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When a task can be done in more than one context... Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
...how do you assign it a context?

For example, I've got tasks that
  • can only be done on my laptop
  • can only be done on my iPad
  • can be done on either

What do you do with that third category? The only thing I can think to do is create a third "Laptop or iPad" context, but something about that rubs me the wrong way. Is that the only solution? Any suggestions? Thanks!
 
You could use nested contexts. Make a top level context called "Computer". Under that make a sub-context called "Laptop" and another called "iPad". Assign tasks that can only be done on one or the other to the appropriate context. Assign tasks that can be done on either to the "Computer" context. Then when you're working you can focus on just "Laptop", just "iPad", or "Computer" to see them all grouped by context.

Personally I keep it simple and just put it all in a single "Computer" context.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrumpyDave View Post
You could use nested contexts.
Might work. Thanks.

There's an added complication: I don't want to see tasks that I need an internet connection for when I don't have one. That's what contexts are for: only seeing the actions you can do right now.

So in addition to the laptop or ipad or either, I also need to specify whether a task requires internet nor not. So it looks like I need six contexts to make this work:
  1. Laptop Only - No Internet
  2. iPad only - No Internet
  3. Laptop or iPad - No Internet
  4. Laptop Only - Internet
  5. iPad only - Internet
  6. Laptop or iPad - Internet

Yuck. And I don't see any way of using nested contexts to make this less unwieldy.
 
Why not nest like this:

Internet
- Laptop
- iPad

No Internet
- Laptop
- iPad

This way you have all of your bases covered. Things that need an internet connection but can be done either on your laptop or iPad can go into the "Internet" context, whereas something needing the Laptop on the Internet can go further down the nesting. Hope this makes sense?

Tom
 
I do something very similar to what wbs-uk proposes. One refinement is to have the two top-level contexts not be quite so similar, so that the quick match code won't confuse them. "Computer" and "Internet" are two that wouldn't match. You can then probably type something as short as "c l" or "i i" to fill in the context.

Another approach is that if you have a task that could be done in more than one context equally well, just pick one. If it is an odd-numbered day, take the first choice, otherwise the second. If you've got any substantial volume of tasks, you are likely to finish the day with available tasks, so the fact that a few tasks didn't get done because you filed them under iPad and you only worked on the MacBook today probably isn't an issue. If they have time pressure, you'll notice that in your review and make sure to do them, just like you would a task that required you to go on an errand.
 
Perhaps sometime in the future Omni will add a multiple context per action feature, that would solve a whole heap of these problems in one fell swoop.

Quote:
Another approach is that if you have a task that could be done in more than one context equally well, just pick one
@whpalmer4 For me, this approach will add in some uncertainty to the subconscious 'trust' of the system (and undermines the entire GTD philosophy). If I'm on my macbook and I don't have my ipad, I want to trust that everything I can do at that time can be easily seen when I view the macbook context. If there are other things that I *could* be doing but could be in any number of other contexts then there is not much point in having any contexts at all, I would still need to do a lot of mental work to check them all and I could not trust the system.

I'm sure there are other ways around this with custom perspectives and such but it would be very hard to use these to produce a real sense of completeness while also blocking out irrelevance. I've used a *lot* of gtd software, and one thing I have learned is that at least for myself, 'workarounds' have absolutely no place in the GTD world.
 
Check this post for our take on the upsides (and downsides!) of a multiple-contexts approach.
 
I read that post, but it seems to only cover the situation where something *needs* context A, B and C to complete it. What most people are worried about is when you absolutely *can* complete it in A, B, or C.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gazhayes View Post
Perhaps sometime in the future Omni will add a multiple context per action feature, that would solve a whole heap of these problems in one fell swoop.
Much ado about nothing. Look, if GTD relied on having multiple contexts for an action, you would be able to quote DA on the necessity of writing out duplicate actions in multiple contexts. Just like choosing the next action to write out in a project where you might be able to do several, you just pick one.

Most likely outcome of such a feature is to encourage lazy thinking and keep people from coming to grips with the whole context notion in GTD.
Quote:
@whpalmer4 For me, this approach will add in some uncertainty to the subconscious 'trust' of the system (and undermines the entire GTD philosophy). If I'm on my macbook and I don't have my ipad, I want to trust that everything I can do at that time can be easily seen when I view the macbook context. If there are other things that I *could* be doing but could be in any number of other contexts then there is not much point in having any contexts at all, I would still need to do a lot of mental work to check them all and I could not trust the system.
If you have an interesting amount of work to do, there's going to be more than you can do in a single session. The fact that you didn't have the opportunity to look at even more work that you could be doing which has no time pressure and thus no reason to be done before the work that you have before you is irrelevant. A concrete example: I've got a list of fix-it tasks for various things about the house. I've also got a similar list for things about the garage. If I'm at home, I can work on tasks from either list. I already know from my regular reviews whether any tasks on either list have urgency, and those will be done first. After that, it matters not a whit that I choose the next action from only one of those lists instead of the combined list. At such time as I completely drain one of the lists, I can go look at the other. Until that time, I'll be more focused, not less, if I look at a subset of possible actions.
 
I subscribe to the theory of keeping it simple.... I have one context called "Online" and another called "Mac".

For my offline tasks, I'd just put a task into Mac. If I do need an internet connection, I'll set the task's context to "Online."

Whether it's an iPad, MacBook, or iMac, I prefer to keep the task set to the most relevant context. If I look at a task, I can intuitively know:

"oooh.... I have an internet connection but don't have my iPad. So I guess I can't do this task." When I see that I have my iPad but I don't have a wifi connection, I'll automatically and intuitively know that I can't do this task that has a context of iPad and a context of internet.

I really don't have the need to have multiple contexts. like whpalmer4 said, I already have so many tasks on hand that I don't really have to be picky. I just choose the first task in a particular context that I'm interested in doing. I don't want to look at the iMac context, the iPad context, the MacBook context just to see what my available options are.

I'd just look for the first task that I am interested in doing. I don't have time to go "hmmmm..... now let's spend 10 minutes looking for the perfect task to do." I'd rather just quickly look up my available next actions and get to work......

I know that Things has multiple tags which allows multiple contexts. But I haven't really heard from any Things users who have actually become doubly more productive because they have multiple contexts.

If I had multiple contexts, I would probably be confused and see the same entry in two different contexts.

Just choose a task from your available Next Actions and do it.

Now I can see something like having multiple contexts such a "Home Depot" context and "Bob's Electrical Parts Shop" context. So I might have items that I can only find in Home Depot and there might be some items that I might find only in Bob's Electrical.... I'd probably just put a context called "Hardware Store" and leave it at that. I can be at either Bob's Electrical or Home Depot but I would instinctively know that some parts are at Home Depot and other parts are at Bob's Electrical.

I would probably stick in a Bob's Electrical context nested under Hardware store only if I shop there frequently and need to have a permanent Bob's Electrical context placed in there.

But I guess if OF 2.0 gets multiple contexts, I just won't use it and maybe you'll use it.

I remembered a couple of years ago that I underwent a complete revamp of my GTD setup and finally eliminated and/or combined a lot of contexts in OF. I had so many contexts that it was just making me dizzy and I didn't want to use OF anymore. I can imagine that having multiple contexts would contribute to so many contexts that I'd probably have a mess on my hands.

I'd probably spend so much time thinking of new contexts that I wouldn't really get any work done.

I have as few contexts as I need and I have as many contexts as I need. In my quarterly review, I'll look at my contexts and see what I can eliminate, what I can keep, and what I can combine.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2011-01-25 at 11:31 PM..
 
 


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