Contexts and Tags The Omnifocus Dilemma

I have tried various systems, from gadget based, Mac, Phone, iPad, etc and many others. I never subscribed to the state of mind system, trying to categorise by effort needed as I am self employed and frankly I do not have the luxury of feeling brain dead even if I do, as I doubt my client would understand such self indulgence.

So with the imminent launch of Omnifocus 3 and their switch to a tag based system I thought I would both tear down my current system and plan for the shiny new one at the same time.

A couple of months ago I decided to try a time based context system inspired a little by the way Things 3 allows for tasks to be assigned to an “evening” slot, so I set up arbtrary sections of the day, “First thing” for the morning routine like checking email, processing the OF inbox and reviewing work for the day. The rest of the day was split into “morning, afternoon and evening” and this initially worked quite well, as I tend to do admin tasks in the morning, plus some social media posting for clients, and code in the afternoon, I am not a morning person!

It soon became apparent however that I needed an “Anytime” context as well for fitting in things like checking news, reading the odd article etc. for when I needed or fancied a short break. Now while this worked well it seemed with certain things a bit forced, especially with site design tasks like setting up a new project or moving a project to the production server which while I would routinely assign it an “afternoon” context, I found myself doing it in between admin tasks in the morning, so on to the rethink...

This time I decided to actually think about how I worked, how the business ran and the compartments in which I worked, so for the rethink I decided to use more contexts than I had ever used before, reckoning that these when converted to tags would allow for a much more granular view of what I needed to do and what was available to me to do it. I also decided to organise my contexts in a folder like structure as I do for projects, these “folders” are in capitals to differentiate them from actual contexts/tags.

Firstly I decided to keep the time based contexts, these work well for me for a lot of routine tasks such as the “first thing” routines  over coffee when I wake up and for the social media work I need to do every morning. I also have a “winding down” project which repeats weekdays and this obviously fitted in the “evening” context.
The “anytime” context was assigned to the bin.

Next came the “COMMUNICATION” folder, with three contexts “e-mail, phone and waiting” I have a lot of client domain renewals to manage and email the client one month before the renewal date, as well of course for more general emails I need to send. The “waiting” is things I am waiting on (obviously) and these usually relate to input needed from someone else outside the business so this seemed the logical place.

Next is “WORK” broken down by types of work I actually do and get paid for, Support, Coding, Design, Research, Writing and Fiddling, the last one for those odd things I do which really did not fit anywhere else, like configuring settings for mail accounts, adding automation or server updates.

“TOOLS” was the next one, some work I can only do when a Mac is handy like compiling code, I also have an “Online” context for things like (some) SEO where I need an internet connection, but can do on Mac or iPad. I also added an “Offline” context for things I can do without the internet or horror of horrors without a digital device at all, the real world I guess.

I also have a “LOCATION” folder, I live between two major towns, so I have location based contexts for each to remind me what I need to do when visiting either.

My last folder is “PERSONAL” here I have set up “financial, reading, browsing and shopping”. I keep financial here as while most of the tasks are business related, I prefer to keep them away from perspectives which focus on work I need to do, I deal with any financial tasks from my “personal” perspective at the end of each day.

I also have a perspective for my partner Mandy, who helps me out and the tasks delegated to her show here, hopefully this will come more into its own when basic collaboration comes to OF later in the year. I also have a “Someday/Maybe” context for possible future work discussed with existing clients but not yet taken up.

So far this seems to be working well in Omnifocus 2 and with the advent of tagging in OF3 this should I think convert easily and give me even more control on sorting and filtering. So far I have identified one tag I need to add when tagging is a reality “Domains”. I have a perspective which filters on the text “Domain Renewal” the tasks themselves are currently with an  “e-mail” context, tagging will allow me to add a second context/tag and remove the need for this cludgy work around.

This of course is a very personal system tailored for me, by sharing it I hope it will perhaps cause you to rethink your system and look at planning a little for OF3 before it arrives. I will report back how this goes, hopefully I will be on the beta testing programme soon 🙏, if not, the follow up will just have to wait I guess.