Slay the Leviathan Context

by William Van Hecke on June 24, 2011

If you're like us, nearly all of your OmniFocus actions seem to want to go in some leviathan-context called "Computer" or "Online" or something equally unhelpful. Here is one way to break that huge context down using hierarchical contexts in OmniFocus. Instead of organizing actions strictly by where the work needs to happen, this approach also considers the kind of work your brain needs to do in order to get them done. That way, when I'm sitting in front of the Mac or the iPad wondering what to work on, I can choose based on where my mind is, instead of paging past tons of stuff that seems too boring or too demanding.

  • Work — This used to be called "Mac", before the iPhone and iPad. Now this sort of work can happen pretty much anywhere. Nothing goes directly in here, only in the subcontexts. The subcontexts are arranged roughly by ascending cognitive expense.
    • Maintenance — Mindless stuff like shuffling files around, paying bills, and fixing little problems on sites.
    • Study — Research, Googlin’, finding out stuffs I need to find out.
    • Communication — Contacting people by email or chat.
    • Planning — Serious thinking, outlining, drafting ideas, and so on.
    • Design — Grafflin’ & Photochoppin’.
    • Writing — Production writing tasks for things that need to be written well.
    • Code — Coding tasks that are likely to require a warmed-up brain.
    • Translation — Making things that are in Japanese not be in Japanese anymore.
  • Input — Videos; music; articles that won’t go in Instapaper.
  • Output — Informal blog posts ("macrotweeting") and such that don’t require intense thought.

This strategy is probably common knowledge among serious GTD theorists, but I still run into folks who are surprised by it. The inspiration for adopting it myself came from my DavidCo GTD coaching session a while back. This context arrangement (in addition to the standard Home, Errands, et cetera) pretty seriously improved the way I work. I hope it yields some usefulness for you too.