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Things user wants to move to OmniFocus but struggles with single contexts. Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Case View Post
Actually, you've already mentioned one more case where I could see wanting multiple tags, and that's where I actually have separate actions which could accomplish the same end: for example, I can either talk with Bob by meeting with him at the office or by calling him on the telephone.
I have another example that might be a better example of why I'd like to be able to set more than one context to an action.

EXAMPLE 1
---------------
Let's say I have an action "Buy OmniFocus" and it's context is @online.

I have access to the internet from home and at work. I COULD create an @online context independent of my @Work and @Home contexts, but the need for discrete versions of @online can also be made, thusly:

-- "Catch up with facebook friends" @work/online is a no-no.
-- "Read super secret work document" @home/online won't work because I don't have vpn

In the case of "Buy OmniFocus", it's appropriate and suitable to set it's context to either/both "@work/online" or "@home/online". If I could set it to both, I'd be reminded to buy it when I was both at home and at work.

EXAMPLE 2
---------------
"Buy milk"
@grocery store
@gas station
@walmart
 
While Ken's position makes sense, to me it would be better to be able to assign multiple contexts to a single action.

One example that is very common in my GTD implementation is to assign @waiting to tasks waiting for a reply. However, then when I have Joe on the phone, and pull up his context, I will miss the fact that I am waiting for Joe to reply to my earlier inquiry.

On the other hand, if I assign the task to @joe, it is not possible for me to check in on all of my waiting tasks during my weekly review.

If I could assign @waiting and @joe to a single action, my bases would be covered. This is certainly better than creating a separate task for each, as they are truly the same task, not different.

One very important asset we already have in OF is sub contexts. Doesn't handle the issue being discussed here, but I just wanted to mention it because this is a unique feature of OF contexts as far as I know.

Tags vs. multiple contexts is a little tricky for me. I believe that I would prefer taking OF contexts to the next level rather than introduce an additional feature to work around the lack of multiple contexts. John

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Case View Post
It sounds like this task actually has two separate actions which you could complete independently, one which you would do in the @Bob context and another which you would do in the @Hardwarestore context. In OmniFocus, you would model this by breaking down the task into those two subtasks ("Talk with Bob about buying hardware item xyz @Bob" and "Buy hardware item xyz @Hardwarestore").

In OmniFocus, you can decide whether you need to talk with Bob before buying the item (by making the group sequential), or after, or both (by putting in two Bob actions), or neither (by making the group parallel). Or you could even check in with Bob every week until the entire project is done (by making the Bob action repeating). None of this flexibility or clarity is possible unless you actually break down the task into its individual actions.

I suspect that might be one reason that Things needs multiple tags: when you can't break down your work into individual actions (since Things has no support for subtasks), you end up with multi-step tasks which you need to be reminded of in multiple contexts.

Does that make sense? Or am I missing something about how multiple tags would be helpful for a single action?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDork View Post
I have another example that might be a better example of why I'd like to be able to set more than one context to an action.

EXAMPLE 1
---------------
Let's say I have an action "Buy OmniFocus" and it's context is @online.

I have access to the internet from home and at work. I COULD create an @online context independent of my @Work and @Home contexts, but the need for discrete versions of @online can also be made, thusly:

-- "Catch up with facebook friends" @work/online is a no-no.
-- "Read super secret work document" @home/online won't work because I don't have vpn

In the case of "Buy OmniFocus", it's appropriate and suitable to set it's context to either/both "@work/online" or "@home/online". If I could set it to both, I'd be reminded to buy it when I was both at home and at work.
I also have both work and non-work online contexts, and over time all of my contexts have become pretty much mutually exclusive. Not exclusively, but nearly always, there is only one best context for any action. To me, the “Buy OmniFocus” is not a work/online action because you’re not working when you’re doing that action. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that you can do it while you’re at work, but keep in mind that you have your non-work/online context with you at work. For me, I start with my work contexts and start from the top, and when I want a break from work for a while, then I go to my non-work contexts and start from the top. A benefit of having only one context per action in this example is that when you’re working, you’re not reminded about buying OmniFocus: you’re only reminded about working. When you’re not working, you’re reminded about OmniFocus, and not reminded about working. It is a different approach, but I think it has its benefits.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDork View Post
In the case of "Buy OmniFocus", it's appropriate and suitable to set it's context to either/both "@work/online" or "@home/online". If I could set it to both, I'd be reminded to buy it when I was both at home and at work.
You might be able to handle this by creating a "work" and "home" subcontext under your "online" context.

But I do it slightly differently. First off, I don't make a distinction between being online at work or online at home (i.e. based on a geographic location -- I can be on the Internet from just about anywhere).

Instead, I have a generic "Internet" context. This covers all generic Internet access, whether I be at home, the coffee shop, the library, or going through the proxy server from work (allowing me to get onto the Internet from behind our corporate firewall). And it can be from any device: MacBook, iPhone, or some other machine.

I also have an "Intranet" context for things that can only be done on my employer's network. So sitting at my Mac and connected to my company's network (whether that be remotely via VPN or on site in the office), I can select both my Internet and Intranet contexts from the sidebar (using Command-click) and I get a list of everything that can be done under the current conditions. If I leave the office or close my VPN connection, I can select just my Internet context for the appropriate list of actions.

You could go further and add subcontexts beneath the Internet or Intranet contexts (e.g. "web", "email", or some specific online tools or websites that might only be accessible from your Intranet or that you'd only want to outside of your employer's network).

I find this approach works very well for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDork View Post
EXAMPLE 2
---------------
"Buy milk"
@grocery store
@gas station
@walmart
As for your second example, I think most people just use nested contexts, maybe something like this:

-Errands
----Shopping
--------Grocery Store
--------Gas station
--------Walmart

General errands (e.g. "return library books") could go in the "Errands" context. General shopping actions (i.e. items that could be purchased at the grocery store, gas station, or walmart) go in the generic Shopping context. And items that can only be found in a specific store (perhaps you have a coupon for that store or they stock your preferred brand or whatever) go in the lowest level context for that particular location (e.g. Walmart).

Adding the ability to tag or use multiple contexts would certainly be another way to slice and dice your data, and I'm not against its inclusion in a future version. But OmniFocus as it is right now has already been designed to handle these situations. Which approach you favor really just depends on what you're used to and how you like to work.

Personally, I find making discrete, atomic actions like Ken mentioned along with nesting of projects, action groups, and contexts gives me immense flexibility and a very nice heiarchical perspective on my data that makes it very easy to visualize and assess at a glance. Of course, YMMV. :-)

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbkendrick View Post
One example that is very common in my GTD implementation is to assign @waiting to tasks waiting for a reply. However, then when I have Joe on the phone, and pull up his context, I will miss the fact that I am waiting for Joe to reply to my earlier inquiry.
I handle this by simply Command-clicking the second context so both "Waiting" and "Joe" actions are displayed.

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacDork View Post
I have another example that might be a better example of why I'd like to be able to set more than one context to an action.

EXAMPLE 1
---------------
Let's say I have an action "Buy OmniFocus" and it's context is @online.

I have access to the internet from home and at work. I COULD create an @online context independent of my @Work and @Home contexts, but the need for discrete versions of @online can also be made, thusly:

-- "Catch up with facebook friends" @work/online is a no-no.
-- "Read super secret work document" @home/online won't work because I don't have vpn

In the case of "Buy OmniFocus", it's appropriate and suitable to set it's context to either/both "@work/online" or "@home/online". If I could set it to both, I'd be reminded to buy it when I was both at home and at work.
Instead of having @work/online and @home/online, have @online, @online/home, and @online/work. Stuff you can do either at home or work goes in @online, stuff that has to be done at one or the other goes in the proper subcontext.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbkendrick View Post
One example that is very common in my GTD implementation is to assign @waiting to tasks waiting for a reply. However, then when I have Joe on the phone, and pull up his context, I will miss the fact that I am waiting for Joe to reply to my earlier inquiry.

On the other hand, if I assign the task to @joe, it is not possible for me to check in on all of my waiting tasks during my weekly review.
I think that the reason it makes sense to combine "Waiting" with other contexts is because it's actually a separate task state (like Active, Completed, On Hold, and Dropped) rather than a real context. Would it make sense for us to make it a task state like the others for OmniFocus 2?

Disclaimer: I don't use "Waiting" myself; if I'm waiting for a resource before I can continue with a project, I just defer the project (using a future start date) until my waiting conditions are met so I can continue. (If I need to remind Joe about it, I set up a @joe task which repeats every few days until I get what I need from him.) But I know Merlin and others use Waiting a lot, and I certainly do want to support that workflow for people who find it useful.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Case View Post
Would it make sense for us to make it a task state like the others for OmniFocus 2?
Oh, that's a good idea. I think I'd like that very much.

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoisite View Post
The main advantage that I see in Things is that it allows you to be more vague in the description of a task without messing up: One task and two tags are sufficient for the Bob problem.

I see it as positive thing to be able to be vague. This allows you to have to think less about how to organize a taks in the system. Vagueness allows you to just write it down. This is only possible because Things provides some infrastructure that supports this.

In OmniFocus you have to describe the action as precisely as possible. You are free to do anything, but you are free in "empty space". You have nothing to build on, no predefined basic structure as in Things. You have to find out how to manage projects, contexts and actions. If you don't know how to organize your tasks in OF you're lost.
I just wanted to say that I think this is a really great encapsulation of the different approaches that OmniFocus and Things take to the same underlying task, and that the most important takeaway is that neither approach is wrong.

I suspect that OmniFocus and Things both reflect the preferred work style of the folks that wrote them. That doesn't make either one more correct; just different.

I know for a fact that there are big chunks of folks that think each app got it totally wrong. For OmniFocus 2, we're going to do our darndest to create an app that gives you as much of the upside of both approaches while exposing you to as little of the downsides. :-)
 
To take things one step further, we could do away w/ multiple tags entirely if:

sub-contexts could belong to more than one context.

Imagine having a way to edit the @Home context and tell it what other contexts it contains.

@Home could contain things like
-- @phone
-- @online
-- @mac
-- @pc

@Work could contain
-- @phone
-- @online
-- @pc

Extending it further, we could do @Mall contains
-- @hardware store
-- @grocery store
-- @electronics store

Using this sort of organization, we could simply remember that buying milk is "@grocery store" and not have to worry about "I want to get groceries before I go home today, so add that to @work/grocery store".
 
 


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