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NEED assign to multiple Contexts Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
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.
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 Things 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...
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".
Originally Posted by OOO View Post
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".
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.
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.
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 my mind works - either in the planning or context mode. Adding the option 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?
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 Traveling with Network 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.)

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.

Last edited by brianogilvie; 2007-11-25 at 06:25 AM.. Reason: responding to Curt's post, which appeared after I started composing.
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.
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.

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