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Struggling with Contexts? Start here! Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Originally Posted by intranation View Post
This would never work for me. The most granular I can at work is "Mac : Email" and "Mac : Work". I'm a web developer, so I'm constantly switching back and forth between various browsers, my Windows VMs, and TextMate. The context switching would drive me mad.

As a result I have loads of non-work contexts, but only 2.5 that I use at work (the "Mac" super context just being for when I'm in front of a computer).
Well, I'm a web developer too and I'm finding it works for me. If I want to see all my Mac actions, I click on "Mac" - if I want to see what needs to be done in Fireworks - then I can drill down to just that.

Perhaps I've got OmniFocus wrong!? LOL
While I'm not a developer, I did run into a similar problem when I started with GTD. I work remotely, and 95% of my communication and work is done via email. This of course lead me to have a huge email context, which was relatively worthless to me.

These days, I use contexts more detailed than just a location or an available communications medium (phone / email etc). The system I went with, was breaking it up into topics, in such a way that when I was talking to a relevant team, I could use a particular context to see everything related to them, eg.

- Web
- Email

- Training
- Escalations
- Performance Reviews
- Hiring
I am in the same situation. This is how I setup my OF.

When I have a few hours to work on/test a specific project I go directly to that project context under work. I also have project contexts nested under phone and people.

-----ohters projects you have


For my purposes, I tried using geographical/personal contexts but they just didn't work for me, since I work at home and my schedule is very open. Instead, I tried to divide my world into very broad "mental" contexts: Writing, LabWork, Computer, Chores, Interests. (I'm an academic researcher.) I tend to do things in chunks of a day, so on a given day, I might spend the morning on lab-related work (e.g., setting up an experiment), and in the afternoon turn to writing-related work (reading literature, analyzing data, writing a section of a manuscript, editing a manuscript). In the evening, I'll work on personal interests (music, learning something, genealogy).

I also recently added a feature to this: each of my contexts has a subcontext called "hold", which is on hold. I put things I'm not ready to work on in the hold subcontext of the corresponding mental context. So a future writing project would go into Writing:hold, but a future landscaping project into Interests:hold. This helps me keep track of both active & inactive items.

It's not perfect but it seems to work OK for me.

Greg Shenaut
Originally Posted by jjb View Post
Would you mind sharing them (Or at least, their general structure)?
Whoops, very late to reply, sorry (probably need to be more organised).

I've whittled mine down to this:

- In between
- Home
- Work
- Supermarket
- City
- Post office
- Market
- OmniFocus
- Home
- Work
- Girlfriend
- Work
- Parents

I group computer tasks under the super context "Mac" so that I can get an overview of Mac tasks at all times—this is helpful when I'm on my lunch break at work, for example, and could do something online (I'm always online so not much point having an "Online" context).

Also I'm probably going to ditch some of the "errands" contexts—they were a hangover from using OmniFocus as a shopping list manager, which it's not so good at (mostly due to speed of entering data—I use SimpleNote for that now).

Email and Phone are also almost the same thing now—iPhone FTW.

One other thing: the "In between" place is when I'm getting ready to go out—it reminds me to pack library books to return, or bring that item I needed for work.

Last edited by intranation; 2009-09-28 at 12:35 PM.. Reason: Add clarity about "in between"
You don't have to use contexts only in the GTD sense. I use them to define lists for my Autofocus implementation. That is, simply:
- Open (open list)
- Closed (closed list)
- About (short for Out & About, a shopping/to-do-in-town list)

It works well. So does having most of my projects in two folders: Live and Stack. I've tried granulating my workload down to specific categories, but find myself focusing on one or two and ignoring the rest. This way, I've got two categories: stuff that needs to get done promptly, and stuff that just needs to get done.

Last edited by Brian; 2009-10-06 at 06:19 PM.. Reason: fix broken html link
Originally Posted by intranation View Post

I've whittled mine down to this:
Thanks for sharing.
Originally Posted by jjb View Post
Thanks for sharing.
Well, I have struggled with context since 2 years.
Since the beginning i used usual GTD contexts as David Allen suggested in his book. But there was a problem about action.
OF was and is perfect for project planification but on the rush there is a real heavyness wich blocked me. I finally found the solution. I may say my solution thanks to THINGS and THE HIT LIST .
The solution is tags. As OF accept searching on the rush every where instead of doing @Call, @Wait, @ Out, @Mac, and so on i could do :
@Today, @Na (next actions), @Scheduled, @Someday (suspended), @Delegated (for things i am waiting from others).
I usually write my tasks like this
@Call John Ridlesteam for negociating our contract / Na send the contract.
The RESULT is incredible. It's much better. I can work efficiently and now i have the tiem reserved for my PROJECTS (Thinks, plan, erase, add tasks...) which is intellectual, and ACTION where i rush act and use regularly the function FOCUS which is indeed a great Idea.
What is interesting with this way of doing things is that i am focus on what i have o do at the moment and nothing else and i can work project by project very fastly. Hope this will help some of you
Best regard JUPITER
I'm having a review of my contexts at the moment. Hope this helps some people think about their contexts a little different.


I agree that having 'email' and 'phone' is kind of ridiculous in this day and age. If you were going to have those, you'd also have to have 'message on facebook' and 'tweet' in my life...

So basically I have one context called 'Comms' (for communications) - anything that involves communicating goes in there. Nowadays the life of a conversation moves from Facebook to email to phone to email...

So that's it. Comms context. Made my life a lot easier.


I used to have a context called errands for general 'stuff'. But errands always felt to me like I had to go out to 'run an errand' whereas a chore feels to me a better description for just doing something rather humdrum. Like washing socks, or doing someone a favour across the road. So I use Chore context for that stuff.


I started a context called Note. Lots of discussion on these forums about what to do with notes. Usually I think of something when I'm out and about and want to put it somewhere - so I put it into OF on my iPhone and give it context Note. It can still be in the relevant project, but at least marked Note I know it's just something I've put in there to use later.


Decisions decisions... I created this because I realised a lot of the time I had to 'figure some stuff out' about something before I could even approach actioning something. 'Decide on what colour curtains to get' is something like research, but it's not quite like that in my mind because at least 'deciding' sounds like you get to some outcome. I do use a separate Research context, but that context tends to be less action driven or urgent. So for me, Decide context seems to be working.


Oh no! Everything I do is on the computer! (almost everything) So like many people here, I have a context 'Computer' and sub-contexts 'Music', 'Graphics', 'Web', 'Video'. At least this way I can split my use of the computer into 'modes' of working.


I have two contexts which are always set to 'hold' - Ongoing and Waiting For. If a process starts (i.e. I've set the wheels in motion for something, but I can't tick it off as done yet) I drag it into the Ongoing context. If the process involves waiting for someone to get back to me, I drag it into the Waiting For context.


I have these two contexts as a place to store stuff which is approaching being actionable but needs research, or has yet to be tied in to some actions.


I have a context under which I create sub-contexts with people's names. I only create the names when I need to, and I delete names when I'm not using them. Some things can only be done with other people, so when the need arises I create the person's name as a sub-context of With, and use that name context. When I no longer need to keep using someone's name (for instance because they're no longer involved in a project) I remove the context.


I don't tend to start off with things in Someday. What tends to happen is when I notice that I am continually failing to do a particular action I give it the Someday context if I think that I've proved to myself that it isn't quite as important as I thought it was. So in many ways this is a place that next actions go to die. When I do my review the things that have ended up in Someday either get re-hashed / re-worded and put back into my action lists, or they get killed.

Someday M simply means 'Someday when I have the money'. There are things you want to do quite often that simply won't start happening until you've got the cash. So those things go in there.
Lately since getting an iPod Touch i've been considering adding a context...

Currently I have

A. Online
B. Offline

This has served me well, allowing me to research projects while online and allowing me to write essays while offline and of course all the other little tasks from other projects.

Since getting the iPod Touch these online/offline contexts can go with me now, offline def. But rather than revamping everything drastically i'm concerned out Mac & iPod Touch...

I can't really do research on the iPod Touch (as I like to have numerous webpages open, etc.) unless its very light research.
I also can't type up a report though once emailed myself a few paragraphs of an essay I typed out on the touch. Not the greatest though.

Well, rather than feel unproductive when i'm 20 miles away from home where my macbook is resting i'd like to be able to tackle some of the tasks that can be done while i'm away from my mac.

Suggestions? Thoughts?

Or should I just leave things alone?

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