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by ryan davis



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Contexts

Published 2012-05-10 @ 12:00

Tagged productivity, omnifocus

This is part of the Productivity Pr0n series.

Defined, sorta…

Every task has a project and a context. Project is obvious. Context less so.

According to wikipedia:

“During a weekly review, determine the context for the tasks and puts them on the appropriate lists. An example of grouping together similar tasks would be making a list of outstanding telephone calls, or the tasks / errands to perform while downtown. Context lists can be defined by the set of tools available or by the presence of individuals or groups for whom one has items to discuss or present.”

Context is not a Thing

my omnifocus contexts

GTD originally suggested things like “email” and “laptop”. My interpretation is that GTD’s obvious bent towards business means their original idea of context originated more from making the very best of whatever situation you’re stuck in… like while waiting in the airport you might as well make a bunch of phone calls or queue up email to the marketing dept.

I don’t work like that. Fortunately, I’m not (usually) a victim of my context/situation. It isn’t about what I have available to me as much as it is what mindset I’m in. If I want to work on new features I should work on new features. If I’m NOT in the mood to work on new features, then doing so would be less than inspired. I should work on those things I’m in the right mood to work on or I won’t be as effective/efficient as I would be otherwise.

For me context is the mode I’m in when I’m working on a task.

Person, Place, and Verb

Shortly after my productivity pr0n meeting at omni I had an epiphany: I see context as three orthogonal dimensions:

  • what mode I’m in when I’m working on this task (this is a verb in my world).
  • where I need to be to work on this task.
  • and optionally, who I’m working with on this task.

For example, a bug on racc might be: Aaron Patterson, Vivace (our café we work from), Coding (Bug).

So if I’m in the mood to work on a bug and at vivace but aaron isn’t available… well, I go find something else to work on or I work less effectively on it and wait for him for a code review before I commit.

Ideally I’d be able to assign multiple contexts to a task. Unfortunately omnifocus only allows for one which is a real shame. I’ve talked to them about it and while there are ideas on how to address this, nothing is coming soon. For now, I do the one I find most important to completing it (usually the verb).

Not everything even has all three dimensions, and that’s fine too.