Getting to grips with Nozbe contexts

Let me be clear: I’m new at this.  I’ve been on the productivity bandwagon for a few weeks now, so I make no claim to guru status.  Yet I’m hoping I can share a few of my initial observations from my experience using Nozbe and can at least share with you one possible approach for managing your tasks.


It took me a little while to get my head around how I would use contexts; in all my previous forays into the world of todo list managers I have always stuck with the list/sublist/task structure, which is the very antithesis of how Nozbe is designed.

Simply put, Nozbe encourages you to keep your task structures flat, with no option for creating sub-projects, or Stacks if you think in Evernote terms.  This is a deliberate move on the part of Nozbe, who think the best way to manage your tasks is to think of them in terms of keywords and contexts.  I have to say, I’m inclined to agree with them.

What is a context?

In Nozbe a context is a customisable label that you can choose to apply to your task(s).  One task can have multiple contexts and you will inevitably apply contexts to multiple tasks.  It’s completely up to you how your contexts are defined, but make some wise choices and Nozbe really starts to come into its own (N.B Nozbe charges a monthly fee if you want the ability to have more than 5 contexts; I was quickly converted once I got my head around it and have now subscribed).

How do I use it?

The Nozbe suggestion, which I have adopted, is to define contexts as ‘where you need to do this task’.  So you may choose to set yours to ‘Home’ or ‘Work’.   Nozbe also suggests ‘Errands’ by default and a particularly useful context ‘Waiting-for’, which you can apply to any tasks where you’re dependent on another person (or another task) completing an action.

Screenshot of Nozbe iOS contexts

Captions in action on the iPhone

As you start to add tasks, you can add contexts to them easily in a few clicks (regardless of whether you’re using the local app, web browser or my personal preference the iOS app).  Once you have a collection of projects with useful contexts the ‘contexts’ menu becomes meaningful, enabling you to look at those tasks that are suited to your current situation (for example, I use the ‘computer’ context to show tasks I need to be online to carry out).

In my example, I use the following contexts:

Bill – This is an odd one and relates to making the most of the Evernote integration.  In a nutshell, if I have a ‘pay bill’ task adding this context makes it easier for me to see Evernote notes tagged as bills (I’ll expand on this in a future post).

Camera – These are tasks that I need my camera for (I’m a budding amateur photographer)

Phone – Tasks that require me to call someone

Computer – Tasks that need my computer (mostly ones that need Internet)

Quiet time – ‘Rainy day’ type tasks that I’ll do when I have some spare time

Work – Things to do at the office

Shopping – Things I need to buy

Home – Things to do at home

Errands – Things that require me to be out and about (i.e. a trip in the car or walk to the shops)

Waiting-for – Tasks I can’t complete until I get something

Don’t get me wrong, the ‘inbox’ and ‘next action’ projects in Nozbe are the first places I look in the morning to see what I need to get done; but the contexts functionality quickly enables me to filter my open tasks to those that are relevant to my current situation.


What do you think?

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