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How many contexts are TOO many contexts? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Right now I have:

Home, email, laptop, Internet, phone, errands, Reference List, work, Waiting, Planning, Reading, Research, writing, Blog, Fun, Exercise and People (with a number of names).

Too many? Not enough? Advice?
There's really no right or wrong answer here. Some people will tell you to keep it simple, others will tell you to use as many contexts as is necessary. Only you know what the right number is.

Personally, I lean to the "use as many as you want" side. The software can certainly handle it.

Maybe the best thing to do is just try it. You really have nothing to lose by experimenting; you can always change it later. That's how I finally settled on my contexts, which is around 50 total but only about 12 at the top level. But it took a month or two for me to settle on those.

Hope that helps.


Last edited by Toadling; 2009-06-10 at 06:24 AM.. Reason: Typos from iPhone
In my opinion, you should have as many contexts as you need to categorize your work so that you don't find yourself looking at a single context and having to decide if you can do an action based on the context. For example, a @computer context is a fairly natural idea, but if you have a bunch of tasks which need to be done on a particular computer it would be better to make a hierarchy of that context, assigning tasks that really can be done at any machine to the top level.

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, the location awareness of contexts is clearly more useful if you have a variety of errand contexts.

I have about 60 contexts, with over 30 of them nested, in some cases a few layers deep. I wouldn't hesitate to add more if I identified another common subset of my actions that could be teased out. One example I haven't ever seen on the forum is my Ladder context. There are numerous tasks around my house that require or are eased by having a ladder. Many are not urgent, so they may sit around for a while until I accumulate enough such tasks to make it worth the bother of getting out the ladder. When I do, I want an easy way to find all of the tasks that could be profitably acted on now that the ladder is in the house, and looking at the ladder context gives me that handily. It is a good example of a context that may never have many actions assigned yet is much more useful than having the actions in a more general context.
Borrowing from Einstein, "As simple as possible, but no simpler" is how I try to govern my contexts. Rather than focus on a particular number, just try to make sure the ones you have are useful.
Another way of putting it - if they are limiting your approach then you have too few. If you can't make up your mind which context you should put something in because of ambiguity, then you probably have too many.

Personally, I have a lot of contexts but some are very rarely used (e.g. LHR for Heathrow - I don't go there more than 3 times a year, but it is useful to have a context for when I do). For that matter, many of them are locations (so they are nested under that heading) or software (ditto). There are lots of locations because of the iPhone app's ability to know where you are, but if I didn't have an iPhone, I doubt I would have so many. There's lots of software because I use a number of different tools for my work.
i actually just removed my contexts, found they werent useful to me...i just have Projects and 'sub projects'
Originally Posted by matthew.e View Post
i actually just removed my contexts, found they werent useful to me...i just have Projects and 'sub projects'
Wow, that's a brave move. I sometimes work out of planning mode, but I could never bring myself to delete my contexts. Kinda like pizza without beer, if you ask me. ;-)

Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
Kinda like pizza without beer, if you ask me. ;-)
Or as a long-ago acquaintance always liked to say, "I don't like to eat on an empty stomach" :-)
My contexts change from time to time, too. So be open to adding a context if it becomes beneficial to you. For example, I just added Computer > Omnigraffle (subcontext) because I have a lot of wireframing Next Actions to complete that happen to best be grouped together under their own context. So when I'm in that "mode" I'll see everything I need to wireframe for all my projects.

And no I don't work for Omni... just coincidental.. :-)

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