Switching to more traditional OmniFocus contexts

OmniFocus Contexts:

As many people, I’ve become a GTD geek. I’ve read the book 3 times because I am still learning. I’ve bought copies of the book for friends and have said “here, this will change your life”. True story. I was once described as that dog that scares the cat on the cartoon because I was so energetic and hyper. I could not stay in one place. If I can learn to be halfway decent at managing different jobs and projects, anyone can.

Context was (is) difficult. It kicked my butt. I came from the Covey school of mission statements and context was hard to get my mind around. It sounds easy, but a LOT of people are struggling with this. A friend (and newcomer to GTD) asked how many contexts do you use? to which I replied no more, no less, than what you need.

I like Sven Fechner’s blog Simplicity Bliss website and I was eager to try out his radical fresh take on contexts. I wont go into them here… it is better if you read the blog. But suffice to say that it dealt with energy levels as context. This sounds appealing because I always have some sort of Apple device with me that will allow me to read, write, develop, surf, play, etc…

So I gave it a try. I wiped out most of my contexts and converted. Only I didn’t fully. Because I have 3 jobs in 4 locations, plus additional classroom locations, and much work can only be done on a Windows Vista machine on a secure government network (yes… it is a bad as you think), I had several location contexts. But even so, I divied up all the rest into thinking, short dashes, marathon, and zombie (for when I am really tired). I tried this out for months. I found that the context really were arbitrary. There were some things that I can do best when I’m fresh, have coffee and time (thinking)… but working as much as I work… this is a pipe dream to wait for that golden moment to come by. Much of my day was in the zombie state. Even though I was tired, I still had to do prep for a brief or presentation. The contexts became, and stayed (though I tried mightily to keep it from doing so) the equivalent of the writer who never writes anything because ze is waiting for inspiration to strike. I know, this was me. It was out of necessity that I would pull out my iPhone while sitting in a theater waiting for a concert to begin and begin typing out a rough draft for an article I was working on. It wasn’t because I was in any energy level.

Eventually I chose to end the experiment with the energy level context. I do like the energy level that is built into the OmniFocus desktop program. But it doesn’t look like one can use this on the iOS apps, thus becoming useless.

view of my context setup in OmniFocus

I am returning to a more traditional context scheme. I’ve got the home and office, which 4 sub office contexts. And I have the out and about context. Portland is an hour north of me and I make regular trips there. I have a location reminder for when I drive into the metro area. I also conduct trainings at different parts of the state and only some things can be done in the classroom (such as before/after questionnaire) that I don’t want to see unless I look in that context.

Next is a special context that I call silence. It can be done anywhere, like at home or in the field or the office… but it really needs freedom from distraction and a somewhat clear mind. Meditation, critical thinking, etc… are put on here. This one conflicts a little with my next context (iPhone, because it is always with me), but it is enough of a distinction that I use this one.

The next context is Apple. I own an iMac, a Macbook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone. I am nearly always able to connect to the net (except for when I am training soldiers in the field or hiking in the Cascades). Online just doesn’t work well for me then. Neither does phone, because while some people I may want to call, I may change my mind and want to text instead, or send an email. This is another point of thought, another point of friction in processing.

So here is where it gets a little weird. Remember my work computer is a lousy Dell running Windows Vista outfitted by a very paranoid IT department on a secure government network. There are a few tasks that I can only do on this (such as access an Excel file dealing with training). For these items I simply use the Work/MILDEP context, as this is where the computer is at.

There are some things that I can do on any computer that is connected to the net. This I call Apple. I could call it computer but I have enough PCs in my life already. In Apple I have 2 main branches, iOS and Mac. Each of these then splits into two as well, iPad and iPhone, as well as iMac and MBP. There are not too many things that will go onto the Mac or the iOS as I can do most of it in Apple. But some things I still prefer in one or the other, like reading books iPad, working on mindmaps mac, doing the weekly review iPad, calling people iPhone, emailing short quips iOS or emailing lengthy responses Mac, or website work iMac, or whatever.

If it is something I can do on any computing device, I will put it under Apple as I can surf the web, write a piece, etc… from the iPhone or the MBP or even the Windows Vista soulcrushing transitor box.

Last, but not least, I use a someday context to get things out of sight and out of mind (it is on hold status) and a waiting context that is vital. The waiting context is nice (it is an on hold status in OF) but I wish it were sometimes easier to see the next action items that are on hold in a project instead of having to go into the view settings a million times a day. I’ve tried making some custom perspectives, but nothing fits yet.

So I will try this set up for a bit and see how it pans out.


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