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Originally Posted by slinberg View Post
I manage a few networks on hardware VPNs, and if I need to (for example) reconfigure a specific machine, I can only do it from an office where I can access the VPN.
So it sounds like you want a VPN context, which you would select any time the VPN is accessible.

There are three of those locations/contexts.
Do you mean there are three different VPNs, or that there are three physical places where you might be able to access the VPN?

this quickly becomes an enormous matrix if I need to define "supercontexts" of all of the possible context combinations in which I might be able to do things.
Aha, I think I see the problem. This is not how contexts are intended to be used. You don't predefine all the possible combination of available resources per context. Instead, when you're ready to do work, you select all the contexts available to you at that time (use cmd-click to select multiple contexts simultaneously).

For example, you might have a VPN context (for things that require access to the VPN, wherever you are physically), a Home context (for things that require being physically home, as opposed to some other physical location, like replacing a lightbulb), an Office context (where you must physically be at the office, like retrieving something from your file cabinet), maybe a "In the Car" context, "Phone", etc.

Let's say you can access the VPN from either Home or Office, but not from the car. When you go to the office, select all the contexts that apply: Office, VPN, Phone, etc.

The issue is that contexts need not be mutually exclusive. You are often in multiple contexts at once -- you can be near a telephone in many physical places. GTD is all about seeing what you can do right now, wherever you are. If you have a list of phone calls, you can make them anywhere you have access to a phone: at home, in your office, in a hotel room, etc. Thus "Phone" is often a useful context, to be selected in conjunction with other applicable contexts (e.g., office, online, etc.)

If there are other ways to achieve this without multiple contexts, I'm open to ideas, but I do need to be able to select a single context and see everything I could be doing in that context.
You might want to read (or re-read) the book -- this is pretty much opposed to Allen's whole notion of "Context". He uses it in a fairly specific way, and OF's implementation is based on that. It doesn't necessarily mean "physical place" and it doesn't mean "my present mind-set" -- it's more along the lines of "what is available to me right now?".

To me, there's meaning in the association of a task with a context, so picking one single context from a number of candidates also infers that the task is less meaningful or important in the contexts I don't choose to put it in,
Again, I think you may be missing the point of "Contexts" (in the GTD sense) here. They're not intended to capture any notion of priority -- they're simply practical divisions of what you can do given your current "context".

What Allen teaches is that priorities change so fluidly and quickly, that you should look over your next actions in your present contexts and pick the one to work on next -- prioritize at the moment. The weekly review is used to make sure things don't fall through the cracks as a result.

As an example, I have a "Phone" and "Office" context. Both are selected when I'm in the office. My "Phone" context does list some non-work-related tasks. While that may incline me to consider them less "important" when I'm at the office, part of the GTD methodology is organizing your whole life -- sometimes those non-work-related calls are actually more important than work-related tasks (like that call you've been putting off that actually needs to happen today). Or sometimes you'll find yourself with 5 minutes before your next meeting, and all of your work-related tasks would take longer than that, but you can knock that one personal call off your list in under 5 minutes.

GTD has a lot to say about priorities and their pitfalls.