Too many items in contexts causing me to not get things done

What are people doing about contexts that have too many items in them? I have several contexts that have 10-30 items in them and it is causing me to not use the program and not trust my system.

I have defer to dates they all of a sudden come and my system gets jammed again. If I send them too far out the item will never show up. I wish I could put and individual item on hold and just see it when I do my weekly review.

Am I missing something?

FYI most of my projects are single action lists that can be done anytime.

I greatly appreciate any help.

I handle this in two ways:

  1. Project statuses: I will aggressively put projects on hold to keep related tasks out of view, reassessing project status in weekly review
  2. On hold context: My someday/maybe context is set to on hold, so it will keep tasks out of the way until I put them in an active context - again, a weekly review activity

Single action lists are great, and I have many of them, but defining what I might refer to as “outcome projects”, or projects that have an end point because they culminate in a specific result, is valuable to help plan and discern between tasks that need doing now and tasks that can wait. YMMV, of course.

Hope this helps!



This works for me, it may not work for you.

I go by the Simplicity Bliss system of 5 contexts: Focus, Thinking, Short Dashes, Hanging Around and Braindead.

I know that my high energy time is 3pm-7pm, so I “block” that time for all my focused tasks. Regardless if they are in a single action list or a defined project.

Same thing with errands, phone calls, emails. Everything else is free game. This helps me focus on contexts and crank out stuff in an amount of time.

Also, I can’t emphasize enough the value of the weekly review and pausing / deferring projects you are not actively working on. I used to have +350 projects in my system and was a victim of “analysis paralysis”. Now, I make sure that I only have MAX 100 active projects every week so that I can move forward.

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if you search this Discourse forum for “Today” perspectives, you’ll find a wide variety of custom perspective settings that will narrow the focus for you.

Thank you all for ideas everyone. I put a lot of thought to this last night after I put this post online. Examples of my contexts are as follows

I am setting up a second context as follows

I then put the context on HOLD

Then when doing my weekly review if it is something I want to focus on during that week I will switch the context from //work to work. I would rather be able to put and item on hold rather than doing this. But this is the best solution and allows me to not have to put defer dates and due dates on things. What do you think of this idea?

I will take a look at the today perspectives in the forums but I haven’t had much luck with them b/c I have to flag things and have due dates.


I use start and due dates very lightly, because the start dates are tickler items - just to be reminded, and due dates are hard dates that are to be completely followed.
What happens is that my context list is bigger than you, because in my Home context I have homeworks around the house, I have a context that is called payments and I have a context called home office (mostly for paperwork).
In my work context i have even more contexts, incluind the email reply context so I can make sure to batch things even if all the things in my work context are mostly in my computer.

Its true that projects on hold are important, but contexts on hold should be avoided (for me) except the waiting for items that are checked on the weekly review - everything else disappears and that I dont like

This is what I do too. I have tried a variety of things (including Things and a Today-oriented workflow), and aggressively curating my list of next actions is what has worked the best to keep me engaged with my system.

When I find myself with too many things in my contexts that need to be active, that is usually a sign that I need more granularity in my contexts. I recently tweaked my @Office with a couple of more contexts to move certain tasks (e.g., @Office:Communication for emails I need to send or meetings I need to schedule) since the number of actions in it were starting to creep up.

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I was in a similar situation not long ago, until I started using flagged items wisely. Now I have contexts with tens of items, but only a handful of those are flagged. I make sure I check my Today list and my Flagged list as a priority, and I look at the other items only after those two lists have been cleared.

During the weekly review, I flag new items and the cycle repeats.

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I never considered flagging items for the week. Is there a way to pull up flagged contexts this could be my solution.

If you open the Flagged perspective, your flagged items will be grouped by context (so if one of your contexts has no flagged items, it will simply be hidden, which sounds like what you would like to do).

My setup is a bit different from many I’ve seen others use. I need to have some sort of time horizon - the standard GTD-based contexts just don’t work for me. So I set things up like this:


  • Today
  • This Week
  • This Month
  • This Quarter
  • This Year
  • Someday
  • Waiting

Work (W)
- Subproject 1
- Subproject 2
- etc…
Personal §
- Subproject 1
- Subproject 2
- etc…

I have repeating tasks each day/week/month/quarter to review the higher contexts for items to “bump down” towards “Today”. The Today context frequently ends up with 10-30 items, and I manage that during my daily planning by pushing anything I am not doing today or tomorrow to “This Week”, and flagging the 1-3 items I am actively working on right now. I have the Pro version of Omnifocus, so I use custom “Next (W)” and “Next§” perspectives to manage the tasks I am working right now (they are set to only show flagged and overdue items in the Work or Personal project and all subprojects)

If a context has too many things in it you have 2 choices, split that context further by some means, put more of your projects into Someday/Maybe and thus removing them from your view until you decide that now is the time to work on them.

I’m using 37 contexts right now, been stable at that number for quite a while. Even with my preference for long lists and lots of choice that divides it finely enough that my longest list is only about 20 items long. That is easy to choose from when I am in that context.

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