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Examples of Contextual Factors

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  • Examples of Contextual Factors

    I thought it might come in handy in other discussions to have a long list of examples of various contextual factors (context, energy, time factors) that may be required to be present in order for you to be able to do a particular task.

    Obviously nobody would implement all of these as contexts in their system. On flat structures (e.g. paper) you would get a totally unwieldy list of contexts if you would define contexts for all the possible combinations of the factors listed below. And even in a multi-dimensional structure (e.g. computer apps that allow multiple contexts for each task) you would still probably get too many contexts for your own liking if you listed all of these in your app.

    So please see this list more as a reference for other discussions, and perhaps as ideas for possible contextual factors that might be relevant to consider implementing if your life/work depends a lot on those factors in particular.

    Location Contexts
    • Office1, Office2 etc if you work in several places
    • Home1, Home2 etc if you are a bigamist or have a summer house, ski chalet etc
    • Golf club, swimming club etc if you have an active recreational life, committee work etc
    • Suburb1, Suburb2, City1, City2 etc if you have many errands and meetings in very different locations
    • or just summary contexts like, Homes, Offices or Errands if you have few enough tasks all in all

    Tool Contexts
    • computer, internet access
    • software1, software2, printerX etc if you cannot use just any computer/tablet/smartphone
    • car, toolbox etc
    • rough clothes, fine clothes etc if you need to dress very differently for different tasks

    Other Physical Ambience Contexts
    • Weather types, if you are into outdoors activities such as picnics, farm work, gardening, construction
    • Silence, darkness etc if you are into audio recording, photo, secret conversations etc

    People Contexts
    • Mary, John etc specifically
    • Lawyer, IT guy, accountant etc more generally
    • representative of Company A, Company B, X dept, Y dept etc

    Energy and Mood Contexts
    • mental clarity and calm required
    • physical energy and absence of physical injuries required
    • extrovert/persuasive, extrovert/relational, introvert/diagnostic, introvert/creative etc if your disposition varies a lot over time
    • numbers, words, broad strokes/big picture, detail/polish etc if you "suffer" from uncontrollable fits of enthusiasm for certain types of work

    Timing Contexts
    • Mornings only, Afternoons only, Weekdays only etc
    • certain weekdays, certain dates, certain hours only etc
    • Duration: long, medium, short etc
    • chip-away-OK or all-in-one-go-only

  • #2
    Nice list of possible context lists. Most people have a philosophy behind how they set up contexts.
    I go for speed and clarity, and have five major contexts:


    90% of my next actions are @Desk; the others are short with very little backlog.


    • #3
      Almost Identical


      I have almost exactly the same basic setup, except I have @Person, too, for anything that requires active participation of somebody else. (In my case the job is not a the University, but the thought is the same, I guess - walking about, not sitting at the desk. And in my case the split of tasks is quite even.)

      Now, I must confess, though, that this sparsity of mine is caused by my new app's extreme weakness in handling auxiliary contexts that can overlap (called Tags in that app) - they aren't visible in the task list, only in edit mode, which is frustrating (and difficult to review).

      I have never really had flexible enough ad hoc (quick) filtering capabilities in any app I have tried, but let me comment anyway on a few such auxiliary tags that I have used before with at least half the possible usefulness even when only standard ("positive"; "show this") filtering is available:

      - all of the basic contexts, obviously, since a task can require more than just one such context, say, both a @Person to discuss with and my @Desk to sit at.

      - people tags (specific, generic etc, as suggested above) (easy to find tasks I need a certain person for if/when I bump into them or have them on the phone)

      - a general "narrow timing" tag, for all kinds of special timing restrictions, such as something that can only be done between 10 and 11 in the morning or only on special days. This tag I can actively filter for (show) in the morning, decide if any of those tasks would be suitable for doing today, and if so star them, set a reminder etc.

      - energy/time simplified - Low Effort or High Effort (Low Effort = Both very short duration and very low energy required; High Effort = either very long duration or very high energy required or both). Easy to find tasks that are suitable when you are braindead or stressed, or when you have one of those great moments of clarity and all the time in the world.

      I could easily make use of more contexts, but I want to keep the amount of tagging down, so in order to be able to use contexts to its full extent, I would want to have "no tag" to mean normal, and only have to tag for the exceptions. And this is why I would need the NOT filter (exclusion filter; hide filter) that I am bugging every app developer about.

      Clothes (dress code, style, functionality etc) is one of those things I miss having a tag for, and also Silence and various types of moods/temperaments/attitudes etc. In all these cases, though, I can only define these strictly and meaningfully enough (i.e. useful with some reasonable degree of accuracy) if they represent only a small fraction of my tasks, and I simply refuse to sit and tag all the majority tasks with inverse tags just to be able to exclude each type of minority. (Again, this is why NOT filtering is necessary for me if I am ever to be able to start trying this out.)