Omnifocus is my favorite task management app. It has helped make my life so much more organized and productive. I’d recommend it to anyone with a very active, busy life, with dozens of different tasks to complete every day.
In Omnifocus there’s something called Contexts. Contexts are a way to organize your tasks based on what is involved to complete them. It is the primary way in which I find out what’s my relevant work in the here and now.
Here are the different types of useful contexts I’ve found:
Very useful for when I run into this person to make sure I cover everything relevant to them. Also I can prepare myself before a meeting or a phone call. Depending on the importance of the work I attach to them and their level of procrastination, I set their context as active or waiting. As active, it will be constantly visible that a task is pending, while when set to waiting I will becoming aware once in a while through review or while looking deeper into things.
Group of People
I have two contexts for anyone that doesn’t have a specific context assigned to them – Person Active and Person Idle (see above for why). This, for example, gets used for waiting to receive a letter from the government or an insurance agent I hardly talk to. It lets me know that a task is out of my hands, except to follow up and remind occasionally. If a person begins to have a lot of tasks related to them, I create their own specific person context and if someone hardly every has any tasks assigned to them anymore, I drop their context (not delete) and use the generic person context.
The amount of contexts I have for errand depends on the size of my lists. If it is one or two things then one context is fine. If I am frequently shopping for food, supplies and other things I would have a context for every store. Sometimes I have a context for a general area, covering all errands in that area. I’ve also had different contexts for the different vehicle I am driving (you can’t pick up a dining table with your motorcycle). Omnifocus has a great feature of being able to add a location – perfect for running errands. You can even get an alert when you have an errand in the area.
Certain tasks can only be done in specific places. For example “Clean my bedroom” can only be done at your home, while “Call John” can be done anywhere you have access to a phone with service. You can add alerts for when your arriving or leaving a location. If this is something I feel is useful (such as places where I forget to look at Omnifocus, something is urgent to do as soon as I get there, or am always forgetting to bring things from), I often have sub-contexts for the alerts. I don’t like getting alerts unless its really important. I don’t want to create any “boy who cried alert” situation.
If I’m a passenger in a car ride, I often look at the “phone” context on my phone when it is appropriate. I get a list of only the work that can be done on my phone and I do it. I also have a “Computer” context and a “Computer or phone ” context, which is for work that I really prefer to do on my computer, but is possible to do on my phone (like working on an excel sheet). If I am ever stranded with only my phone I can at least do that work. I have a sub-context in phone for calls, which is very handy with my headset, multitasking physical work or driving and calls. After 5pm, I can also defer the whole “calls” context until 9pm the following day.
There are other situations in which you can or can’t do work that are very specific to your situation. For example, when I was in India, it was constantly a concern in workflow to have or not have internet. Some of my work could be done offline (such as creative writing), while other things needed the internet. So there came the “offline” context. Being back in California, I no longer need this context as I have internet everywhere. Another example of an “element” context would be the weather. If you’re someone who works outside, there could be certain work that could only be done on warm or cold days or when it is isn’t raining. I have an “element” context for my finances called “funds needed.” This is for finance work is dependent on more money coming in, not where I am, who I’m with, or what device I have. There are some other very specific contexts I’ve found useful in relation to Omnifocus Perspectives.
Remember, always refine your organization into the simplest and clearest workflow possible.