit excessive. :)

[quote]Seriously, though, I meant that a simple and very reasonable request was getting drowned under a flood of arcane theoretical noise, very worthy as much of this may be. Itís something Iíve noticed elsewhere in the forum - though generally itís a very good forum, with excellent discussion.[/quote]

There's been an explosion of posts and new members on the forum since the OF alpha went public. Lots of brand new users/posters mixed with oldsters is bound to create some chaos. I bet it'll settle down somewhat. Overall I find the discussions thought-provoking.

[quote]Me, I feel much the same about tags as you warn about multiple contexts. I like the latter very much but am wary of the former, and donít think theyíre exactly the same (especially after seeing the potential chaos tags could produce in Things, or so it seems to me; there, contexts are just another subset of tags). But I certainly wouldnít oppose the use of tags on some ground of GTD theory if theyíre what help a large proportion of users and donít fundamentally throw the app out of kilter.[/quote]

Ditto. Though it might be nice to disable the display of any tag-related interface elements if they take up screen space or are really in-your-face.

matiascuba 2007-11-27 07:22 AM

Not a good idea to use multiple contexts
 
Then you have completely misunderstood the concept of getting things done. You will end up with hundreds of combinations and your task list will be cluttered and not at all doable.

mcoad 2007-11-27 07:44 AM

[QUOTE=matiascuba;26435]Then you have completely misunderstood the concept of getting things done.[/QUOTE]

Oh, great, here we go again. This is exactly the kind of absurd aggressiveness nobody needs. Just make your point. Which is...

[QUOTE=matiascuba;26435]You will end up with hundreds of combinations and your task list will be cluttered and not at all doable.[/QUOTE]

I have the same doubts - about tags, not multiple contexts. But, before slinging around accusations of total misunderstanding, go and have a look at other apps such as Things. This is a specifically GTD-based app, but tags are fundamental to it. Do they ďcompletely misunderstand the concept of gettings things doneĒ too? These are reasonable questions and merit reasonable discussion.

al_f 2007-11-27 07:47 AM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26409]ďSloppy ambiguityĒ... ďCognitive dissonanceĒ... ďIf youíre rigorous you donít need themĒ... Phew! Please, everybody, a rule of thumb: GTD good, dogma bad. I love a good theoretical discussion as much as the next dude, but GTD ainít religion and nor is OF even designed specifically as GTD app, as the Omni folks themselves emphasize. People will differ over good GTD practiceĒ, whatever that is, and anyway most other explicitely GTD apps [I]do[/I] indeed include multiple contexts on one guise or another.[/QUOTE]

I think if you read my post again you'll find that I was only saying what works for me, not that you should work like I do. Maybe you don't agree, maybe someone will read it and think "Hey, that might work for me". I kind of think that's the point of a discussion board, isn't it?

Anyway, it doesn't matter - in my opinion, having tasks appearing in multiple contexts would be confusing on a UI level, as eronel and krshee point out. The fact that multiple contexts aren't strict GTD is irrelevant.

mcoad 2007-11-27 08:05 AM

[QUOTE=al_f;26441]I think if you read my post again you'll find that I was only saying what works for me, not that you should work like I do. Maybe you don't agree, maybe someone will read it and think "Hey, that might work for me". I kind of think that's the point of a discussion board, isn't it?

Anyway, it doesn't matter - having tasks appearing in multiple contexts would be confusing on a UI level, as eronel and krshee point out. The fact that multiple contexts aren't strict GTD is irrelevant.[/QUOTE]

Thereís a contradiction between these paragraphs, isnít there? On the one hand you say you are only explaining what works for you, not imposing, but on the other you assert flatly that ďmultiple contexts would be confusing on a UI levelĒ. Isnít that a matter of opinion and styles of work? Personally I think tags would have that effect but not necessarily multiple contexts (thatís one of the reasons I wonít be using Things). Evidently, many people out there find the restriction of not having multiple contexts far more of a problem than such possible confusion. Kshree has tried it out for a while and changed opinion, but is not insisting on the matter, and nor is eronel. If the option existed and you found it confusing in the way you describe, you wouldnít have to use it, but thatís no reason to deny it to others.

I agree with kshree: ďOF is designed not simply to help organize our lives but also get things done so that we can be more effective.ď For some that will mean single contexts, for others, multiple ones. What, I repeat, is the problem?

iNik 2007-11-27 08:22 AM

Interesting discussion, especially the thought of the differences between a context and a location (as opposed to a mood, available reference materials, etc.).

I struggle daily with the "Agenda" and "Errands" problems that people mention here. I may need to buy things at multiple stores, but generating a context for each is madness. If I'm going shopping, I don't want to dig through a million and six contexts to find what I need. (Yes, we could throw them into a folder, if folders existed in Context view, or use a perspective, but it's still a rather heavyweight and crowded solution.)

For myself, I have a context of "Calls" which I use pretty much only for one-shot phone calls. (Make an appointment, ask for balance on phone bill, etc.) I also have an "Agenda" context that I throw things I need to contact someone about, but I don't really care how I contact them. I do NOT have an email or meeting context.

When I feel like making calls, I check the calls AND agenda contexts and see what's in there. (Agenda items contain the person's name toward the beginning e.g. "Tell Bob about new widget procedure") A perspective makes this easy. Similarly, when I find myself ON the phone with somebody, I check for Agenda items with their name and chat with them about it.

And then we get into "I'm at the office so I can do 'computer' things, 'calls', and many 'agendas' as well as the 'office' tasks" and how to categorize that. Frankly, this is where perspectives shine. I just create an appropriate perspective and I'm all set.

Adding tagging is an interesting option, and might help bridge that gap. So might simply creating a "Work" context and then a variety of other perspectives (so work/computer stuff as well as work/phone stuff all ends up in the same bucket).

jasong 2007-11-27 08:30 AM

[QUOTE=iNik;26452]I struggle daily with the "Agenda" and "Errands" problems that people mention here. I may need to buy things at multiple stores, but generating a context for each is madness. If I'm going shopping, I don't want to dig through a million and six contexts to find what I need.[/QUOTE]

I mentioned this in another similar thread, and I'll mention it here: OF has the ability to only display contexts which actually have items in them. While in Context mode, with the view bar turned on, select Active Contexts from the sidebar's popup.

Since this was introduced a few months ago, I'm more comfortable having more (specific) contexts. If I wanted to list every store I buy from, I could, and not feel like my contexts were overwhelming.

Journey 2007-11-27 08:57 AM

A few thoughts about the discussion ...

The option of single or multiple contexts being allowed in the program could be a preference setting. That way people who want to assign only one context to an item would be able to enforce that. It might be good to have that preference, and to have it set to only one context / item so that when a new person starts using OF it starts out more simply as they get used to the program and then if they turn it on later they will be more focused on the effect of multiple contexts rather than having that on top of trying to learn everything else about the program.

As someone mentioned, yes -- an activity that has multiple contexts would show up in more than one place when in context view. That is exactly what I want. One context that I use is "Out and About". That way not only "Errands" get assigned to that but anything that I need to get in my car and drive for. I could have many different activities that I would need to be "Out and About" for, but if I only had one context, a more important one would be used.

Someone mentioned that it would require more tasks to check off. No -- checking off a task within any context would complete it -- it's all the same activity.

One thing I like about the GTD methodology is the concept of an in basket, in which tasks are unloaded from the mind and dumped into it. If I can have only one context / activity, I end up spending a lot of time trying to think of what my context hierarchy could look like, and when I am viewing things in Context mode I would end up having to scan all the items because an item that should be in multiple contexts won't show up under every context where it should be.

Multiple contexts allows me the simplicity of "offloading" items from my mind. I have an activity, I think of all the contexts involved, I assign them, and I then know that when I look at things in context view, I can look at any context and know that all the associated activities are there. "Phone Sheryl about new restaurant" could be under "Phone", "Sheryl", and "Fun Activities" contexts. If it were only under "Phone", then when I look at things in context mode I know that I can't rely on all-things-Sheryl being in that context, so then I end up having to scan the entire list of activities in the context mode.

Multiple contexts can be confusing, but let's face it -- the way OF works is confusing at first, then powerful once someone learns how to use it. The same would be true of multiple contexts.

And, having it as a preference setting would satisfy those who don't want multiple contexts.

If the developers want me to test a version with multiple contexts or work with them to brainstorm this more, I would be happy to do so "behind the scenes". I could help test the alpha-alpha of multiple contexts release :-)

Journey 2007-11-27 09:05 AM

[QUOTE=matiascuba;26435]Then you have completely misunderstood the concept of getting things done. You will end up with hundreds of combinations and your task list will be cluttered and not at all doable.[/QUOTE]

The task list from the Project view will be nice and clean. The task list from the Context view will have all the tasks associated within a context where they are supposed to be (including an activity that naturally doesn't fit into one).

In context view, you aren't looking at everything as a whole. You look at a context and are assured that if you specified all the natural contexts for an activity, that it will show up there -- and it will show up under other contexts where it belongs.

It would only be cluttered if you aren't thinking in terms of contexts.

If only a single context can be assigned to an item, when I look at a context I would not have the assurance that all items for that context are there if only a single context can be specified for an item. I would want all-things-Sheryl to be under "Sheryl" and all phone calls I need to make under "Phone". If I can only assign one context, I won't be able to look at "Sheryl" and know that everything is there because I might have been forced to assign only one context that makes it show up elsewhere. So, I end up having to scan the other contexts for Sheryl-related items.

mcoad 2007-11-27 09:05 AM

[QUOTE=iNik;26452]Interesting discussion, especially the thought of the differences between I may need to buy things at multiple stores, but generating a context for each is madness. If I'm going shopping, I don't want to dig through a million and six contexts to find what I need.[/QUOTE]

Right, but would this really happen? Obviously if something can proliferate thereís a danger of it getting out of hand, but is this a reason for restriction to one? Sounds mighty timorous to me. Of course thereís a real danger of a tool thatís designed to help us get organized actually making things even more of a hassle, because you end up spending more time worrying over the tool than you did before when you were only confused by the plethora of tasks! (I think a lot of us forum posters are beginning to feel that about now!) But if this is true of potentially proliferating contexts, so it is also of being obliged to force everything into single contexts. More so, in my limited experience so far.

To follow your example above, shopping need not be madness because you can already use subcontexts in OF. So something can go under the general category of shopping or under a particular store and its there whether youíre going to that store or on a more general shopping trip. Multiple contexts would provide the same kind of flexibility but without restricting us to subcontexts within preexisting contexts, or jumping through hoops to make things fit. So, if Iím a film buff and I want to get hold of a newly released Kurosawa DVD, I can put it somewhere in ďShoppingĒ and in ďMurgatroydĒ (because I know my mate Murgatroyd has a copy he could lend me), and in ďfilm rental storeĒ if I want to see if its available there (and I donít want this under Shopping). Then, whether IĎm going shopping, or calling Murgartroyd about something else, or planning to go to Blockbusters for something lighter for the kids, itís there and thereís no risk of forgetting it because itís stuck immutably in one of the others.

Okay, stupid example, as they all tend to be, and my brainís softening with too much time hanging out at the forum, but you see the point. This may involve some proliferation of contexts, but they can also be disposable or only activated in case of need, and surely itís not beyond most of us to keep this in order. At least we had the nous to get OF, after all.

If Iíve missed something in all this, please come down on me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Meanwhile, I still want multiple contexts.

PS - Journey just posted - excellent. Couldnít agree more.

al_f 2007-11-27 12:36 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26446]Thereís a contradiction between these paragraphs, isnít there? On the one hand you say you are only explaining what works for you, not imposing, but on the other you assert flatly that ďmultiple contexts would be confusing on a UI levelĒ. Isnít that a matter of opinion and styles of work? [/QUOTE]

OK, for the pedantic amongst us I have edited the second paragraph to contain the words "in my opinion". Quite how anyone could think that one overdue task causing several counters to appear in the sidebar (one in each context in which it appears) wouldn't be confusing is beyond me, however.

Journey 2007-11-27 01:05 PM

[QUOTE=al_f;26500]OK, for the pedantic amongst us I have edited the second paragraph to contain the words "in my opinion". Quite how anyone could think that one overdue task causing several counters to appear in the sidebar (one in each context in which it appears) wouldn't be confusing is beyond me, however.[/QUOTE]

It isn't confusing if one understands the need for multiple contexts and what the context view would then represent. "Phone Sheryl about New Restaurant" could be in the "Phone", "Sheryl", and "Fun Things To Do" contexts, and it would be only natural each context shows the counts.

Again, if someone wanted to only have one context / action it could be a preference initially set to be that way and when one evolves into a greater understanding of how to use multiple contexts then the preference could be set to allow them.

Journey 2007-11-27 01:07 PM

Note: when I say "evolves" in the prior post it's meant to be said with a smile on my face. I forgot to include the smiley however so here it is :-)

joelande 2007-11-27 01:12 PM

[QUOTE=Journey;26463]One thing I like about the GTD methodology is the concept of an in basket, in which tasks are unloaded from the mind and dumped into it. If I can have only one context / activity, I end up spending a lot of time trying to think of what my context hierarchy could look like, and when I am viewing things in Context mode I would end up having to scan all the items because an item that should be in multiple contexts won't show up under every context where it should be.

Multiple contexts allows me the simplicity of "offloading" items from my mind.[/QUOTE]

Nice catch -

Now there is a a good GTD-point for all of those By-the-GTD-bible doctriners out there.

I too think allowing tags or multiple contexts would help clear the mind, which is a very important GTD concept -arguably the most important (besides actually getting things done!)

ptone 2007-11-27 09:05 PM

Some good discussion here.

I'd like to make a couple points - the UI for adding additional contexts could be as simple as a comma.

There is a big difference between hierarchy (very powerful and useful) and relational (Many to one, one to Many).

A single action should exist in only one place in a nice normalized OF DB - duplicating it in multiple locations in the hierarchy is no good.

For those that argue that there is a logical single context approach to your data, I don't argue that. But the fact is that the human brain is not always a rigorous logical implement.

To continue with our somewhat simplistic example. At the time I create an action, the most logical context for it might be phone. But were I to create the same action at a different time I might think to put it under Sheryl. Now when I want to review my actions by context, I have to do a mental pause and consider which context I put it in.

An imperfect analogy. To perform an action in many applications, I have a choice, I can:

Select and item from a menu
Perform a keyboard shortcut
Use a contextual menu
Use a toolbar

Now, any ONE of those may be logical, but does that mean that the UI should be constricted to only use one of them? The great thing about this approach is that it casts a wider net that can catch peoples intentions through multiple parallel approaches, rather than require that everyone remembers the one way to do something.

-P

TheSteveW 2007-11-27 10:22 PM

Great thread...

My comments about tagging had to do with the way my (ADD encumbered) mind works. I think (few) contexts are great for a rigid approach to GTD and if that works for you that's great.

Personally though I'd like the flexibility to quickly ask or add a quick note about, for example "OS X dev problems" without having to do a search. Since it's more of a hobby than a core element of my day to day work it doesn't make sense to create a context for it. If I did that I'd have hundreds of contexts - which then of course defeats the purpose of GTD as would the need to do a search. If I put it under a "hobby" context - again - I've got lots of threads in my brain. I want a tool to help me focus quickly.

Not every moment of every day is or should be (for me) driven by what I'm [U]supposed[/U] to be doing. Sometimes I just want to "wander". Multiple contexts and/or tagging could be easily implemented as an [U]option[/U]. If you don't want it simply turn it off in prefs and you have rigid GTD.

Of course this gets to the issue of diluting the basic functionality but how hard/disruptive would it really be to add a tag or multiple context filter to a context view? Would it fundamentally alter the tool or would it on the other hand possibly open it up to a broader audience?

Great thread and am enjoying reading and learning from all the different perspectives...

al_f 2007-11-27 11:20 PM

[QUOTE=joelande;26506]I too think allowing tags or multiple contexts would help clear the mind, which is a very important GTD concept -arguably the most important (besides actually getting things done!)[/QUOTE]

Ah, but I disagree: to me if you put things in more than 1 context you probably haven't thought it through fully, as you haven't defined what is essential to doing the task. I prefer to do that thinking at processing time, so when I'm working I know for sure that I can do everything that's listed under the context that I'm in.

An example of how multiple context might not work is this: say you work with Sheryl and need to talk to her about a project. If you're taking a multiple-context approach you could put that in the 3 contexts office, sheryl and calls (assuming you don't need think you need to talk to her face-to-face). You bump into her in the cafeteria at lunchtime and check your Sheryl list: however, you then realise that actually you need to refer to some project materials in your office files during the discussion. So, the office context is actually the only one that applies in this case as you physically need to be there to have the discussion. OK, that's maybe a bit contrived, but for me GTD is all about making those kind of decisions when you're planning, not when you're working.

Like it or not, despite the people saying it isn't, at heart OF clearly is a GTD app: the project/context model is from GTD and OF is based on Kinkless GTD, which was explicitly a GTD app. While you might be able to use it for a non-GTD system, I think GTDers are the app's main target audience and that's where I think the feature set should be focussed.

[quote=TheSteveW]Personally though I'd like the flexibility to quickly ask or add a quick note about, for example "OS X dev problems" without having to do a search. Since it's more of a hobby than a core element of my day to day work it doesn't make sense to create a context for it. If I did that I'd have hundreds of contexts - which then of course defeats the purpose of GTD as would the need to do a search. If I put it under a "hobby" context - again - I've got lots of threads in my brain. I want a tool to help me focus quickly.[/quote]

I suppose again it depends on how you define a context, but for me "OS X dev problems" would be a folder in planning view (or a parallel project) and hobby would definitely be a folder in planning view. The actions in the projects in those folders would then be placed in contexts depending on the resources you need to get them done (computer, garage, hardware store/errands etc.). Would that work better for you?

Volker 2007-11-28 03:31 AM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;26007] For example, I could buy a new shirt on-line or in a store. But I'm never simultaneously in my Web and Errands contexts, so I have to choose one.)[/QUOTE]

I think, this is a good example to express my idea, that not the tool is insufficient, but the definition of contexts may be incomplete.

Lets take your example where the shirt-task is assigned to Web and Errands. If I'm in a certain context, e.g. I'm standing on a street full of shops, I want to see all possible tasks for this context, say Errands. In your case of double assigning, I must take into account, that not all of Errand-activities are allowed in my current context. I have to look if the activity is assigned to further contexts, which forbid to do that task right now. This is in contrast to the GTD philosophy, which wants to keep your system simple: just look and decide - not to discuss, what is correct.

Therefore Errands seems to be the wrong context for the shirt-task. Imho it should be Web. Because if I'm sitting before a computer with internet connection, I can browse all my open Web activities and voila, there is my shirt-task.

If the Web context is too widly defined for your needs, e.g. you only want to shop online, if you're sure, your account has enough money, than simply define a context Web-Errands besides Web and Errands. The definition for the contexts would be:

- Errands: activities for physical shopping or similar activites
- Web: web browsing, e-mail, information collecton, reading news etc. but without shopping
- Web-Errands: Webshopping

I use two contexts for Errands. As I'm traveling a lot for my job, I'm using Errands_anywhere and Errands_homecity. The first context is defined for things, which are to big to transport with me in train or plain. So if I'm standing in a shop of a foreign city, my PDA presents me the correct activities only and doesn't bother me with unnecessary ones.

Conclusion:
The correct and complete definiton of a context structure helps to keep things - the decision process in certain contexts - simple.

mcoad 2007-11-28 04:50 AM

This has become a really good thread, with some of the best and most instructive discussion on the forum. But even as the examples and usage scenarios multiply, the conclusion seems to get more obvious. Some users prefer the rigid single-context method, and find this better implementation of GTD. Others prefer multiple contexts, and find this implements GTD better (this, incidentally, is also the conclusion drawn by other GTD app developers: Things with its tags, Life Balance with its ability to place any number of contexts within any other context). So, obvious conclusion: allow multiple contexts, and those who find life better without them simply wonít use them, without the app being affected in any other way, while for the rest of us things will ease up greatly.

If only other feature issues were so simple.

ptone 2007-11-28 05:10 AM

[QUOTE=al_f;26617]Ah, but I disagree: to me if you put things in more than 1 context you probably haven't thought it through fully, as you haven't defined what is essential to doing the task.[/QUOTE]

Two responses to this: In a busy day there may not always be time to so fully think out an action in the planning process. That may be the ideal, the goal to strive for, but not always the reality. If I'm trying to get through the inbox, process a ton of items, and I have to spend twice as long on each one to decide what is the perfect and true context, then I'm getting less done.

Also, you assume that every action has a single context that is necessary, while I would argue that some actions have no single necessary resource, but several that are sufficient. For those actions that have a essential resource requirement, then use a single context, but for those where there is more than one EQUALLY SUFFICIENT situation - multiple contexts increase your efficiency because you don't have to do the extra work (at planning or reviewing) to figure out which of the equivalent contexts it went into. There are uses of multiple contexts that would be flawed and lazy - but we all really do sometimes have flawed and lazy brains, so having a tool that works with us is better. (this is not to encourage lazy or sloppiness, just to acknowledge that what seems the "right" context at one time may not be apparent another)

[QUOTE=al_f;26617]...but for me GTD is all about making those kind of decisions when you're planning, not when you're working.[/QUOTE]

Many situations like the one you listed may require a single context. But one can be quite effective and more efficient if you didn't HAVE to always make that decision. Add an action, add 2 contexts. Search one of those contexts later (the one that occurs to you) see the action, do it. Done. No need to consider on both ends which is the truest context.

[QUOTE=al_f;26617]While you might be able to use it for a non-GTD system, I think GTDers are the app's main target audience and that's where I think the feature set should be focussed.[/QUOTE]

Other than perhaps dev resource time and some UI issues - I have yet to see any of the pro-single context voices articulate why allowing multiple contexts would negatively affect their ability to choose to use single contexts. It sounds mostly like religious differences.

-P

mcoad 2007-11-28 05:24 AM

[QUOTE=ptone;26635]Other than perhaps dev resource time and some UI issues - I have yet to see any of the pro-single context voices articulate why allowing multiple contexts would negatively affect their ability to choose to use single contexts. It sounds mostly like religious differences.

-P[/QUOTE]

Exactly. But it would be good to hear from Ken or someone else at Omni on this. Youíve been very silent on this for a while, guys. Hereís hoping this is because youíre still open on the matter, watching and waiting...

eronel 2007-11-28 05:40 AM

[QUOTE=ptone;26635]Two responses to this: In a busy day there may not always be time to so fully think out an action in the planning process. That may be the ideal, the goal to strive for, but not always the reality. If I'm trying to get through the inbox, process a ton of items, and I have to spend twice as long on each one to decide what is the perfect and true context, then I'm getting less done.[/quote]
Exactly. That is the appeal of the tagging/multiple context approach.

[quote]... some actions have no single necessary resource, but several that are sufficient. For those actions that have a essential resource requirement, then use a single context, but for those where there is more than one EQUALLY SUFFICIENT situation - multiple contexts increase your efficiency because you don't have to do the extra work (at planning or reviewing) to figure out which of the equivalent contexts it went into.[/quote]
Well said. That is the drawback of the single context approach. I find it especially bothersome for tasks related to people and shopping. Most of them can be done online, via telephone, or in person, unless there's something special about the situation or thing. But often I personally find that when I am not clear about how I want to accomplish something, I'm not really clear about what I want to accomplish. So for now I am sticking with single contexts.

[quote]Other than perhaps dev resource time and some UI issues ... It sounds mostly like religious differences.[/quote]
You're right. It's both. But while dev resources and UI issues are not unimportant, they are likely to be decided by the OmniFolks. Religious differences can be fought out for centuries :-) .

Volker 2007-11-28 05:48 AM

[QUOTE=ptone;26635]I have yet to see any of the pro-single context voices articulate why allowing multiple contexts would negatively affect their ability to choose to use single contexts. It sounds mostly like religious differences.
-P[/QUOTE]

From my point of view and many years of experiences about collecting and discussion user requirements, it has nothing to do with religion. I had to learn on the hard way, that one shouldn't accept any requirement without asking "why?".

Many required additional features were results from "bad" usage or "bad" personal workflow of the user. With adding the features, the products may become "monsters" like MS Word, with a lot of features but a bad user experience. In the above discussed examples for pro-multi-context, it seems to be, that the requirements for multiple contexts result from low knowledge how to define contexts.

Let's see it this way: OmniFocus is version 1 likely with a huge feature list to be realized in further versions. The OmniGuys have to set priorities about what and when to add do OmniFocus. And its not done with adding the GUI for entering multiple contexts. The data model and the onfollowing program processes have to be added and tested too.

OmniFocus has been presented from the beginning as successor of kinkless and tool for GTD. Therefore those user, who follow the GTD path according the given framework, want to see those proposed workflow and rules to be implemented first. Later on, there should be no problem to add additional feature outside the GTD philosophy, but (!) the overall program handling should follow the basic GTD rule "Keep things simple".

In case of the feature multiple contexts, this seems to be rigid. But the same discussion will arise with every GTD foreign feature. With the hole set of the feature, there might be the danger, that the user experience becomes worse.

Regarding the sentence "I have yet to see any of the pro-single context voices articulate multiple contexts would negatively affect their ability to choose to use single contexts.":

I have yet to see any of the pro-multiple-context voices articulate any reason, why their personal workflow couldn't be easily supported with the current system ;-) All examples show imho, that the system of contexts is not understood in full depth. Perhaps OmniFocus is not the right tool then.

joelande 2007-11-28 06:26 AM

[QUOTE=ptone;26635]Two responses to this: In a busy day there may not always be time to so fully think out an action in the planning process. That may be the ideal, the goal to strive for, but not always the reality. If I'm trying to get through the inbox, process a ton of items, and I have to spend twice as long on each one to decide what is the perfect and true context, then I'm getting less done.

Also, you assume that every action has a single context that is necessary, while I would argue that some actions have no single necessary resource, but several that are sufficient.
-P[/QUOTE]
Yes it seems some of the discussion here is really trying to block people into corners.

Another area where I think multiple-contexts/tags are useful is in scenarios where there isn't much value in traditional contexts.

I work in IT. Long hours. Often when I am at home, I am working. Almost everything I do is at a computer. I am always online (or have the ability to be).

Traditional contexts of phone, email, computer just don't apply. I almost always have all of the tools I need to get almost any task in my list done.

I would find multiple contexts/tags useful.

Again, those that don't need or want them are not forced to use them.

Don't see what the problem here is.

joelande 2007-11-28 06:38 AM

[QUOTE=Volker;26644]I have yet to see any of the pro-multiple-context voices articulate any reason, why their personal workflow couldn't be easily supported with the current system ;-) All examples show imho, that the system of contexts is not understood in full depth. Perhaps OmniFocus is not the right tool then.[/QUOTE]

If you don't think ptone's post 38:
[url]http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost.php?p=26635&postcount=38[/url]

is that reason, then I think we just have different opinions.

It is the best reasoning I have seen so far, and well said.

brab 2007-11-28 06:40 AM

One thing I have not been able to fit in the current context system is the level of efforts a task require (which is one of the canonical questions in the "doing" part of The Book). Let's say I'm dead tired but I have one hour and I can do mindless things: do I need to go through every task that I have and evaluate if I have the effort to do it?

One solution could be to duplicate every context with the level of effort, but it seems too much. I can see where tagging would help here.

mcoad 2007-11-28 06:44 AM

[QUOTE=eronel;26643]Religious differences can be fought out for centuries :-) .[/QUOTE]

Please, no... Multiple contexts now!!! But your approach is great, Lenore - see whatís good in both, work it through, decide for the moment whatís best for you but leave the door open for others to take a different route. Power to you...

Journey 2007-11-28 09:28 AM

[QUOTE=Volker;26644]
Many required additional features were results from "bad" usage or "bad" personal workflow of the user. With adding the features, the products may become "monsters" like MS Word, with a lot of features but a bad user experience. In the above discussed examples for pro-multi-context, it seems to be, that the requirements for multiple contexts result from low knowledge how to define contexts.
[/QUOTE]

I have used multiple contexts for a long time now implemented in other tools. Assigning multiple contexts for an activity isn't a result of low knowledge of how to define contexts. It is simply looking at an activity by itself, identifying all the useful contexts, and then assigning them.

The reality is that a real-life activity often doesn't fit into one context. In order to "free the mind", it is much simpler to assign the contexts that make sense when entering an item, rather than be paralyzed by having to define and adhere to a rigid "context hierarchy" and choice of only one of the many natural contexts of an activity.

One way that I implemented multiple contexts was to use a program called "List Pro" which is an outliner with the ability to add columns (similar to Omni Outline which I haven't had a chance to learn yet). I added a text column for contexts, and just separated the contexts with commas. To list all items for a given context, I would just do a filter on that column of "includes <context text>".

It was so nice to be able to just enter items and assign all the contexts, knowing that later I could list any of the contexts and be assured that everything related to that context would be there, rather than list a context and then try to also remember where other items may have been put because they had to be assigned a single context when naturally an item fell into more than one.

"Phone" actually had _all_ of the activities that I would do at my phone.

"Sheryl" actually had _all_ of the activities related to her.

"Fun things to do" actually had all of the ideas of fun things that I would like to do when I have free time.

"Phone Sheryl to see if she wants to go to new restaurant" would show up under the contexts of "Phone", "Sheryl", and "Fun things to do".

If I were to assign the activity to only "Phone", then when I look at "Sheryl" it wouldn't show up there, so I would either miss it, or I would have to not trust my context and try to decide what other single contexts I had forced the activity into.

If I were to assign the activity to only "Sheryl", then when I look at "Phone" it wouldn't show up there, so I would either miss it, or I would have to not trust my context and try to decide what other single contexts I had forced the activity into. I would be at my phone and would have a good chance of missing the activity.

If I were to assign the activity to only "Fun things to do", then when I see "Sheryl", I wouldn't just look under the context assigned to her, but would also have to think of all the other contexts a Sheryl-related item might have been forced into.

To free the mind, a GTD cornerstone concept, ...

- When entering activities, one just thinks of natural contexts the item falls into and assigns them, without developing or adhering to a single-context structure.

To free the mind, a GTD cornerstone concept, ...

- When in a context (with Sheryl, at the Phone, or with free time to do Fun things), one only needs to look at any of the appropriate contexts and is assured that they are complete, and doesn't need to then go through the mental exercise of trying to determine all other singly-forced contexts the item could be in.

As far as development effort, 1.0 release, and data structure of application, _alpha_ testing (and even beta) can be used to identify things early on, because the longer a change (that would be eventually implemented) is delayed, the greater the cost of implementing the change later is.

ksrhee 2007-11-28 09:58 AM

[QUOTE=Journey;26676]

As far as development effort, 1.0 release, and data structure of application, _alpha_ testing (and even beta) can be used to identify things early on, because the longer a change (that would be eventually implemented) is delayed, the greater the cost of implementing the change later is.[/QUOTE]

My understanding is that the feature set and UI are pretty much fixed, and Omni folks are just polishing the rough edges and ironing out the bugs. So, I don't think multiple contexts will show up in version 1, but as they said, who knows in version 2. However, given the current state, I don't think they can accomplish having multiple contexts w/o significantly revising the UI or their system.

I tend to categorize different time management programs into three broad categories; time-centric, project/task-centric, and context-centric. Even some of the programs that provide the ability to add contexts to me are not context-centric. For instance, MyLifeOrganized or Lifebalance fall into a combination of task-centric and time-centric, not context-cenric. In other words, their to-do list is either based on time or tasks/projects, not contexts. Of course, you can manipulate the list by context via sorting, filtering, etc., but the fundamental core of their system is focused on tasks or time.

OF is different in a sense that their context view is really context-centric. Of course, they built in enough flexibility to view the tasks in timeline, etc., but to me, the fundamental organizing scheme is still context, and this is where the power of OF really shines. Given this, I really don't think adding multiple contexts is not sensible as the program stands. Of course, you can have OF create a new UI and add bunch of codes to make the other views possible, but then there is always the danger of OF becoming a bloatware. Now at some point, they might be able to incorporate tags as filters (since flag is a rudimentary form of tag), and if folks want to use tags as second or third contexts, then I guess that's possible.

Of course, others might argue which system is better or worse, but that really comes down to how you use your system to organize your life.

I might be completely off base in my analysis, and if so, Omni folks or others can chime in.

mcoad 2007-11-28 10:33 AM

[QUOTE=ksrhee;26677]I don't think they can accomplish having multiple contexts w/o significantly revising the UI or their system...

...Of course, you can have OF create a new UI and add bunch of codes to make the other views possible, but then there is always the danger of OF becoming a bloatware. [/QUOTE]

Iím no programmer so may be missing something crucial here, but I donít understand why adding multiple contexts would substantially change the UI, much less risk bloat or require a [I]new[/I] UI altogether. All that would happen is that in Context mode tasks would show up in the right pane in more than one context, and in the contexts column in Planning mode thereíd be several contexts rather than one. Everything else would be identical, wouldnít it? If so, what is the problem?

If Iím being naive, please do enlighten me/us. So far, while thereís been a lot of explanation from opponents of multiple contexts of itís undesirability on GTD principle and assertions that it would screw up the interface, Iíve seen no actual explanation of how the latter would happen.

Thanks Journey for your latest post. Itís the clearest exposition so far, and just about unanswerable, Iíd have thought - though of course nothing ever is. At least it is now clear just how important the multiple context idea is to many of us. The more I use the app, the more frustrating this lack becomes, almost to hair-tearing proportions - a real downer in what is otherwise such a superb tool.

ksrhee 2007-11-28 10:40 AM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26685]Iím no programmer so may be missing something crucial here, but I donít understand why adding multiple contexts would substantially change the UI, much less risk bloat or require a [I]new[/I] UI altogether. All that would happen is that in Context mode tasks would show up in the right pane in more than one context, and in the contexts column in Planning mode thereíd be several contexts rather than one. Everything else would be identical, wouldnít it? If so, what is the problem?

If Iím being naive, please do enlighten me/us. So far, while thereís been a lot of explanation from opponents of multiple contexts of itís undesirability on GTD principle and assertions that it would screw up the interface, Iíve seen no actual explanation of how the latter would happen.

[/QUOTE]

I think you put the finger on the issue. I don't think it makes sense for me to look at one identical task in 4 different places when I am in the context view. Other programs I use do not have this issue since their view is not context-based. Furthermore, the numbering system we have would be changed since it would show up in 4 different places even though it's only one task at hand.

I think there might be other UI issues given the results.

Of course, if you don't mind seeing a bunch of identical tasks laying around on your screen, then it's not a problem, but for me that is neither elegant nor simple when it comes to UI.

Why add more confusion to your plate, when you already have too many things to do anyway?

I hate to say this, but I don't think this issue will ever get resolved in this forum, and my OF tells me I need to be focusing on something else.

Thanks.

Journey 2007-11-28 10:55 AM

[QUOTE=ksrhee;26687]I think you put the finger on the issue. I don't think it makes sense for me to look at one identical task in 4 different places when I am in the context view. Other programs I use do not have this issue since their view is not context-based. Furthermore, the numbering system we have would be changed since it would show up in 4 different places even though it's only one task at hand.[/QUOTE]

Actually, that is the point! When looking at actions in context view, it's not to see tasks only in one place, it's to see tasks in the right context(s).

An activity that naturally falls into more than one context _should_ show up multiple times in context view!

The activity still only exists in one place. Checking it off in any given context would check it off in all of them. Deleting the item in any given context would delete it in all of them.

If I am at my phone, I want all actions requiring the phone to be in that context. If I am with my friend Sheryl, I want all items relating to her to be in that context (including things I had intended to phone her about). I also would like to see activities that I had planned on doing with her (go to new restaurant) that would also show up in "fun things to do".

Some people might not like multiple contexts because their life or set of activities isn't that complicated, or for some other reason. A preference could be set for that.

I have been using multiple contexts in other tools for a long time now and it's very freeing to just assign them naturally when entering an activity and to know it will show up.

Think in terms of real life -- do your activities really fit into one context? I think even the simplistic ideas so far show that they don't. In fact, it would be very _unusual_ for real-world activities to only show up in one context.

mcoad 2007-11-28 11:02 AM

[QUOTE=ksrhee;26687]I think you put the finger on the issue. I don't think it makes sense for me to look at one identical task in 4 different places when I am in the context view... Of course, if you don't mind seeing a bunch of identical tasks laying around on your screen, then it's not a problem, but for me that is neither elegant nor simple when it comes to UI.[/QUOTE]

Fair enough, but you wouldnít have to if you didnít want to use the feature, as been said so many times on the forum. As has also been said several times, no, I/we donít find it inelegant. Just the reverse, itís what would serve us best. And anyway, this would only happen if you had large numbers of your contexts open at one time, which is pretty inelegant anyway.

Is that really all on the UI front? Seems very little, really.

[QUOTE=ksrhee;26687]I hate to say this, but I don't think this issue will ever get resolved in this forum [/QUOTE]

Evidently true. Omni will resolve it. But itís been a darn good run through points of view on either side, which will presumably help them. Donít want to be pious about it, but that is what forums are for...

Journey 2007-11-28 11:07 AM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26685]Iím no programmer so may be missing something crucial here, but I donít understand why adding multiple contexts would substantially change the UI, much less risk bloat or require a [I]new[/I] UI altogether. All that would happen is that in Context mode tasks would show up in the right pane in more than one context, and in the contexts column in Planning mode thereíd be several contexts rather than one. Everything else would be identical, wouldnít it? If so, what is the problem?[/QUOTE]

I agree in that I don't think it would substantially change the UI, with the same thoughts as you post above.

Something else useful would be a preference in order to set whether a person wants to use single or multiple contexts, which would be adviseable to have set to use single as a default. Multiple contexts can be a concept that one would grow into if one finds a need for them.

In software terms though, even what seems like a simple change can require a lot of unexpected changes, such as how things refresh, etc. -- the subtleties talked about in some other threads. The question is, if multiple contexts are useful (Omni folks would ultimately have to honestly decide this), if it's best to do the effort now or to do it later.

Omni Focus has many other great features such as sequential or parallel tasks, that lead me to want to use this program rather than one of the other tools I have used in the past. It's just frustrating to not have a way to use multiple contexts by intrinsic program design or even in any other way such as a user-defined field that could be searched for values (and then I'd separate them with commas).

Microsoft Access, a database program that's part of some of Microsoft Office bundles, even recognizes the usefulness of a multi-valued column. In relational terms it's actually a many-to-many simplified in the UI. Another option I have considered is to make my own implementation using MS Access, but hey -- I have a Mac now because I like Macs and would like to leave Microsoft in the dust! :-)

Anyway, I have made my case and my hope is that the Omni folks are sitting around a table right now having a useful discussion of multiple contexts, or lack thereof.

mcoad 2007-11-28 11:28 AM

[QUOTE=Journey;26698]Anyway, I have made my case and my hope is that the Omni folks are sitting around a table right now having a useful discussion of multiple contexts, or lack thereof.[/QUOTE]

Amen to that!

eronel 2007-11-28 11:45 AM

If you're interested in tags/multiple contexts, I encourage reading through [thread=2546]the second longest thread[/thread] in this forum's history. Many of the same points we've been talking about here were hashed out there. There's also some unique discussion and Omni opinions on the matter, including [post=10853]thinking[/post] on difficulties with tags and [post=13360]a post[/post] offering a different solution down the line.

mcoad 2007-11-28 12:06 PM

Thanks very much for this, Lenore. I’d seen some other threads on the matter, but not this, which turns out to be the most in important in some respects. Comes of being a newbie, with only a few weeks using the app, coming to a very active forum. It’s good to know that the Omni folks don’t rule out multiple contexts some time in the future. And it’s good, I think, to have reopened the matter, as it shows it is one of the most alive now that growing numbers of people are using OF. It would be good to have some new thoughts from Omni, though, just to see how things are going there.

But for now, like some others, I think I’ve said my piece...

iNik 2007-11-28 02:41 PM

Something to consider if you're a multiple-contexter:

One aspect of the discipline of GTD is that it forces you to clearly define your next action. The action "buy a shirt next time I'm somewhere that has shirts" is NOT an action. Your next action needs to be, well, an action, such as "Look at shirts at Macys.com" or "Go to Macy's and buy a shirt".

Agenda-wise, the same thing applies. If you need to talk to Susan about something, you should plan your next action in this regard. Your action, clearly defined, is either "Call Susan" or "Email Susan" or "Talk to Susan" or even put the whole Susan conversation on hold with no action associated with it and hope that she drops by or calls you, at which point you may or may not catch up on outstanding issues.

Also consider how this would impact communications. If I call Susan and cover everything from her thoughts on the latest Spike Lee movie to the Lawry contract to her problems with her instant messaging program, she's going to be totally lost, and is unlikely to act on any of those things. I'll be much more effective if I, say, email her about the movie, call her cell for an update on the contract, and then drop by her office to help her with her IM.

But for my direct report, I do keep a context just for him, because I do have a regular 1:1 meeting which is specifically designed as a broad update, and keeps us from chatting too much and wasting time during the week. Same goes for my wife, since we only have a few hours in the evening to talk before we have to put the kid to bed.

mcoad 2007-11-29 06:54 AM

OK, I blew it. Resolve fell apart at the first nudge and Iím back. Obviously not a disciplined person. Must need OF...

[QUOTE=iNik;26726]The action "buy a shirt next time I'm somewhere that has shirts" is NOT an action. [/QUOTE]

Why not? Or, rather, why is ďbuy a shirtĒ not an action? Because Iím not defining the context immediately? Talk about circular logic. There are many tasks like this that need to be done, but when you put them on your list you may not be in a position to assign an exact context. Or there may be several contexts where you can carry out the task. I donít want to be obliged to work out the minutiae every time I note down a task, and maybe have to do jump through hoops in order to make it fit. I just want to get to it down and move on. Maybe I can put it in the In Box until later. Or maybe I know there are a couple of contexts coming up where I can do it, so I want to be able to toss it in both so I wonít forget when Iím in either. There are plenty of examples of such situations in this thread and elsewhere. Itís very common.

If this is undisciplined according to the rigid interpretation of GTD doctrine, then so be it. But itís the way most of us operate. We donít spend our time fretting over the great metasemiotic scheme of our lives and the place of every tiny action in it. We get on with stuff in an orderly and efficient way, and want a tool which best helps us do this. Excessive demand for definition at every instant is the enemy of efficiency, not its helper. It prevents you seeing the wood for the trees, bogs you down, wastes time, is alienating. Flexibility and structure together - a supple discipline is what we need, not boxes. And this suppleness is just what OF provides - with this one major exception.

joelande 2007-11-29 07:19 AM

Perhaps "Omni"Focus should be called "OnlyMyWay"Focus

mcoad 2007-11-29 11:06 AM

Just to make this crystal clear, and at the risk of boring the socks of everyone with yet another example, hereís a real life situation that has just come up. I need to ask a friend, Seb, for some contact details. These are for someone I need to get in touch with for work reasons. Seb, however, has nothing to do with my work. Heís my best friend and we play jazz together, and will probably rehearse tomorrow. So, given that OF in its wisdom only allows me one context, do I put the task in Seb or in Work? If I do the first, it puts the logic out of joint and cuts the step off from the rest of my workflow, but if I put it in Work I risk forgetting to bring it up with Seb when looking over what I need to talk to him about next.

Obviously in real life this is pretty trivial and Iím not yet so addled I canít just lift the phone right now and ask Seb. Iíll do it right after I finish posting. Even if I canít reach him until we rehearse our chops in a couple of days, Iíll probably remember, and anyway to make sure I can stick a note on my fake book. But, hey, notice how OF has slipped right out of the picture, when itís supposed to keep this kind of thing organized for me. If I was a whole lot busier than I am right now, or of this kind of situation was multiplied several times over...

You get the point. It makes no sense at all that I canít put the task in both contexts, Work and Seb, and just forget about it til the best time to deal with it. Why the heck should I have to leap though hoops trying to twist the system into shape to work, or inventing a new Seb subcontext to nest under Work and then having to remember to look at this one as well as Seb-on-his-own, or something equally outlandish.

Right, thatís it. Iím off for a pint. After I call Seb...

LizPf 2007-11-29 12:13 PM

[QUOTE=brab;26651]One thing I have not been able to fit in the current context system is the level of efforts a task require (which is one of the canonical questions in the "doing" part of The Book). Let's say I'm dead tired but I have one hour and I can do mindless things: do I need to go through every task that I have and evaluate if I have the effort to do it?

One solution could be to duplicate every context with the level of effort, but it seems too much. I can see where tagging would help here.[/QUOTE]

I think I wrote something similar in another thread ... great minds, brab?

I'm pretty much in the One Context camp, though I can see the use of a second-level tag of some sort for a very few things:

- the mental effort needed, or whether a call is free/charge (I need to call Steve, but only during my free minutes -- he's long distance and talks too much)

- If we use OF as a shopping list, when we can buy an item in several places (one bag pancake mix Errands>Northwest>Whole Foods, OR Errands>South>Hannaford)

I can also see how including a multiple Context ability can really gum up the system for anyone who doesn't use them very sparingly.

I don't have a solution for this, and I'm glad it's not my problem to solve :-)

--Liz

curt.clifton 2007-11-29 02:21 PM

[QUOTE=brab;26651]One thing I have not been able to fit in the current context system is the level of efforts a task require (which is one of the canonical questions in the "doing" part of The Book). Let's say I'm dead tired but I have one hour and I can do mindless things: do I need to go through every task that I have and evaluate if I have the effort to do it?
[/QUOTE]

Are you using the estimated time column? It is really about time required, but if you aren't using it for time you could use it for estimated amount of brainpower required. Hmm, this task may take 45 minutes, but it only requires 1 minute of thinking.

ksrhee 2007-11-29 02:31 PM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;26894]Are you using the estimated time column? It is really about time required, but if you aren't using it for time you could use it for estimated amount of brainpower required. Hmm, this task may take 45 minutes, but it only requires 1 minute of thinking.[/QUOTE]

In my case, I would use the estimated time for time required, but use flags to indicate efforts. Flag = high/important effort; No flag = med/low effort.

It's not as elegant as having its own system, but it allows you to at least eliminate one group of tasks.

curt.clifton 2007-11-29 02:36 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26697]Fair enough, but you wouldnít have to if you didnít want to use the feature, as been said so many times on the forum. As has also been said several times, no, I/we donít find it inelegant. Just the reverse, itís what would serve us best. And anyway, this would only happen if you had large numbers of your contexts open at one time, which is pretty inelegant anyway.[/QUOTE]

How on earth are you using OF if you aren't in multiple contexts at once? (That's a rhetorical question).

I think that this is the problem that most everybody here is talking past. Some folks are arguing that an action must be in all the possible contexts where one could do it, so that upon selecting a single context the action will show up. Others are saying that an action belongs in the one context where it is actionable, and if you don't have such a context then you need to refine your contexts. This viewpoint then relies on OF's ability to show multiple contexts at once.

I find great value in GTD forcing me to have the discipline to think things through during processing and planning time. That's what gives [I]me[/I] the mind-like-water feeling. Nothing slips through the cracks once I've established the habits. In Merlin Mann's interviews with David Allen, Allen talks a lot about the multiplicative effects of developing discipline in all the stages of GTD (capturing, processing, reviewing, doing, ...). He also talks about the benefits from evening getting better at just a couple of these. I suspect that the first idea resonates most with the single-context purists, while the second does so with the multiple-context advocates. At least I find that an intriguing way to think about the question.

curt.clifton 2007-11-29 02:43 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26874]Just to make this crystal clear, and at the risk of boring the socks of everyone with yet another example, hereís a real life situation that has just come up. I need to ask a friend, Seb, for some contact details. These are for someone I need to get in touch with for work reasons. Seb, however, has nothing to do with my work. Heís my best friend and we play jazz together, and will probably rehearse tomorrow. So, given that OF in its wisdom only allows me one context, do I put the task in Seb or in Work? If I do the first, it puts the logic out of joint and cuts the step off from the rest of my workflow, but if I put it in Work I risk forgetting to bring it up with Seb when looking over what I need to talk to him about next.[/QUOTE]

Wait a sec. Why would that task belong in a Work context? Contexts are entirely about the constraints on where you can do something. They have nothing to do with the project or area of responsibility related to the action. That's what Projects and Folders are for.

I was buying your argument. But now I wonder if there isn't really some confusion about what contexts are. Would you be willing to share your context list?

Journey 2007-11-29 02:59 PM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;26898]
I think that this is the problem that most everybody here is talking past. Some folks are arguing that an action must be in all the possible contexts where one could do it, so that upon selecting a single context the action will show up. Others are saying that an action belongs in the one context where it is actionable, and if you don't have such a context then you need to refine your contexts. This viewpoint then relies on OF's ability to show multiple contexts at once.[/QUOTE]

With multiple contexts my intent wouldn't be for an action to be in all of the possible contexts where one could do an activity. I would still use discipline in my choice of contexts.

"Get gas at Mobile station on the way to work" would probably fall into the general category of "Errand" even though I might have a place in mind to get the gas at.

Multiple contexts are useful to me if my contexts have been well thought out. Well thought out and disciplined though, to me, doesn't mean that every activity will always fit into one context.

mcoad 2007-11-29 04:54 PM

[QUOTE=LizPf;26877]I can also see how including a multiple Context ability can really gum up the system for anyone who doesn't use them very sparingly.
[/QUOTE]

I just love this logic. Liz, how many fonts do you have activated in your favourite word processing app: twenty, thirty, fifty? Well, I reckon thatís far too many and we should restrict you to, say, three. That should be enough for any reasonable user. I mean, we canít have you throwing just any old font all over your newsletter or thesis doc, can we? Nobody will understand you, you wonít understand yourself, youíll really gum up the system. And anyway you normally only use a couple, donít you, nice and sparing, so whatís the odds? So, for your own good, letís take the shears to your font archive...

How about that other app, OmniGraffle? All those squares and circles and arrows and weird shapes. ItĎs totally out of control, a person could put them anywhere, all over the screen, total mess, gum up everything. No way. For their own good, limit these people to five triangles, a couple of octagons and maybe half a dozen rectangles. That should be sparing enough for any reasonable user.

People arenít stupid. Or not that stupid. They can be trusted to use such features ďsparinglyď, really. And if they donít, then in this app theyíll be the first to know and have to pare down, just as they did long ago when they learnt not to be promiscuous with their fonts. No-one else will be affected. No-one will have to goggle at their doc with twenty fonts and ninety hexagons. Theyíll just end up with their contexts in a twist and will soon learn. And meanwhile, the rest of us, the sensible ones, will find that OF really, truly rocks.

mcoad 2007-11-29 06:00 PM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;26899]Wait a sec. Why would that task belong in a Work context? Contexts are entirely about the constraints on where you can do something. They have nothing to do with the project or area of responsibility related to the action. That's what Projects and Folders are for.

I was buying your argument. But now I wonder if there isn't really some confusion about what contexts are. Would you be willing to share your context list?[/QUOTE]

Iím still refining my contexts list, working out how they best suit me in practice, so the terminology may be misleading. I understand what youíre saying, but Iím a writer and Work at the moment basically means what I do at my desk, in my office workspace, as opposed to Library, Archive, Location, etc. Later, when a project requires it - and itís unusual that none do right now - Iíll add those and refine further. My working life isnít that complex, mostly on my own, a few projects on the go more or less simultaneously: a book ready for the publishers, a novel Iím planning, a TV series idea Iím researching, a play production Iím advising on, article ideas. What I need right now when I boot up my computer is to see presented in a single list what next needs doing while Iím at my desk for all the projects among these that Iím working on right now. Thatís why, for the moment, they are assigned to a context Iíve called Work (distinct from the folder theyíre all in, which is called Writing) so that they can appear together. This may not be usual for other users, and you may find it too heterogeneous, but for this particular moment in my daily workflow itís what I need and the Context mode is what allows me to do it. When this is done and I need to focus on one project, I go to Planning mode and do it there.

Whether this is absolutely orthodox GTD and whether I have my notion of contexts refined exactly as orthodoxy demands, really doesnít worry me. I find GTD helpful in imposing discipline, aiding ordering, etc, but Iím concerned - like most users, I suspect - to use it and OF as best it serves me, weeding out my own foibles if they are negative but not otherwise. Up to now OF is doing this superbly well, with the one exception of this frustrating business of single contexts (oh, and the lack of a time-line visualization view, as discussed in other threads, but thatís a lost cause, I fear). And I can see the rigid single context becoming an even greater problem when I have to add other working contexts. All this quite apart from the fact that I simply donít see any real argument in favour of it; this is just an opinion, I know, but it is infuriating when a feature that could help many is opposed by users for whom its inclusion wouldnít make a blind bit of difference if they chose not to use it.

But however I define my contexts - if, in this simplistic case, for example, I want to put my query to Seb in a more orthodox Phone context rather than Work - the same problem will arise. I appreciate your offer of help, but I donít think itís a matter of how Iím thinking of contexts.

Journey 2007-11-29 06:54 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26938]And I can see the rigid single context becoming an even greater problem when I have to add other working contexts. All this quite apart from the fact that I simply donít see any real argument in favour of it; this is just an opinion, I know, but it is infuriating when a feature that could help many is opposed by users for whom its inclusion wouldnít make a blind bit of difference if they chose not to use it.

But however I define my contexts - if, in this simplistic case, for example, I want to put my query to Seb in a more orthodox Phone context rather than Work - the same problem will arise. I appreciate your offer of help, but I donít think itís a matter of how Iím thinking of contexts.[/QUOTE]

Exactly -- for those who don't want or feel that they need multiple contexts, they can use one / action.

I enjoyed your post about fonts and shapes -- you are a skilled writer and very good at getting your point across.

OOO 2007-11-29 08:43 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;26919]Liz, how many fonts do you have activated in your favourite word processing app: twenty, thirty, fifty?[/QUOTE]

That reminds me, Apple really needs to remove that pointless "single font restriction". I just want to set my resume in both Times and Comic Sans simultaneously, because it looks good in both!

(sorry couldn't resist)

Journey 2007-11-29 09:37 PM

[QUOTE=OOO;26957]That reminds me, Apple really needs to remove that pointless "single font restriction". I just want to set my resume in both Times and Comic Sans simultaneously, because it looks good in both!

(sorry couldn't resist)[/QUOTE]

No no no ... the way things work using the SFI (single font / idea) methodology is that every idea can have its own font. Having perhaps a dozen fonts is perfectly OK as you don't try to apply more than one font to that idea (and why in the world would you need to do that anyway).

In addition, when you choose your font you must also stick to one font style for that idea. You can have plain or bold or italics but do not combine them.

This assumes that you have a hierarchy like the following to assign an idea to:

Arial
.... Arial Plain
.... Arial Bold
.... Arial Italic

Courier
.... Courier Plain
.... Courier Bold
.... Courier Italic

Gothic
.... Gothic Plain
.... Gothic Bold
.... Gothic Italic

Palatino
.... Palatino Plain
.... Palatino Bold
.... Palatino Italic

Times
.... Times Plain
.... Times Bold
.... Times Italic

You can only choose one line from all of the above.

Why would someone want to have something like:

Font
.... Arial
.... Courier
.... Gothic
.... Palatino
.... Times

Style:
.... Plain
.... Bold
.... Italic

And assign both a font and a style, or heaven forbid more than one font and more than one style to an idea. Nonsense.

To summarize: simply just don't apply two fonts to the same idea, and once you pick a font you may pick a style but only one style. No mixing plain with bold or italics.

If you were allowed to choose more than one font and style for an idea you will only confuse yourself, and if you are really disciplined one font / idea is the best way for you to do things anyway. All ideas are best expressed in that way.

(and DON'T even get me started on font size and font color !!!)

brab 2007-11-30 12:42 AM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;26894]Are you using the estimated time column? It is really about time required, but if you aren't using it for time you could use it for estimated amount of brainpower required. Hmm, this task may take 45 minutes, but it only requires 1 minute of thinking.[/QUOTE]
This is a good idea, but I'd rather keep this column for time required. Thanks for the suggestion.

mcoad 2007-11-30 04:54 AM

[QUOTE=OOO;26957]That reminds me, Apple really needs to remove that pointless "single font restriction". I just want to set my resume in both Times and Comic Sans simultaneously, because it looks good in both!

(sorry couldn't resist)[/QUOTE]

Yo! Appreciate the joke, but to be dour about it, the analogy is false. If you want to set different parts of your resume in two fonts, thereís nothing stopping you (except your hopes of getting the job). But if you mean you want to set every letter of the same chunk of text simultaneously in two fonts, the physical laws of the universe - bear with me folks -, and not Apple, wonít be having it. Or, rather, if you did manage it, youíd have invented a new hybrid font which wouldnít be either of the two originals.

The Great Context Issue is totally different. Here, in this corner of the multiverse, it is actually impossible to choose a single and multiple contexts, or anything else, simultaneously, in an OF field or anywhere else. At least it is where Iím sitting. A quantum physicist might take issue, but then quantum task management is a whole different jar of worms, I should imagine - and if all this is keeping the Omnifolks up at night... So what you say has nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is about having the option to choose - and because you need it, not because it looks good.

Wow, enjoyed that... thanks OOO.

[QUOTE=Journey;26942]
Exactly -- for those who don't want or feel that they need multiple contexts, they can use one / action.

I enjoyed your post about fonts and shapes -- you are a skilled writer and very good at getting your point across.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the kind words, Journey. These forums do get kind of addictive, donít they. But all to a good purpose...

curt.clifton 2007-11-30 09:04 AM

mcoad, thanks for clarifying your use of contexts. I wasn't trying to preach orthodoxy, just wanted to make sure there wasn't some confusion.

I'm enjoying the font analogy as well. I'm laughing to myself, because I actually think it would be a good idea if my word processing application presented a small well-chosen set of fonts that worked nicely together and hid the others. That would prevent me from fiddling with the fonts. Give me nice Optima headings and some Palatino goodness for the body text. I could use different templates to get other sets of well matched fonts. (This is mostly tongue in cheek, but I think the gist of my reaction probably reflects on why I'm fine with single contexts per action.)

I've enjoyed this thread. You've convinced me that multiple contexts per action would be a helpful feature. I doubt I would use it much personally, but there seem to be some use cases where it is the right approach.

joelande 2007-11-30 09:44 AM

Last night I dug out my copy of GTD and started reading it again.

I immediately thought of this thread when I read:

Page xii:
"And after twenty-plus years of developing and applying new methods for personal and organizational productivity, alongside years of rigorous exploration in the self-development arena, I can attest that there is no single, once-and-for-all solution."

mcoad 2007-11-30 09:57 AM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;27015]mcoad, thanks for clarifying your use of contexts. I wasn't trying to preach orthodoxy, just wanted to make sure there wasn't some confusion..[/QUOTE]

Thanks, Curt. I didnít take it as preaching. I was glad of the comments, as they made me think my use of the context through again, and I can see that from the name it would look a bit off-kilter. Iíve certainly learnt a lot from the forum, which I confess I was new to, even if the debate does gets a bit pointed now and again.

It has been a good thread, and by now pretty much everything has been said, I guess. Hereís hoping itís been useful for the Omnians, too. Some good cases have been made, I reckon, plenty of food for thought.

And - to go off topic a second - I agree with you about the font grouping - a really good idea, not at all tongue-in-cheek. To non-design ninjas, some gentle guidance like this would be really useful, Iíve often thought while battling with the font lists.

[QUOTE=joelande;27029]"And after twenty-plus years of developing and applying new methods for personal and organizational productivity, alongside years of rigorous exploration in the self-development arena, I can attest that there is no single, once-and-for-all solution."[/QUOTE]

Right on!

Cheers

Malcolm

OOO 2007-11-30 10:22 AM

Although I'm a devout "single contexter" (as well as a hardcore "software minimalist"), I do agree that there is nothing in GTD defines a context one way or another. In fact, I believe DA says that you can use NO contexts (i.e. a plain to-do list) if you don't have a lot of actions. And in the "GTD templates" that he sells (a set of cards that summarizes GTD), context is basically mentioned in half a sentence, along with the other criteria for determining what to do next. I suspect if you asked DA about multiple contexts he'd say something like "whatever works for you, just don't let your project management become another project itself". (I guess I'd fail this one because I DO have a bucket in OmniFocus called "OmniFocus feedback").

GTD is basically a set of principles, or an attitude, more than particular behaviors. BUT, we can't support all the different interpretations in one single program.

As for my earlier font reply, I'm no designer, but does anybody remember [URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_master_fonts"]Multiple master fonts[/URL]? Those DID let you combine multiple fonts on a single character, via interpolation. But it quietly died because 1) most designers didn't understand or see the need and 2) the UI was never really figured out.

mcoad 2007-11-30 10:34 AM

Thanks, OOO!! Good sense, good vibes... Could it be that weíre actually reaching a consensus here!

Cheers

Malcolm

PS I agree about not being able to include all possible interpretations in a single app, but thatís not what weíre talking about, after all. Merely one feature, of no significance for those who donít want to use it, and which, as you point it, isnít a matter of unbreakable doctrine anyway.

Journey 2007-11-30 11:07 AM

[QUOTE=mcoad;27044]Thanks, OOO!! Good sense, good vibes... Could it be that weíre actually reaching a consensus here![/QUOTE]

Yes, definitely good vibes. The discussion has been very good.

Since we all have good feelings now, let's do a group {{{ hugz }}} and sing Kumbaya :-)

(a little silliness doesn't hurt now and then)

All together now,

Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya .......

mcoad 2007-11-30 11:13 AM

Kumbayaaaaaaaa, my lord.......

Oh yeah...

curt.clifton 2007-11-30 01:50 PM

kumbaya.

(respectful silence to satisfy the minimum post length rule)

ksrhee 2007-11-30 02:28 PM

[QUOTE=OOO;27041]Although I'm a devout "single contexter" (as well as a hardcore "software minimalist"), I do agree that there is nothing in GTD defines a context one way or another. In fact, I believe DA says that you can use NO contexts (i.e. a plain to-do list) if you don't have a lot of actions. And in the "GTD templates" that he sells (a set of cards that summarizes GTD), context is basically mentioned in half a sentence, along with the other criteria for determining what to do next. I suspect if you asked DA about multiple contexts he'd say something like "whatever works for you, just don't let your project management become another project itself". (I guess I'd fail this one because I DO have a bucket in OmniFocus called "OmniFocus feedback").

[/QUOTE]

You are right. DA never comes out and states this, but he does infer this through the following passage:

"Over many years I have discovered that the best way to be reminded of an "as soon as I can" action is by the [B]particular[/B] context required for that actionó that is, either the tool or the location or the person needed to complete it. For instance, if the action requires a computer, it should go on an "At Computer" list. If your action demands that you be out in your car driving around (such as stopping by the bank or going to the hardware store), the "Errands" list would be the appropriate place to track it. If the next step is to talk about something face-to-face with your partner Emily, putting it into an "Emily" folder or list makes the most sense.", [Allen, David, Getting Things Done]

Journey 2007-12-01 12:02 AM

[QUOTE=ksrhee;27065]You are right. DA never comes out and states this, but he does infer this through the following passage:

"Over many years I have discovered that the best way to be reminded of an "as soon as I can" action is by the [B]particular[/B] context required for that actionó that is, either the tool or the location or the person needed to complete it. For instance, if the action requires a computer, it should go on an "At Computer" list. If your action demands that you be out in your car driving around (such as stopping by the bank or going to the hardware store), the "Errands" list would be the appropriate place to track it. If the next step is to talk about something face-to-face with your partner Emily, putting it into an "Emily" folder or list makes the most sense.", [Allen, David, Getting Things Done][/QUOTE]

The Getting Things Done methodology by DA as described in the book doesn't say how he would file things if it's done on the computer. DA has some kind of forum on his website for a monthly fee. I may sign up for it for a few months. It would be interesting to get his perspective on this.

Even so, the originator of a methodology has an opinion, and a user of the methodology could have an opinion that is just as valid.

I looked at the Palm PDA program Bonsai tonight and interestingly, it has a keyword column that can have multiple values. It's perfect for contexts. It even allows contexts to be in categories, so all my People contexts could go in a category, all my Place contexts could go in a category, etc.

mcoad 2007-12-01 07:55 AM

[QUOTE=ksrhee;27065]You are right. DA never comes out and states this, but he does infer this through the following passage:

"Over many years I have discovered that the best way to be reminded of an "as soon as I can" action is by the [B]particular[/B] context required for that actionó that is, either the tool or the location or the person needed to complete it. For instance, if the action requires a computer, it should go on an "At Computer" list. If your action demands that you be out in your car driving around (such as stopping by the bank or going to the hardware store), the "Errands" list would be the appropriate place to track it. If the next step is to talk about something face-to-face with your partner Emily, putting it into an "Emily" folder or list makes the most sense.", [Allen, David, Getting Things Done][/QUOTE]

But this just begs the question. Obviously itís right as far as it goes, but what about those many cases when there simply isnít a single particular context, but others that serve just as well and thereís no way of defining which is best and no way of knowing which you will be in first. What do you do - toss a coin? Spent valuable time wracking your brains to twist your system so you can force the task into one? Repeat the task in all the contexts and then have to remember to go back and mark them all as done? Risk forgetting the task because itís locked into another context than the one youíre in? This isnít the way to get things done. The answer is obvious: put it in the two or three appropriate contexts, and when you tick it off it is marked as done in all. What [I]is[/I] the problem with this? Itís the way several of the most used GTD apps work, and itís significant that DA never states otherwise, whatever implications you may see in this passage.

jasong 2007-12-01 10:33 AM

I believe the "problem" with multiple contexts comes down simply to what the understanding GTD appears to be. Part of that is that GTD is supposed to get you to "think" a certain way about how you approach your tasks, and one way it gets you to do that is to make you think about which context you need to accomplish a very physical action.

I certainly see the value of multiple contexts and there've been times when I wanted to stick an action into multiple contexts because I couldn't decide which one was best (or because a couple appeared equally useful).

Not having those multiple contexts forced me to either leave the item unprocessed (because I hadn't yet thought it out fully enough to act on it) or think about it some more, often breaking it down into additional actions which had very obvious (single) contexts.

I think much of the argument comes down to this approach. Yes, multiple contexts are extremely valuable, but they may lead to a breakdown in now some think about their actions. (Even if it's an option you must turn on, it's a temptation to many.)

I'd love to see how multiple contexts might affect how we process our stuff, and if it makes us more or less productive.

Journey 2007-12-01 11:40 AM

[QUOTE=jasong;27131]I believe the "problem" with multiple contexts comes down simply to what the understanding GTD appears to be. Part of that is that GTD is supposed to get you to "think" a certain way about how you approach your tasks, and one way it gets you to do that is to make you think about which context you need to accomplish a very physical action. [/QUOTE]

For a paper system one context / action makes sense. On paper, you would have to duplicate the action in order to put it into multiple contexts.

This problem does not exist on the computer. Putting something into multiple contexts isn't a case of having to duplicate the activity. It's simply selecting all the contexts into which the activity needs to fall.

As far as GTD "getting you to think a certain way about how you approach your tasks", yes -- the "thinking" involved is to identify the context(s). On paper, one context. On the computer, it could be multiple contexts. If I have an activity that falls naturally into more than one context (plenty of examples already provided), then I think in the GTD way and assign them that way making use of the computer to be able to have one activity and all its contexts.

Also, as far as "getting you to think", a big part of GTD is to unload something and also to think about it less. With multiple contexts, processing of activities is much easier because I don't have to think about (or remember) how I artificially need to impose my activities into a one-context scheme.

Most other task and outline programs allow some way to assign multiple values, whether they call it tags, keywords, or multi-valued column. In the case of this program, context would be one area where people may want that capability. If they don't, then they only need to assign one context.

I think some people think of context mode as just another way to sort and view their project activities. If a person wants single contexts / activity, they can have that. On the other hand, with multiple contexts, a person can go into context mode and be sure that any context they look at contains all of the activities that naturally fall there.

I think user mcoad (sorry if I missed your name) has expressed it best.

I think, if this is to be implemented, that this might be the best time to do it -- alpha stage. Changes later would confuse users, and require much more explanation about how to code things (esp. if the user-interface changes a bit for selecting contexts). A change now would make any user interface changes while this is in alpha, and the alpha-testers would be up to speed on how multiple contexts work, and when it goes to 1.0 there would be many alpha testers who would understand and aid in forums how multiple contexts work.

I think it would be important to have a user preference setting for single or multiple contexts, and default it to single. That reduces confusion for the new user.

If single contexts are implemented, after 1.0 there will be users who would want multiple contexts. So, instead of this "problem" going away, it will persist, and discussion of it will persist.

If multiple contexts are implemented, this will still be discussed, but more in terms not of the limitation of the program (single contexts) but in how the program offers the option of powerful multiple contexts _if_ one wants or needs to use that.

Anway, I have to go shovel snow. It sucks to live in Wisconsin during the winter !!! 23 degrees here -- I'm jealous of all you southerners.

mcoad 2007-12-01 11:50 AM

[QUOTE=jasong;27131]I think much of the argument comes down to this approach. Yes, multiple contexts are extremely valuable, but they may lead to a breakdown in now some think about their actions. (Even if it's an option you must turn on, it's a temptation to many.)

I'd love to see how multiple contexts might affect how we process our stuff, and if it makes us more or less productive.[/QUOTE]

I can tell you right away, in my case. They make me more productive.

But that aside, your post is fascinating, jasong, and I think youíve put your finger right on the jugular. OF, and GTD too, are tools to help us organize our lives, not some kind of quasi-religious discipline. Itís a fine line, maybe, but what I want is for them to help me get things done, practical things in my daily life, not force me into some kind of monastical rigour in which instead of doing things I have to be wracking my brains over whether there really isnít some other context that I havenít thought about, or not processing tasks because I canít think of a context, or slicing and dicing everything every which way to make it fit some scheme imposed on me by the great god, GTD. Thatís crazy. GTD, and other systems like it, are a a huge help and, yes, encourage discipline in planning. But thereís discipline and discipline, and when a simple, and pretty much common-sense, set of self-help precepts start sounding more like a cross between British public school and the Spanish Inquisition, things have gone way too far.

Donít get me wrong, Iím not accusing you of this and what you say is very interesting - and, hallelujah, youíre arguing for multiple contexts (oh, come to my arms...)! But a few of your terms, and many used by others, do sound a bit like it. Sometimes they conjure up a picture of GTD, and of OF, standing over us, wagging a long finger and a whip, saying ďMore, you louse, break it down more! Resist temptation! You know that context is there!Ē And all weíre talking about is who to phone when and what would come best before something else. Really, life is too short! Give me a couple of context alternatives to toss it into and, renegade and wimp that I am, Iím done and I can go smell the roses.

Cheers

Malcolm

PS Journey, hi! Come and join us down here, just hitting summer, the smell of jasmine and under the snow of the Andean peaks still there above. Best wishes from Chile. A truly international forum!

Journey 2007-12-01 01:37 PM

[QUOTE=mcoad;27139]
Cheers

Malcolm

PS Journey, hi! Come and join us down here, just hitting summer, the smell of jasmine and under the snow of the Andean peaks still there above. Best wishes from Chile. A truly international forum![/QUOTE]

Wow, Chile -- I'd love to join you down there -- I could get there, but where to stay is a limiting factor cost-wise. I've never been on a real vacation (and I'm 44). I have seasonal vacation in the winter time, called Seasonal Affective Disorder due to less light, and ideally I'd like to find a way to go to a different part of the U.S. (or better yet a different part of the world) during winter here.

That's a good reminder -- I should put on my thinking / creativity hat and come up with a solution. Texas, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand ...

I immersed myself in the Japanese language and in Japanese culture (even though I never went there) and became fairly good with conversational Japanese because I was a conversational partner for Japanese students coming to the U.S. I regret now though that I hadn't put that kind of effort into Spanish, which is much more practical. Hablo espanol solamente un poquito.

joelande 2007-12-02 01:04 PM

[QUOTE=Journey;27137]For a paper system one context / action makes sense. On paper, you would have to duplicate the action in order to put it into multiple contexts.

This problem does not exist on the computer. Putting something into multiple contexts isn't a case of having to duplicate the activity. It's simply selecting all the contexts into which the activity needs to fall.

As far as GTD "getting you to think a certain way about how you approach your tasks", yes -- the "thinking" involved is to identify the context(s). On paper, one context. On the computer, it could be multiple contexts. ...

Also, as far as "getting you to think", a big part of GTD is to unload something and also to think about it less. With multiple contexts, processing of activities is much easier because I don't have to think about (or remember) how I artificially need to impose my activities into a one-context scheme.[/QUOTE]
Very well said.

I have been re-reading DA's GTD book.

He certainly is not as hard-core as some of the posters here regarding contexts.

I could not find one place that said every action has to be assigned one and only one context. Or that you had to think about each action in such excruciating detail as to assign it its one and only minimal-physical requirement context.

Most of his examples relate to assigning a context to one context because he is teaching how a person [B]could[/B] implement the system with a low-tech, cheap, paper-based system if they wanted to.

On the other hand, he does mention more than once that it is OK to find out what works for you (as long as you stick to the core concepts).


[QUOTE=jasong;27131]I believe the "problem" with multiple contexts comes down simply to what the understanding GTD appears to be.[/QUOTE]
Or perhaps they don't understand [B]your[/B] GTD?

I wouldn't be so tightly indoctrinated...there is enough of that in the world today.

There seem to be some very smart people here, who clearly understand and have read GTD, and yet still see a benefit to tags (or multiple contexts). (And if you want to stick to doctrine, their interpretation after reading the book says that tags are OK.)

Better to talk about the features of teh software than trying to stake a claim in the ground regarding who's interpetation of GTD is the right and only one.

I really don't see why tags woudl be a problem...

If you don't want to use tags or multiple contexts, don't use 'em.

But don't take them away from the rest of us becasue you read the book better than the rest of us...

jasong 2007-12-02 02:45 PM

[quote]Originally Posted by me:
I believe the "problem" with multiple contexts comes down simply to what the understanding GTD appears to be.[/quote]

[QUOTE=joelande;27242]
Or perhaps they don't understand [B]your[/B] GTD?

I wouldn't be so tightly indoctrinated...there is enough of that in the world today.
[/quote]

Sorry to disappoint, but I wasn't talking about "my" GTD. Some people understand GTD to be single-contexts. I didn't state my opinion. I'm not "indoctrinated" into anything (except perhaps the Cult of Macintosh).

[QUOTE=joelande;27242]... And if you want to stick to doctrine.... stake a claim in the ground regarding who's interpetation of GTD is the right and only one.... don't take them away from the rest of us becasue you read the book better than the rest of us...[/QUOTE]

No need to get personal. I didn't say anything about sticking to doctrine, staking a claim or preventing multiple contexts. In fact, I quite clearly said I see the value for some:

[quote]I certainly see the value of multiple contexts and there've been times when I wanted to stick an action into multiple contexts because I couldn't decide which one was best (or because a couple appeared equally useful).[/quote]

But not for me (based on how I use GTD).

devn 2008-01-14 01:28 PM

I posted this in another thread, but I thought I'd drop it here, too.

Note that some of the steps below are extraneous or unnecessary, and I have marked them with a "^^", but for the purposes of demonstration I left my thought process in.

Create Multiple Contexts:
- create a folder "My New OmniFocus Feature" ^^
- create 2 sub-folders "@1", and "@2".
- create a project "Drink Milk" under "@1".
- give this project a task "Milk Cow".
- give this project a context "Barn".
- hold down option and drag "Drink Milk" to "@2", to copy the project and its task into our other sub-folder.

Now, I want to be be reminded of this when I'm at my barn, -or- in my field. Switch over to the context mode:

- make a new context "Multi-Context" ^^
- drag "Barn" and "Field" into "Multi-Context"
- go up to view, sort by context
- click "Multi-Context" to view all of your muti-context actions under it
- voila.

-OR-
You could do something like this if you have a common couple of contexts... Note that this will only work with two contexts, but check it out:

- go into preferences and under "Project and Context Names", make sure "Show full hierarchy, using separator" is checked
- now, create a project "Drink Milk"
-- give it a task "Milk Cow"
- switch over to context view
- create a context "Barn"
-- create a sub-contexts "Field" (where else can you milk a cow?)
- switch back to your planning view and give your "Milk Cow" task the context "Barn : Field"
- voila.

-OR-
I want to remember to milk my cow when I'm at my house, in the field, or in the barn.

- create a project "Drink Milk"
- give it a task "Milk Cow"
- give the task the context: "Barn, Field, House"

I want to remember to slaughter my pig only when I'm in the barn, or the field.

- create a project "Eat Pork"
-- give it a task "Slaughter Pig"
-- give it a context "Barn, Field"
-- give the project another task "Cook Pork"
-- give it a context "House"

- now search "Barn"
- search "Field"
- search "House"
- voila.

If you want to be clean about it, go over to context and drop your multi-contexts into an overarching context to manage them more efficiently.

Are these perfect solutions? No.

I will say this: I don't think multiple contexts are a good idea. It blurs lines between where work is supposed to occur, where you expect work to occur. In a word, it's "dirty".

If you want multiple contexts, then I think you should just be putting those tasks into an "Ambiguous" context, but that's just me...

Cheers,
Devin

patp 2008-01-14 02:21 PM

I'm a little confused.. is the hesitation based on how to make it work or whether it is part of GTD?

As far as how to make it work, it sounds pretty straightforward:

You just have to make the context choice a list box instead of a drop-down box. This way, you could select multiple contexts while only having one action entry exist on the project side of things.

If it's a problem of deciding whether this stays true to GTD, then I'm not sure what to think on that side of things. I imagine a purist could stick to just the one context for each action but as some have pointed out, some actions do apply in multiple contexts. It's just a matter of making sure that if it is checked off in one context, it applies to all (this shouldn't be a problem if everything is being pulled from a database which I believe it is).

curt.clifton 2008-01-14 06:30 PM

patp,

Selecting multiple contexts is easy. Displaying an action in Context view that belongs to multiple contexts is a bit harder. For example, should it show up multiple times when grouping by context? That's covered in detail in the thread.

I think the argument against multiple contexts is essentially that they are an attractive nuisance. They invite you to fiddle with your system rather than doing work. (Please note that I don't necessarily agree with that argument, but I see where it's coming from.)

mcoad 2008-01-15 04:44 AM

[QUOTE=curt.clifton;31217]patp,

I think the argument against multiple contexts is essentially that they are an attractive nuisance. They invite you to fiddle with your system rather than doing work. (Please note that I don't necessarily agree with that argument, but I see where it's coming from.)[/QUOTE]

That does appear to be the reason. But itís pure dogma and for many people plain wrong. One personís attractive nuisance is anotherís essential tool. For me wasting time wracking my brains trying to force a task into a single context when it clearly could be carried out equally well in more than one is the very definition of ďfiddling with your system rather than doing work.Ē As joelande eloquently points put, the guru himself, David Allen, doesnít insist on single contexts. If someone wants to adopt this rigid method, well and good. But why should the rest of us be forced into it? Say again - pure dogma.

curt.clifton 2008-01-16 07:06 PM

This is a thoroughly dead horse. Continued floggings of such equine are why I'm on the verge of just abandoning the forums altogether.

mcoad 2008-01-17 04:31 AM

I sympathize - though I was just replying to yours. Everything that could be said has been, I agree, ad infinitum. Speaking for the flexible school, here’s just hoping we’ve been heard up in the decision zone...

Best

Malcolm

douglas 2008-01-17 10:01 PM

2 cents
 
I'm new to omniFocus (but not omniApps) and to GTD (which to be honest kind of sounded like a self-help/pyramid scheme before looking into it ó actually looks quite useful). I've also always used the low-tech pen and paper approach myself but been looking for an enlightened approach.

I was a bit confused at first with the whole context thing in trying to decide how best to use it. I definitely can see both sides of the argument (single vs. multiple contexts). But in trying to find a good working solution given the way the program is currently designed (e.g. 1 context) I decided to think about contexts more as the 'mode that I will likely be in when doing said activity' rather than the 'device' or 'location' or 'person' that I will be using/at/with/etc.

Here is a good example. I created a context called "office:bookkeeping". One could argue (and I'm sure you will) that bookkeeping should be a project (and it is also btw), but I would prefer to keep some bookkeeping activities related directly to the client/project (e.g. 'send invoice'). So now when I'm in 'office/work/bookkeeping' mode I've got all my action items available. This works much better that trying to decide the device or location or "essential item" to get the task done which is really (or mostly) irrelevant. There is some overlap such as the context "phone" Ė but I think of it more like 'calling/feel like talking/happen to have a phone (or skype)' mode rather than bound to the device itself. Thinking this way got around the feeling that I needed more than one context.

I'm not even going to get into the people contexts... seems like a crazy approach given all the people that I deal with. Good candidate for 'search'. To be honest I'm looking for a solution that will make sense using one context if possible. I don't want to start messing around with multiple context/hyperlinked/cross referenced everything. And I'd rather get things done than fiddle with tagging.

I'm going to give it a shot with the whole one context approach and see if it works. I'm curious if shifting the meaning/way of thinking of 'context' to 'mode' makes a difference for anyone. Or if anyone has any other strategies to make the 1 context work well. I'm all for simplicity. Probably very unGTD of me but I could care less.

I guess I'm in the one context camp for the time being.

btw - before I get attacked - I don't really care if its an option. I'm just saying that I'm glad that I haven't had the option up to this point. I think that I would have made more of a mess of the problem given the opportunity. And as a result I would be spending a lot more time with this than I should be. On the other side I also don't have any problem with a software designer taking a stand and deciding to limit options for the sake of simplicity.

kidbizslick 2008-01-17 11:05 PM

Hey All, I only read the first few posts in this thread, and then to see what was eventually the present M.O., and skipped down to the end to read the last few posts. Just thought I'd share a quick tid-bit.
As it appears someone must have already written (based on the fact that I finally did see someone mentioning the GTD system's emphasis on contexts), that's exactly what I wanted to share upon first checking out this particular thread... GTD has helped me, particularly [I][U]because of[/U][/I] contexts. My anxiety comes from never feeling like my time is mine, so I ultimately feel guilty for having some spare time. So, kind of like with money, I used to always give it all away before putting any aside for myself. I do the same w/ my time. NOW, I can actually assign a context (ONE context) to an item. Then, I know I can stop worrying about what *can't* be done--NOW, thus, freeing me up to either do another item in my list, or, just friggin' relax... finally.
To be clear, I certainly would not want to alienate anybody, because a mantra of mine is, "Live and let live". Thus, if anyone else's system includes multiple tagging and / or contexts, then that's okay, but because OF seems to want to utilize and / or target the GTD demographic, this seems logical to me that that's why they have NOT provided for multiple contexts. Because THAT'S the whole point of GTD, "stress-free" productivity. For me, while a more database oriented app which uses / provides for cross referencing... that's specifically what I personally, am trying to avoid. I do have apps which do this, and again, just for me personally, that ADDs to my anxiety, not detracts from it. GTD, as implemented within David Allen's book, helps me to do just that... not feel guilty because I finally have some time to myself to do whatever the hell it is I'd like to at that moment. Multiple contexts would defeat (again, FOR ME) the whole purpose. This does NOT mean I think that the folks who want that feature are wrong or bad or mutants of some kind, it just doesn't work for me, for these particular purposes. Finally, if they DO implement this feature / option within OF, I hope it's one that I can NOT have to even see while IN contexts. Sorry if this sounded like a rant.

mcoad 2008-01-18 05:23 AM

Douglas and kidbizslick both make good points. They have methods which work for them and that’s great. Most of the time one context is fine. I’ll grant, too, that trying to fix on a single context can be clarifying in the GTD sense. But it’s horses for courses in the end. In my experience and that of many others, it’s just blindingly obvious that sometimes there is more than one context and that accepting this increases efficiency rather than confusing matters. It ensures the task actually gets done rather than being overlooked at the most opportune time. In such cases it’s having to force a thing into a single context that wastes time and screws up GTD - for many of us a real weakness of OF. So, the obvious answer: make both possible, and those that prefer to work always with one can just ignore the alternative.

mcoad 2008-01-18 05:42 AM

Just a quick addition. The point we in the flexible party are making is not that you should sit down with every task and work out all the possible contexts in which it could be achieved. Obviously that way madness lies and anyone looking to organize their time better with a tool like OF should be advised strongly against any such temptation. It’s just that some tasks, sometimes many, sometimes just a few, will be doable in more than one context, and it may sometimes be truly impossible to choose one over another. In the interests of getting them done opportunely such a tool needs to take this into account.

yucca 2008-01-18 09:35 AM

First, I am in the context tagging camp. However, we have to use the tool we have (a damn fine one I might add!); and will summarize a workaround that was either mentioned earlier or in another thread for anyone who has skippped through most of the posts in this thread.

While not perfect, a context hierarchy can help with many (most?) of the situations where you really want context tagging. I'll bet most of us have work and home contexts. You can cheat your way to a bit of tagging by treating your top level contexts as types of activities - rather then treating them as locations. Then include any location specific sub-contexts at a lower level.

For example, I can pursue "work:anywhere" context tasks at home (or at the coffee shop), but I can't tackle "work:office" at those locations.


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