What do YOU have in your Context list? Pls share it here

I’m right now structuring up my new Context list in OF2 and trying to go minimalistic and yet functional for my day to day operations, for both private and my business.

My over 2 years old OF1.5 Context list was very elaborate and is the base of the new one I creating now. But, it had over 26 main levels + in many cases 2-10 sub levels. This is total overkill for me and much of it was never used – hence the retake now on the Context list for OF2.

But why reinvent the “wheel”?
I guess many of you OF users out there already got some assume Context lists, that you have tweek into perfection over time. Please share your context list here (hole or parts) and write a little comment on why / how you use it.

I know that everyone got a unique view on this, but I bet some Contexts are pretty general, like “Online”, “Call” etc. But it will be fun to see.

So, What do YOU have in your Context list?
Please help me (and others on the forum) get some good ideas on what Contexts to include.


P.s. Once I’m done with my new OF2 Context list, I will of course share it here to with all of you…


I ended up with a pretty detailed Context list (20+) and just slimmed mine down to 11 and it’s been working wonderfully:

  • Do - This one’s courtesy of Asian Efficiency for all those tasks I couldn’t think of a context for and has been a big help in simplifying things. Instead of having contexts with 1 or 2 actions, now they get added here.
  • Mac - Because some things I still need my Mac specifically to do.
  • Home - I used to have these broken down by room, but I had projects for each room too. One Home context keeps everything simple.
  • Campus - I work at a university so this covers both work & grad school.
  • Errands - Everything I need to do while I’m out and about
    • Mom’s House
    • Shopping >> This is a general bucket for shopping items that don’t fit in the two below.
    • Grocery Store
    • IKEA - I just moved into a new place, so I’m shopping here more than I’d like.
  • Waiting for… (set to on hold) - For GTD people I feel that the next two are self-explanatory.
  • Someday/Maybe (set to on hold)

I’m interested in seeing what other people use though.


Thank’s for sharing @amocko - great Context list! Loved your explanatory comments to, so we really can understand the thinking behind and the use of your list. Being a patriotic Swede, I love that you also have a IKEA sub context, of all the US shops to choose from ;-)

Keep’em coming…

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As we’re all aware, OmniFocus’s biggest shortcoming is that you can only assign one context to a given task item. I’ve arranged and rearranged my Contexts and finally came up with a system that’s functional.

What hasn’t worked for me are location-based contexts, people-based contexts, resource-based contexts. Those work when you have a finite amount of tasks, but if you’re a power user, it’s just not practical.

I’ve created an airport metaphor for task items that breaks down into these buckets:

  • The Hangar
  • Runway
  • Airborne

I put items in The Hangar that I know I’m going to do soon and want to keep in my consciousness, but that I’m not going to get to right away.

I put items in the Runway that I’m going to do next.

I put items in Airborne that I’m actively working on. I try to limit this to one, two, maybe three items to keep life simple.

For most of the tasks in the buckets above, I don’t need to add dates. I just look in the buckets to see what I’m working on and what’s next.

For the day-to-day items, I create a “Today” Context. Because OmniFocus has no simple, easily re-orderable working list, I have the Today Context broken out into nested segments:

* Early [before work]
* Morning
* Lunch
* Afternoon
* On the Way Home
* Evening
* Night

I then create a perspective based on Today that shows items that are “Due Soon”.

Because OmniFocus doesn’t have a way to only look at only today’s tasks in “Due Soon,” I set all my task items to a default time of 10:00 PM. That way stuff that’s due tomorrow doesn’t show up in this perspective until 10:00 PM, keeping my Today perspective clutter free.

For all the other tasks, I don’t fill them in until they fit into one of the above buckets. For repeating tasks, I assign them a default Today segment (e.g., Early, Morning, Lunch, etc.) so I don’t have to rearrange my day every morning. They just pop up when needed in the proper timeslot when they come due.

In the morning, I look at the three major buckets, tweak my today view, and I’m off!


Daily Ritual
Strategic Planner
Waiting for

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Influenced by Macsparky and Kourosh Dini:

No Context
Side Job (building)
-MacBook Pro
-iPad Mini
—Individuals here
—Business/Company X (Tax preparer, etc.)
—Home Fellowship Group
—Committee X
—Pastor X
----Individuals here
----Individuals here
–Side Job
----Individuals here
–from Home
–from School
-DEVONthink Pro Office


Mine is here, but I recently added the context of “Reference”. Because OF is my list manager of choice and is where I often am (metaphorically speaking), I store reference lists of things that aren’t really actions.

This includes:

  • wines I like
  • goals
  • remote control codes
  • hours log
  • etc.



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Mine are [here][1].

[1]: Using OmniFocus with zero or minimum contexts?

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Thank’s all - interesting reading and inspiration to my new Context list :-)

Priority A
Priority B
Priority C

I’ve struggled with contexts over the years as well, but generally I’ve refined mine down to keep things pretty simple, however I also work from home, and have stopped using OmniFocus as my primary shopping list app, so that allows me to keep things simpler than they used to be.

Home – This is mostly things that need to be done at or around the house. Chores are an obvious example, but it can also be weekend projects or other things I’d like to do in my leisure time.
Arriving Home – This is a location based context for receiving alerts when I’m arriving home. Some things stay in here, some move in and out between the “Home” context during my daily/weekly reviews depending on urgency and what my plans for the day/week are.
Errands - This is a location-based context that fires off when I’m leaving home. Usually it’s things to buy, things to remember to do while I’m out, etc. Defer dates help me keep repeating tasks in here for things like “Get a Haircut”
Desk – As I work from home, this is the opposite of my “Home” context. Same place, different “mode” of operation. When I’m working, I want to see only things that pertain to work. I do, however, include both personal work (e.g. “do taxes”) and actual job work in here.
Calls – As I tend to go into a different mental mode when I’m placing calls, I keep a list of calls I need to place in a separate context. There’s usually not much in here, but I like to break it out as I tend to feel like making calls at different times than when I’m concentrating on doing other work.
Waiting For – Tasks that are waiting for some non-time-determinate action, such as hearing a response back from somebody else. Tasks that are simply deferred to a specific date or time do not go in here.
Simmering Pot – Tasks that require more thought or mental energy. Someday/Maybe stuff goes in here, and other tasks that are on hold because I need to flesh them out with more thought. Kind of a “brainstorming” category for new projects and tasks, as well as stalled, non-critical projects/tasks that need more thought.
On Hold – Things that are on hold for some other reason not covered by the above. This is often simply where tasks go to eventually die, but aren’t ready to be officially dropped because there may be some reason to bring them back to life someday.

The key to my workflow, however, is that I rarely work directly or solely from contexts, preferring to mix them with focusing and perspectives (the app is called Omni Focus after all :) ). For example, I group my Personal and Business world into two completely separate project hierarchies, using folders. Even though I dump everything into the “Desk” context, I often focus on the appropriate parent folder so I’m only looking at actual work tasks or personal life management tasks. So during my working hours, I’d focus on my Work folder, and then work within my contexts and perspectives from there (“Home” is usually empty in that case). Similarly, on the weekend, when I’m in “personal” mode, I focus on my “Personal” master folder. In that case, my “Home” context is usually full, and my “Desk” context has a handful of personal finance type tasks sitting there, ready to be dealt with.

While not directly related to contexts, I should also note that I use defer dates a lot – especially for repeating tasks – but I almost never use due dates. I follow the “hard landscape” concept that only the really, mission critical stuff gets a due date – stuff where serious consequences may occur if the date is missed (whether those consequences be lost projects, late fees or simply an excessive cat mess – I used to have an ornery cat that would choose other places in the house to relieve herself when her highness’ litter box wasn’t changed at exactly the right moment. Needless to say, the ex got to keep that one).

I do maintain a “Hotlist” perspective, which is basically all tasks that are flagged or due, subject to the current focus. I then judiciously use flags to bring things onto that list during my weekly review. My “Hotlist” is essentially my “Today” view, but spread across a couple of days… Due dates for stuff that must be done today, and flags for things that I’d like to get to within the next day or two. Flags and defer dates used together also allow me to have stuff pop onto my “Hotlist” later in the week… I review on Monday, and if I know I’m not going to be able to get to something until Wednesday, but want to deal with it by week’s end, I’ll flag it, and defer it until Wednesday).


I used to have more granular contexts, but I dropped the location and devices because I found I didn’t use them. Below is the list that I settled on based on some popular blog articles out there and I’ve used this setup for the past 2 years.

  • Full Focus - Actions requiring full attention and high energy. 11% of my actions land in this bucket without a sub-context. The intent of the sub-contexts below was to help narrow down action types so that I can pick and choose full attention actions that align with my mood and feeling with more granularity. I don’t always feel like coding for example, or I’m not always in a creative mood but I could do some thinking. However, after 2 years of using this system I usually find myself only looking at the parent context of Full Focus, so I may drop the sub-contexts to simplify, but haven’t decided yet.
    • Analyze - 5% of actions
    • Create - 1%
    • Code - 3%
    • Think - 2%
    • Write - 11%
  • Short Dash - 14% - Tasks that may require full focus, but shouldn’t take very long to complete. Things that I think might take 2-10 minutes that won’t consume a full 25 minute pomodoro [actions < 2 minutes I do right away].
  • Brain Dead - 10% - Low energy actions. Things I can do while watching TV or things that I can do on auto-pilot and don’t want to time box with Pomodoro.
  • Rituals - Recurring scheduled actions or projects. For example, daily mini-reviews, weekly OmniFocus reviews for each area of responsibility, computer backup rotations, laundry, yard maintenance, etc. All of my recurring actions are put in single action list projects within each area of responsibility and receive this context.
  • Read - 4% - You might be wondering why Read is a distinct context instead of a sub-context of Full Focus. The reason is that this may not be serious reading. It also includes for fun reading and possibly time wasting (blog) reading. It’s also a category that I don’t generally time box using the pomodoro technique. I’d rather stop reading at a natural stopping place like a chapter break rather than be confined by a timer.
  • People - 15% - Actions that involve other people. This can be multiple forms of communication (email, face to face, Jabber, phone call, etc.)
  • Remember (tickler) - 7% - A generic “remind me of something” type context. For example, a journal article I found and want to save to my collection at some point. Or just any random thing that I want to be reminded about. Sometimes these don’t have due dates and I’ll notice next time I do a review. Other times, maybe there’s a movie I want to watch but it’s not out on iTunes yet, so I set a defer on it so I’ll be tickled on some future review cycle.
  • Errands - 5% - Things that generally require travel to accomplish. For example, things at the hardware store, post office…
    • Grocery Shopping - 3% - This sub-context makes it very easy to see what I need to buy at a grocery store that’s separate from general errand tasks. This is as far as location type contexts go. I don’t have any geofencing since I have multiple grocery stores that I might go to.
  • Someday/Maybe - 1% - The typical someday I might do this bucket. Remind me about these in my OmniFocus reviews.
  • Waiting - 1% - Things on hold because I’m waiting for something or more likely someone else.
    • Delegated - This is a new addition I added last month. I was originally using either the People or Waiting contexts but they weren’t working very well. If I delegate work to someone, then in my projects I’ll place a reminder action with this context. For example, “Receive server warranty renewal estimate from Steve @ Cisco”. I’ll set a due date for this delegated action. That way, on the due date if I haven’t received what I need or a status response I know I need to send a gentle reminder. Sometimes not so gentle reminders.

Note: percentages won’t tally to 100% because of a lot of rounding. I also excluded rituals from my report because that accounts for 58% of my historically completed actions because I have a lot of frequent recurring daily and weekly tasks. The remaining percentage is split amongst the remaining contexts using the above weights.

I do not use contexts to separate areas of responsibility such as Personal and Work. Instead I’ve been using a setup similar to @jdh where I leverage focus and perspectives to segregate my areas of responsibility. Below are my top level folders. I don’t generally have sub-folders and keep my hierarchy flat.

  • Personal
  • Work
  • Reading
  • Someday/Maybe

I have two perspectives that I use as launch points: Today (Personal) and Today (Work). These perspectives set focus to the respective folders and show me what’s due today in the chosen area of responsibility. I modified the built in perspectives so that they do not restore focus. This is a really powerful and streamlined workflow. After going to a launch perspective I can switch to any other perspective while the focus is maintained.

That means I only have one set of primary perspective (projects, contexts, flagged, review, due, etc.) that are consistent and at the same time I have complete isolation between personal life and work life. At the same time, I have the flexibility to see everything if I want a big picture.

I think this is an incredibly slick workflow for people for folks who want to keep certain areas of life separate. Out of sight out of mind and fast focus areas switches with a single click.

Sadly, this one-click workflow only works in OmniFocus 1 which is why I haven’t upgraded to OF 2 yet. OF 2 Pro kludged perspectives and lost this ability and requires you to manually focus on folders every time you want to change your focus area. Please download OF 1 and give this flow a try and if you like it then send an email to Omni Group asking for them to bring back the restore functionality for perspectives (including built in perspectives) so that this will work again.


My current contexts:

  • System - any task related to my GTD system/usually actions related to tweaking OmniFocus
  • Office - tasks to be done physically at the office
  • Office | In - geo-tagged context, for notifications when I’m arriving at the office
  • Office | Out - similarly, for when I’m leaving the office
  • Communicate - for emails, messages, tweets, etc.
  • update: now with subcontexts, inspired by @deturbulence. See further down this thread :D
  • People/Agendas - no sub contexts. All tasks start with the name of the person (eg. “Ken: discuss my ideas about OmniFocus”. This way I can easily change them from People/Agendas to Wait for… or vice-versa. These two contexts (Communicate & People/Agendas) form my Collaborate perspective.
  • Wait for… - On hold. The name says it all. Used to set all tasks here with Due dates. Not anymore. I have a Waiting perspective, checked each morning, grouped by Defer Date, sorted by Due… so, every morning I check past Deferred or Deferred to today and either postpone or change to People/Agendas or maybe other contexts.
  • Work - One of my most important contexts. It combines my previous “Focus” and “Sprints” contexts. The difference is that now, I’m adding estimated time (following @wilsonng 's ideas) to my sprints (and other less-than-15-min tasks), and I have a new Quick perspective for checking them whenever I have a few minutes. * Note: Computer/Phone/Tools-based contexts do not make sense to me anymore.
  • Learn - A context for things I want to learn. I have a Learning perspective only showing tasks here, and a recurrent flagged task that tells me to consider reviewing that context daily. If I am in the mood, in the need, or have time, I jump to that perspective and try to check things off there.
  • Home - similar to Office. Just for things I have to do while at home
  • Home | In - see Office | In above
  • Home | Out - likewise
  • Play - the other important context. Things which are not work. You might be asking yourself: don’t you have a Work folder and a Home folder? Well, almost: I have a {EmployerName} folder and a Life folder. I have Office and Home contexts (as explained above, for its respective locations). And, I have a Work (anything I have to do) and a Play (anything I want to do, for pleasure normally) contexts. Pretty much all my work related tasks fall into either Work or Office, while things I have to do in my personal life, can be either Work (if I have to do), Play (if I want to do – think of it as my distractions context) or Home.
  • iOS (for those geeky Play things, I need an specific tool)
  • Windows
  • OSX
  • Linux
  • Consider - I’m experimenting with this one (following @Kourosh 's ideas). I also have a Consider perspective. These are mostly recurrent tasks, but the world won’t fall apart if I don’t do them, so I just visit it (almost) daily to see if there are things in there, and I try to keep the list short (eg. Consider cleaning/organizing my backpack, Consider scanning and shredding papers, …). Note that even if don’t actually “do” the task, I can still check it off because the task for me is a consider task (by considering scanning and shredding papers, I might realized there is none, or just a few to be done, and I don’t actually need to do, and in that case, so if I “considered”, I’m done and the task goes off until next deferred date
  • Ping - for important people to me, the ones I want to make sure I keep in touch on a regular basis; tasks are like ‘Get in touch with X’ and have a due date on regular intervals so they show up on my Today perspective (not anywhere else) when appropriate. No start date, so they are always available and so I can check off the task if I happen to get in touch before due date)
  • Shopping - I tried to keep this out of OmniFocus, as one could consider it a list, but I liked it here. Tasks can show up on Today (if flagged) but most of the time, I switch to this perspective/context when I need/want to.
  • Errands - and it’s zillion of subcontexts, most geotagged. Have really a lot in here, and am always creating more.

My folders:

  • Routines
  • [Daily] - not a folder, but a Single Action List (all SALs are named using square brackets)
  • [Weekly]
  • [Monthly, etc]
  • {EmployerName}
  • Customer Projects
  • Events & Trips
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Meetings & Reports
  • Personal Development
  • Admin & Tools
  • [Work One-Offs]
  • Life
  • Me
  • HSBF
  • Holidays & Hobbies
  • Teach/Sharing/Learning
  • Technical/Systems
  • Finances
  • Household
  • Shopping
  • [Life One-Offs]
  • [External Triggers - When This, Do That] = On Hold
  • Next time (in)…
  • [Out And About]
  • several SALs, named for different cities I visit
  • Secondary Routines
  • [Daily]
  • [Weekly]
  • [Monthly, etc]
  • [Ping Family & Friends]
  • SomeDay/Maybe – all on Hold
  • [Someday/Maybe]
  • [Photography]
  • [Idea for the Future]
  • Someday/Maybe (Life) = sub-folder
  • Someday/Maybe (Work) = sub-folders
  • Templates

How spooky, thats so similar to mine except i don’t have the ‘Do’ context.

Ediventurin, that’s a great read and it allowed me to introduce some nice tweaks to my own system. One question though: what’s the basis for splitting tasks between Communicate and People/Agendas? They seem to be pretty similar to me.

Nice question :D

Well, I used to have Email, Text/Tweet and other contexts and also an Agendas context. then I combined everything in one, sometimes called People, sometimes called Agendas as I also thought they were very similar…
Now I have them separate, but showing up together, in this order (1st Communicate, then People/Agendas), on a perspective I call Collaborate (name borrowed from @deturbulence).

The logic behind them is:

  • Communicate for me, combines any one-off calls, emails, messages, tweets, replies on instant messengers I have to do. And I always start my tasks with a verb followed by a colon.
    Examples of tasks are:

  • Message: Carl: invite for bbq next weekend

  • Email: reply to Tomasz re: project X

  • Call: XYZ clinic to schedule an appointment with Dr. Z (dentist)

  • People/Agendas is for people I regularly interact with. I used to have sub contexts for the more regular people. Not anymore. Now every task starts a with a person name.
    Examples of tasks are:

  • Mom: help to setup her new iPhone

  • AlanT discuss project ZYX

  • MikeX: reply re: [Fwd: Customer T complaints]

  • AlanD: follow-up about issue Y at customer B

The Collaborate perspective is grouped by Context, sorted by name.
This way, my example tasks above would show up as this


Call: XYZ clinic to schedule an appointment with Dr. Z (dentist)
Email: reply to Tomasz re: [project X - meeting report]
Message: Carl: invite for bbq next weekend


AlanD: follow-up about issue Y at customer B
AlanT discuss project ZYX
Mom: help to setup her new iPhone
Mike: check on status/actions about [Fwd: Customer T complaints]

Some comments:

  • Daily, when I visit this perspective in the morning, I flag the tasks I want on my Today perspective. Quite often from the Communicate context, not so often from the People/Agendas context.
  • I’m used to calling this perspective and searching within it for the name of a person (followed by a colon “:”) when I stumble upon them, or proactively go to them (or having them coming to me) to discuss something. (eg. if Mike comes to me, I normally remember to check my “Mike:” list). If I have several topics to discuss with my brother (or mom, or colleague), I might create a “Call: brother” task, flag it (very important on my workflow), and when I call, I search for the person’s name on the same perspective and have in hands all I want to discuss with the person.
  • It also happens that when I sit to make some phone calls, or have to write an email, I take a look into this perspective and see if I can write other emails or make other phone calls (the sort order plays a big role here, as it simplifies things for me)
  • For the people I normally interact with, I’m used to always add a “:” (colon) after their name, so my searches also return any task I might have added for them, regardless of context.
  • The idea of starting the tasks with the person’s name makes it very easy to change the task from the People/Agendas context to my Wait for… context, or the other way round.
  • Note that some of the tasks have an email subject in between quotes (eg. [project X - meeting report]). Whenever relevant, I try to leave email subjects in the task title, between square brackets. This helps me easily see the task has some reference, or was originated, from an email and it’s handy not only to have the email content right there in OmniFocus, but also helps to find the email thread if I need to.

This is the way I found it works best for me, but… I see (and have experimented) many others ways.
Hope it answered your question. ;-)


After reading the great ideas (post below) from @deturbulence

…I now have:

  • Communicate : Book Meeting
  • Communicate : Call
  • Communicate : Email
  • Communicate : Message (for IM, Tweet, Facebook, Linkedin)
  • Communicate : Other (for other communication ways not used as often, like forum posts)

Thanks, now it’s perfectly clear. I really like the simplicity of your approach for handling people-related tasks, you have already got me converted from my rather lengthy list of human contexts (I used to have “John” + “Waiting for John” kind of combinations).
I’m also giving a try to one fine-tuning: I’ve created a “Follow-up” context as a child of your “People/Agendas”. This is to become a container for all those tasks that are switched from “Wait for…” (the point is to be able to see which tasks I’m yet to delegate and which ones only need to be reported).
Thanks again for the spark of inspiration ;-)

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I used to have all those as well and, have to say, this new way became really easy just recently with OF 2.1, as you can search within perspectives on all platforms.

Curious to see if it holds for you, or how it evolves ;-)

Just thought I would chime in - I use a very similar construct to @ediventurin, but I have subcontexts for Communicate:

  • Communicate : Call
  • Communicate : Email
  • Communicate : Book Meeting
  • Communicate : IM
  • Communicate : Other (like for weird mediums I don’t use as often, like forum posts)

In this way, I can make all my “Collaborate” tasks (Communicate, People/Agendas, Waiting) start with a person’s name, then update the context based on need.

For example, I might have a task like:

Sally - find out where and when the meeting is going to happen, what's the agenda?

I set the Context to “Communicate : Email”. When I send the email, I can just change the context to Waiting, and the task still has meaning. Now when Sally gets back to me and says there’s actually a lot to go through and we should discuss live, I can change the context to “Communicate : Book Meeting” or “People/Agendas” for follow-up, and again, the task still has meaning.

In this way, there’s a logical workflow for tasks that is context-powered, but requires minimal effort to maintain/execute.

Just my two bits, and props to @ediventurin with whom collaboration happened to sort this workflow out :)




Some time ago I gave some thought to how I actually want to categorize tasks using the contexts feature. I do still have location-, resource-, and people-based contexts for tasks that I really can only do when I’m in a given place, with a given person, or have access to a tool that’s not always available. But what I’m finding more useful is using contexts to implement timeboxing, i.e. setting aside specific blocks of time every day or every week for certain categories of activities.

Currently my timeboxing-based contexts are:

🌅 PREP — This is for morning habits like logging health stats, checking e-mail (has to be done in the morning because I often need to discuss things with people in distant time zones before their business day ends), reading the news over breakfast, and a quick morning calendar and task review.
🔁 ROUTINE — Mainly a meta-context for sequencing switching to other timeboxes
🈯 TRANSLATE — I currently pay the bills by translating documents, but I’m transitioning to a new line of business. That means I still need to spend enough time on translating to keep the money flowing, but not so much that I don’t have time to work on the new business.
🚴 WORKOUT — A repeating cycle of different kinds of workouts and related supporting tasks
⭐ INITIATIVE — The tasks and projects that I’ve identified in my Weekly Review as top priorities for the week in pursuit of long-term goals
🎱 DEADLINES — Mostly things I’d really rather not have to do but that will cause problems if I’m late, like filing taxes
🔨 MAINTENANCE — Tasks that don’t have hard deadlines but will lead to breakdowns if neglected too long, things like changing the oil in my car, bookkeeping, processing inboxes
■ LOOSE ENDS — Basically tasks that don’t fit anywhere else. Often these are things like favors for family members.
🎓 LEARNING & 🎻 PRACTICE — Self-explanatory
☕️ REVIEW — Daily, Weekly, Bimonthly, Yearly, and 4-Year Reviews of goals, projects, and tasks
✨ CLEAR — Updating weekly meal & workout plans, clearing my workspace, cleaning up, generally getting my environment clear and ready for the next day’s activities

I also have a ☀️ TODAY context that’s not associated with any particular block of time during the course of the day, but that contains the three most important tasks for the day as identified in the previous afternoon’s Daily Review.