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-   -   Why OmniFocus v1 didn't support multiple contexts per action (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=28176)

Brian 2013-02-12 12:03 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120339]But, when I am sitting with Susan to review the finances and get a signature on an upcoming project I can also ask her about the expense report. But, I can also email her, or include the questions in the expense report, if I haven't heard back from her by the time I need to file the expense report. There may also be somebody else that could answer the same question, but Susan has the ultimate authority. I need to get the questions answered before submitting the report, or highlight in the submission so they could be approved or declined as line items and not have the whole report rejected and have to wait for the next submission window.[/QUOTE]

This sounds much like the "I need to ask my boss" example on the first page. Assign the relevant actions to Susan's context, and rather than punt the decision to call or email her, decide when capturing the action. Put that information in the action title, so you know what you decided when you revisit this in "doing stuff" mode.

whpalmer4 2013-02-12 12:49 PM

[QUOTE=Brian;120345]This seems similar to the "I need to show Cindy a machine in a certain place" example on the first page - if the action can't happen without the person, we'd recommend that it go in the person's context. Check that context every time you see/meet them, and you'll be able to check it off when you're in the right location.[/QUOTE]
And when you review your projects (you do review them, right?), you'll see that you haven't gotten around to showing that machine to Cindy, and you'll respond to that discover by scheduling an appointment with Cindy to look at the machine in that place.

pjb 2013-02-12 02:33 PM

I agree with achuri and the later comments about metadata. One example: there are lots of task I cannot do if the temperature outside is too low; if I had a tag/flag for "warm enough to varnish" it would make it easy to find/enable/hold a bunch of tasks to keep the deck cleared/full of tasks that could actually not/be done at that time in their given contexts. Work around is to use the comment section but that is just messy. Multiple contexts is an answer, but metadata is more flexible.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-20 03:17 AM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;120297]Which situations are those?[/QUOTE]

GTD's view of contexts would have applied to me back in the early 90's when I reported into a single boss, but not now and I don't think I'm alone.

Related to knowledge workers:
The fact is that lots of knowledge workers now have smart phones or Tablets or Laptops with them most of the time. Very few people in these kind of positions report into a single person anymore and a single context does not cater for these situations in my opinion. if you have a phone and internet access most of the time, this leads to massive contexts which are overwhelming and counterproductive.

This is why multi context with things like Energy, Location and Priorities (even down to Covey's Quadrant of 1 = Important and Urgent, 2 = Important, 3 = urgent and 4 = Other) would allow these Leviathan (pinching someone else's word) contexts to be broken down into far more meaningful lists.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-20 03:27 AM

[QUOTE=wilsonng;120286]There is a an entry field for estimated time that you can enter.
Some people have also adapted the estimated time field for duration.[/QUOTE]

Not on the iPad though and that's where I spend most of my time.

wilsonng 2013-02-21 02:18 AM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120658]GTD's view of contexts would have applied to me back in the early 90's when I reported into a single boss, but not now and I don't think I'm alone.

Related to knowledge workers:
The fact is that lots of knowledge workers now have smart phones or Tablets or Laptops with them most of the time. Very few people in these kind of positions report into a single person anymore and a single context does not cater for these situations in my opinion. if you have a phone and internet access most of the time, this leads to massive contexts which are overwhelming and counterproductive.

This is why multi context with things like Energy, Location and Priorities (even down to Covey's Quadrant of 1 = Important and Urgent, 2 = Important, 3 = urgent and 4 = Other) would allow these Leviathan (pinching someone else's word) contexts to be broken down into far more meaningful lists.[/QUOTE]

I've been able to incorporate my own version of Covey's quadrants in a different way.

Anything important but not in urgent will be flagged. I renamed my flagged perspective as "important_not urgent". I can see all my important and urgent tasks/projects in this perspective.

Anything that has a due date will be revealed in a custom perspective called "important_urgent". This shows all available tasks that are due soon. Unfortunately, this also shows the "not important but urgent" stuff as well. What may be important and urgent to someone else may not be important and urgent to me.

Then my "not important_not urgent" are shown in the Someday/Maybe. These are projects that are on hold. I don't really have the need to keep all my projects in active mode. Just a small handful. This is the equivalence of the Three Big Rocks model. I just flag three projects (sometimes up to but never more than five).


Important is such a mythological label in the productivity world. What may be important to you may not be important to someone else. What was important yesterday may no longer be important today or even in a few day's time. Having to tag every task as "important" or "not important" on a day-to-day basis would be difficult and time-consuming to manage. The importance label shifts so freely from day to day or even hour to hour. I've basically given up on wanting to label important because everything seems important but it may or may not be depending on one's perspective at any given time.

If it's not important and not urgent, it's placed in Someday/Maybe with the on hold status. I know I'll get around to either activating it, deleting it, or delegating it to someone else.


I have been toying around with putting an asterisk (*) in front of the project name and the tasks to indicate an important status. That might work for some folks.



The Location "tag" can be used on the iPhone or iPad. Just set a context to the current location. Whenever you are in the neighborhood, it'll show you what is available in your current location.

Energy "tags" is something I don't really worry about. I can already look at a perspective and determine "yeah, I don't really feel like doing my taxes right now. But I do see another easier low energy task I can do." I don't need a tag to determine whether something is easy to do or not. I'll instinctually know. I don't even bother with energy tags. I can put a label at the end of a task if i wanted to...

Watch TV show @low_energy
Work on my 1040 taxes @high_energy

But here is another link on the tags vs contexts situation. The comments sections has an interesting debate between tags vs contexts.

[url]http://www.usingomnifocus.com/2011/08/contexts-vs-tags-2/[/url]


I know that people would love tags to help generate multiple contexts. But this can lead to an over-abundance of contexts and just drags your system down even further. Here is an article that talks about simplifying your contexts.

[url]http://www.43folders.com/2006/07/31/simplify-contexts[/url]

I'd think that adding multiple contexts may make life more complicated than it needs to be. We sometimes make our life sound more complex than it really is. Sure, you'll feel "liberated" at being able to have multiple contexts assigned to a task but sometimes too much of a good thing is not good for you.



Consider this article about what really makes a context real or "fake"

[url]http://www.evomend.net/en/what-not-gtd-context[/url]

Magd36 2013-02-21 02:48 AM

Okay I'm new to this and I'm starting to think about how I'm going to get OF working for me.

I'm an IPad and IPhone user only so any Mac features don't have any relevance to me.

Contexts seem central to things and the discussions on here are proving very helpful.

My take on this is that implementing sub-contexts is simply a way of implementing tags through de-normalising the tags into contexts due to only being allowed to attach one context to an action.

If this is correct the real debate is around whether tags/sub-contexts are needed.

I can't think of how I can get things to work without out at least sub-contexts which leads me to think that tags must be necessary for me.

Does this make sense or am I missing something in my logic?

nicoledb 2013-02-21 03:05 AM

But OF does support sub-contexts, also on the iPad/iPhone. So I'm not sure what you're getting at?

Magd36 2013-02-21 07:29 AM

[QUOTE=nicoledb;120678]But OF does support sub-contexts, also on the iPad/iPhone. So I'm not sure what you're getting at?[/QUOTE]

I'm not really getting at anything.

The main reason for my post was (selfishly) to confirm my understanding is correct i.e. to see if anyone would see a flaw in the logic, and if there is then explain what it is and correct my understanding (i.e. improve me!!).

I'm new to this and I'm trying to make sure I'm not missing out on anything useful.

I guess if I'm 'getting' at anything my point is that the thread title is about why OF doesn't support multiple contexts per action yet acknowledges the need to do so and facilitates this (relatively inefficiently compared to tagging) through sub-contexts.

As I say I don't have a problem with the sub-contexts implementation and still think OF is superb.

Brian 2013-02-21 11:43 AM

[QUOTE=Magd36;120677]My take on this is that implementing sub-contexts is simply a way of implementing tags through de-normalising the tags into contexts due to only being allowed to attach one context to an action.[/QUOTE]

I don't think I'd agree. In my mind, what differentiates a context hierarchy from a tagging system is the implied relationships between the parent and children.

For example - a big part of my context system involves essentially mirroring Omni's org chart. There's a "Marketing" parent context, for example, with contexts for the folks that work in that department filed underneath. Questions for a specific person go in their context; questions for the entire department (or which anyone in that department can answer) go in the parent one.

I would never file an action in more than one of those contexts, though. There are functional reasons why one place or the other would be the best place to file whatever action I'm considering.

In most of the tagging requests that we've seen over the years, there's often little to no thematic relationship between the ones being requested. You'll see person-related ones, time-related ones, and place- or energy-related ones all attached to the same action and used simultaneously. For every N tags assigned to an action, folks want to see that action simultaneously on N lists, and those lists may 'mean' very different things.

My org chart example isn't the only way to structure a context tree, of course. Some folks structure theirs around the various "headspaces" they need to occupy. Others build theirs around time of day or their energy level. What works best is different from person to person.

Once you figure out which theme works best for you, though, you can build a context tree to support it - and in our experience, once you know what the best theme is, the other stuff is just cluttering up your workflow and distracting you. I think that last part is what's so hard for folks used to tagging systems to understand.

The simplicity of a single-theme approach is actually a [I]feature[/I]; it's not a shortcoming that needs to be addressed or worked around.


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