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Context Lists for IT Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I am having trouble coming up with useful context lists.

I am an IT manager, and do nearly everything with my Mac. It involves both working on IT-tech related things (the IT part), as well as typical office management-type things - people, meetings, memos, etc (the manager part).

Currently I think my context lists may be too long and too specific. I have used application-type contexts (GoLive, PhotoShop, FileMaker, PowerSchool, email), thinking that while I am in PhotoShop, I can PhotoShop things from several different projects.

I am this method not very successful for two reasons:
a) it can be hard (psychologically) to work on two different projects at once in PhotoShop - it seems a but splintered or schizo, and
b) Often times a project will involve three different applications
so I am thinking of reducing to a very basic set (Office, Waiting, Home).

It would be useful to see what others are doing (I imagine many in these forums are struggling with the same issues). I know there has been discussion about this issue on the forums in the past, but try searching for "contexts" and see how useful that search result is!

How about a sticky topic on context list suggestions, even if all it did was link to an external reference...
 
If it were me, I wouldn't have a PhotoShop context if it didn't group items in a way that would be useful for efficient processing. In the case of using Photoshop for different projects, what is the economy of scale there? It doesn't seem like there would be one unless you had to walk to a different location or sign up for a time to use a specific PC for PhotoShop, or call PhotoShop support to get questions answered that pertain to different projects and you wanted to get it all done in one phone call.

For project management, I would spend most of my time in Project mode, but go to Context mode whenever I think things might be grouped in a useful way, and then I'd be looking at specific contexts. Knowing that all activities associated with a context would be there is important, which is why being able to assign an activity to multiple contexts is important -- because when you look at a context you don't have to wonder whether something was categorized somewhere else in a "context hierarchy".

An example that you might find helpful as an IT manager might be to have a context for the different people you may need to talk to in your organization. If you need to consult someone for an activity, you can assign that activity to a context for that person. If Omni Focus allowed multiple contexts, and your question could be answered by Bob or Barb, you could assign the activity to both "Bob" and "Barb" contexts. That way when you are about to meet with or call "Bob" or "Barb", the activity will show up there (and with multiple contexts, the activity could also show up under "Phone").

When I was a project leader at a corporation and / or worked on many different IT projects, at times I interacted with the same person from many different roles or projects. Using contexts in that way would have been helpful but alas such tools weren't available at that time (I haven't worked in IT since 2001).

This is an example in which multiple contexts per action item AND a context hierarchy would be helpful. Usually the number of people I interacted with in my IT position were the people on the project teams, technical staff, and users. I could create a People context and then sub contexts by group. Then when an activity came up in which I needed to phone "Barb" or "Bob" I could add the activity to the Person:Bob, Person:Barb, and Phone contexts.

Feel free to follow up with any other questions you have.

I don't know how anyone could manage something very complex without multiple contexts / action, but I guess if a person spent a lot of time trying to define an exclusive-hierarchy and was very diligent in following it, and didn't have to refine it later, then there is a slight possbility it might work. (and hopefully you'd never have to explain it to someone later on)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Journey View Post
I don't know how anyone could manage something very complex without multiple contexts / action, but I guess if a person spent a lot of time trying to define an exclusive-hierarchy and was very diligent in following it, and didn't have to refine it later, then there is a slight possbility it might work. (and hopefully you'd never have to explain it to someone later on)
I've been managing dozens of projects, hundreds of actions, and 12 people on my agenda list in OF for nearly 7 months now without multiple contexts per action, so that isn't a show stopper at all. My context list grew organically over the first month or two of use. The key is simply to select multiple contexts in the Context sidebar so that you can see all the actions from the set of Contexts. This is really the idea of "Places" from LifeBalance. Most of my actions fall neatly into a single context. For those that don't, it really doesn't matter. I just pick one.

I understand and respect your desire for multiple context per action, but several thousand of us have been getting along fine without the feature. Based on that, I think you're overstating the importance of the feature to the average user.

joelande, I feel your pain on number of contexts. My contexts are currently:

--Home
----Office–Home
----Chores
----Spouse
--Computer *
----Editing *
----Email *
----Planning *
----Reading *
----Problem Solving *
----Writing *
----On-line *
------Web *
------Angel *
----PB
----MBP *
----G5 *
----Dell *
--Phone *
--Briefcase *
----Planning *
----Reading *
--Campus *
----Office–Camp *
--Agenda *
----(several items under here, some for individuals, some for teams)
--Errands
----WalMart
----Lowes
--Awaiting *

The subcontexts of Computer are mostly for different states of mind. In practice I very often have all the Computer contexts selected.

For example, my standard Work perspective includes all of the contexts with stars above. At work I tend to be very deadline driven, so my Context View is sorted by due date. However, if I start answering emails, I might just select the Email context and bang out a bunch of replies. When I finish those, I'll switch back to my Work perspective and let urgency guide me toward the next context in which to GTD. Hope that helps.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
I understand and respect your desire for multiple context per action, but several thousand of us have been getting along fine without the feature. Based on that, I think you're overstating the importance of the feature to the average user.
The fact that a lot of users have been getting along fine without the feature is significant, but I don't think number of users is a criteria that would necessarily rule out a new or change in feature. A proposed change should stand on its own merits.

While the Mac had a usability, GUI, and other advantages for almost a decade before Windows came out, all of my DOS-based computer friends emphasized that they were getting along fine without a mouse or cut / copy / paste. "Why would you want to use a mouse?". The fact that they considered themselves getting along fine didn't mean that the operating system they were using was the best fit for their job. They just needed an open mind.

(and some extra $$$ because Apple went for short-term profits, not market share but I digress ...)

Whether to allow multiple contexts could be a preference setting. Or, it could just be by choice -- if someone chooses to use them by selecting more than one context.

My main point is that "number of users getting along fine" doesn't mean that there aren't valid and useful improvements that can be made to a product.
 
When I first started using GTD a few years ago I started with a long list of contexts. I just sat down and thought of all the different places I'd need to get things done. I thought the concept was pretty cool. I imagined sitting down or heading out the door, correct context in hand, and completely focusing with "mind like water"... it didn't really work out that way though. For one thing, a lot of contexts just blurred together "Computer Online", "Computer Research", "Computer Email", etc. I also realized I was treating my to-do list like my CD collection: making a neat little database rather than focusing on checking things off (that's why I'm very much not into multiple contexts, priorities, etc.).

I work as an IT consultant from home, so that made it even worst. It was basically one big context.

So I just whittled the list down to basically "Computer", "Home", "Not At Home". After a while a small number of subcategories naturally emerged, like "Computer: Aperture" for when I'm fiddling with photos, "Home: Kitchen" for kitchen projects. Added "Calls" and a couple others.

So, yeah, try the ultra-minimal context list and see if clear boundaries or "mental states" emerge after a while. Whichever context you spend the most time in (like office or computer) could be split up by "area of focus" or "role", I bet.

Here are my current contexts:

*Calls
*Home
**Kitchen
**Yard
*Not At Home
*Computer
**Aperture
**Zone
*Waiting
*People
**.....
**.....

Computer:Zone is anything that requires blocks of uninterrupted concentration, like programming or solving a problem.

It looks like I have roughly 60 projects (a lot of my IT projects are documented in my Basecamp site, actually).
 
I've also been in IT and now work in software development and marketing and spend 90% of my time in front of a computer. Like OOO and Curt, I have minimal numbers of contexts and don't have a significant need for multiple contexts.

My contexts, like OOO, have grown over time based on a need to separate an activity out into its own mind-space. When OF introduced "active" contexts (i.e. those which have items show up, the rest remain hidden) I found myself becoming more specific. Here are my current contexts:

home
email
- work
Girlfriend (don't worry, I actually use her name!)
* Girlfriend's place
Calls
Writing
Computer
* laptop
* home office
* office computer
* servers
* online
errands
* costco
blog
research
exercise
work
* bug reporting tool
* techsupport tracking tool
pay bills
discussions
downtime
San Francisco
Waiting On
Leopard (for when I was testing stuff)
Netflix (for movies to add to my download list)
Mom
 
(I wish the "all actions" in contexts was still available so I could see how many actions have been in a context.)
 
I am an Mac developer running my own business and I use the following context:
- mac
- business (at work time when not doing development)
- dev (at work time )
- offline (things I can still do when offline, like read an article what I have save to my @read folder )
- calls
- errands
- home
- notepad
...

Don't forget that on most computers, switching between applications is a "very fast" action and therefore I can't really se any value in having a context for an application. Contexts shall be added with care! Contexts is a mechanism that is meant to let you watch you stuff from the perspective you happened to be located at. For selecting what to do, context is the first thing that narrow down you choice. For more fine grained selection between tasks you will have to take things as the time available, your focus (are you tired?), what is urgent and what can wait?..

Don't have a @read context in OmniFocus. Create a folder in your computer and a "real life" counterpart. Use those as a folder is meant to be used, just throw things in and read them when you want. Don't have a @email context in OmniFocus. Just save a draft in you mail application.

I do have a context for mac-dev which 90% of the time means that I will use Xcode. But that is because I like to use somedays to be businessman and somedays to be a nerdy developer. For days when in developer mode I don't want to see tasks related to business.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kardan View Post
Don't have a @read context in OmniFocus. Create a folder in your computer and a "real life" counterpart. Use those as a folder is meant to be used, just throw things in and read them when you want. Don't have a @email context in OmniFocus. Just save a draft in you mail application.
Gotta disagree on both points. The Reading context (which I have, but seemed to skip in my list) is extremely valuable for organizing me. Sometimes I just need to buckle down and read a few pages of documentation and when I'm in that "mood", I can look in my Reading context and pick something. Seeing that context also acts as a reminder.

Similarly for email, except this is an actual activity, an creating a draft means breaking the flow of thoughts. If I'm planning something, and one of the actions is "email frank", I want to be sure it's captured as such.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kardan View Post
Don't forget that on most computers, switching between applications is a "very fast" action and therefore I can't really se any value in having a context for an application.
You must not use Adobe Photoshop (CS2) and Adobe GoLive (CS2).

They take forever to launch.

Because of the launch times and resources they use (I don't like to leave them running idle) I created contexts for them.

Some of the others apps I listed are kind of like your dev context, because I would be doing programming in them.

I have started re-reading the GTD book, and I have been collecting contexts in a runnig list.

Am doing some experimentation.

I am starting with as few contexts as possible, and will add as needed.

@Calls
@Office
...Zone
@Computer
...Zone
@Waiting
@Agenda
...Tom
...Jim
...Sue
@Home

Context:Zone is anything that requires blocks of uninterrupted concentration, like programming or solving a problem.
 
 


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