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One of the things that has disappointed me through the years on this forum is the lack of significant discussion of using OmniFocus in a non-GTD manner.

I've tried to adapt my workflow to approximate GTD principles, but in some major ways it just doesn't work.

My general work has no need for GTD or OmniFocus. I sit down in front of a workstation and my days work flows in on a worklist that I do. I don't have choice or flexibility in it. It is the rest of the day that is mine. I do have some significant work and responsibility outside of that core work that, for the most part, is unrelated to my core work. I sit on a variety of committees and boards of other organizations that have work associated with them, some of which I chair and direct. There are a few administrative activities I have at work, but they are pretty minimal, at least as they relate to what would fit in OF.

For me, the major questions I have related to task accomplishment is not the traditional GTD "what can I do next at this moment?", but rather "is there something I need to be doing now rather than watching TV, going for a walk, reading a book, etc.?" Or even more importantly, "is there something that I need to alter my plans or schedule to find time to work on soon?"

I've been using OF since it was first released on the Mac, and added the iPhone and iPad versions as they came out. I've read all the standard books and papers on it and GTD. I've religiously followed these forums. In doing so I've learned a lot and have modified my set up considerably.

I realize that if I was starting from scratch right now I would not spend the money on OF. It is overkill for my needs. But since I have it I use it, as it is far better than the other stuff that is out there. There are just some nice features that the others lack that make using OF nice.

For me the traditional concept of contexts is useless. As I said I don't ever find myself in the situation of asking myself "what do I do next?" in a certain place or with certain tools. I've gone through a whole variety of different alternative context structures trying to find something that I actually use, without success. Project view is more important to me. Review is very helpful and important, and is probably the key advantage to using OF for me, as my biggest need is trying to keep track of the big picture of what is coming in the next few weeks or months that I need to be working on or thinking about. And my primary perspective has become "Due or Flagged". The Forecast mode on the iPad that everyone loves is of little use as only a small percentage of my tasks have due dates and there is no way to add flagged tasks into the Forecast display. Hence the "Due or Flagged" perspective.

Maybe those of us who use OF but don't adhere to the strict GTD workflow are very few in number and don't visit these forums much. But if there are such people it would be nice if there was a exchange of ideas and suggestions among them.
I had to look at the username to determine whether this was something I wrote ;-)

Contexts are largely useless to me as well. I have a single "leviathan" context that has 90% of my work tasks. Every effort to refactor my contexts comes up with something contrived and I end up reverting to my one big "Office" context.

And there are huge problems with project mode, like the fact that about 80% of the filters (Due, or "due or flagged") simply don't work. I frankly HATE context mode in OmniFocus, because you can't see groupings, you can't rearrange tasks, you can't move them around, ... If OF weren't such a flexible and scalable solution, I would have left it years ago.

Anyway, I guess it depends on the raison d'Ítre for OmniFocus. Is it a general purpose task-management tool (in which, it mostly fails IMO) or is it a GTD tool? I think it's the latter, which to an extent is OK, as software with a purpose is better than software with no purpose. It just may not be the right tool for me. If Omni wants to make a very GTD focused tool, there's no doubt there's a market of David Allen followers to support it... I just may not be among them. My current favorite alternative is "The Hit List" which syncs better (when it's working) and does a lot of other things better... I'm just sorta concerned about the future of the product, whereas the Omni Group has a much more proven and communicative track record.
I agree with you both. This is maddening to me. The concept of a single context is the most flawed construct of GTD. I would rather eliminate the name context and replace it with category and allow the assignment of three categories per task... Since tags are out of the question.
Take a look at this suggestion:

Maybe it will give you some ideas.
Contexts frankly don't work for me. I consider them "artificial." You really HAVE to use contexts to use OmniFocus effectively.

I've tried context as locations (which doesn't work). I don't want to do contexts as "effort levels."

I could do contexts-as-project-names so I can see my projects when I'm in context mode (yes, I can "group by" in the actions list but there are issues).

Context mode is a total usability s**t sandwich for me. Again I'd like to never use it but the unfortunate reality is that OmniFocus forces it on you, because many of the view options ONLY WORK in context model. Oh, and the fact that project-mode perspectives don't work on the iOS versions of the product :-P
Originally Posted by GeorgeV View Post
I agree with you both. This is maddening to me. The concept of a single context is the most flawed construct of GTD. I would rather eliminate the name context and replace it with category and allow the assignment of three categories per task... Since tags are out of the question.
I wouldn't limit it to Three contexts, there are a veritable feast of possible contexts: people, places, tools, energy levels, times.

these could be OR (anyone one of the contexts would allow you to fulfill it) such as, any one of three people could help you complete a task, of a pserons you need to speak to would be in a certain location

or they could be AND (you need all contexts to be true) for example, the only way to pay your staff is to have your bank login token, Internet access, and a second payee (person) to complete the task.

I've long requested metatags which would allow you to set types of data and their values (Place:Home) in Ominfocus, but I doubt many people feel the same and have requested it.
I was using GTD (poorly) after reading The Book so I had some inkling of what a Context was meant to represent before I started using OmniFocus. But I remember being as confused as hell about what a Perspective was.

I have a suspicion that these days more and more people are coming to OmniFocus without any clear idea of what GTD is at all, but they will have used (and outgrown) some other task manager or TODO app - even if its just some crappy toy built in to their phone.

People who've taken this path will probably have an instinctive understanding of Projects (task lists) and be expecting some variant of a tagging scheme - if only because tagging is becoming a common feature of much task/note/photo management software these days. This is common currency now.

What they find instead are a ton of new concepts - Contexts, Perspectives, Focussing, Parallel/Sequential groups, next actions, inspectors and more modes than they'd ever thought possible - all bound up in an initially terrifying user interface that does inexplicable things to the uninitiated.

(I ask you, if a cat sat on a new users keyboard when OmniFocus was running, how long would it take them to undo what happened?)

Though these concepts are undoubtedly powerful and fully consistent with the vision of GTD, they do require that many users abandon their ingrained and often cherished practices in return for what may seem to them like questionable rewards.

It seems to me that OmniFocus is being pulled in two different directions by two large sections of the user base: the old guard GTD Purists and the more recent pragmatists (which is where all the new sales are coming from after all).

The endless Tagging vs Contexts debate is emblematic of this.

It's going to take some nifty footwork from Omni to keep both camps happy.

Last edited by psidnell; 2012-01-12 at 06:24 PM..
I am a logical person for the most part. I cannot for the life of me see why there can't be a hybrid context/tag scheme that will make everybody happy. I think either three contexts per item or 2-3 tags will make 98% of all members of both schools of thought happy. The settings section of OF for iPad for example is very sparse. There is plenty of room on the screen for a setting to enable / disable these features :)
Let's say I have an action with 3 contexts assigned. What does context mode view look like?
I should have mentioned that I was talking about the iPad specifically, I now realize that this would have to work equally on all three platforms. I have never used the Mac version so I am sorry if I am missing something obvious to those who do.

Well, without thinking about this as deeply as the developers would have to, I would think that the views would be the same. The content of the views would show more. An action with three contexts would show up under each context. I suppose this would be at odds if those contexts were also tied to locations.


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