Forget about contexts.


For me, it's about options and reminders - when or where will I see what I need to see in order to be productive? That might be one context or many, and they change often.
This is an important point that is often missed. Contexts should be changed as needed to be appropriate for you. Friday is my weekly review time and I'm going to be giving a deep dive into my contexts as well as my projects. It's likely that due to the COVID-19 pandemic I will have to modify many of them. I have just finished a review of higher horizons as part of my quarterly review and nearly done with my next 3 month, 12 Week Year style planning but there is a lot of cleanup to be done in my systems to fit the new norm.

In my case COVID-19 hasn't resulted in any lessening of work at all. Instead I've got a noticeable amount more as people who are home now have time to get to the things they didn't keep up with before, like sheep registrations. Then it falls on me as the registrar to handle them. Just like the human census in the US this year we are doing a sheep census for all the Welsh Mountain Sheep in US and Canada. As registrar I'm the one updating the status of every sheep and the benefit of COVID-19 is that more people are actually finding time to update their flock status but to me it turns into far more work. That's on top of the normally very busy spring season and impending lambing.


I've skimmed a lot of the conversation because I think this is always one of the most fascinating topics in GTD. I've had various levels of success with GTD over the years. One thing I've noticed through my own failures and successes regarding contexts is that the more often I am in contexts where I can do the majority of my work which is at home at my computer. I can basically do anything. I can go out right now and run an errand. I can do computer work. I can do work around the house. I can call someone or email or whatever. I've found that the more often I feel like I'm in those universal contexts, the fewer items I should have on my action lists and the more items I need to move into someday/maybe.

Imagine the perfect scenario where you could do 100% of your items 100% of the time. In that case, you would want very few items on your next action lists because you would essentially be working off 1 list and you would only want maybe 30 things at most on that list. Because you would know that you could do any item on your list, you would spend the weekly review only putting the highest priority or most desired projects as active and leaving the rest in someday/maybe.

the other factor in how many or few items to put into active projects and next actions is personality. the more spontaneous you are in the moment with more choices available to just do on a whim, the larger your lists would be. On the other hand, the less spontaneous (my personality) the fewer items you want to not get overwhelmed with in the moment decisions.

That being said as technology improves, contexts are becoming more about what our mental limits are than our physical limits but the physical limits still exist to various degrees for different people. Our contexts must reflect our physical limits but outside of that they reflect our mental limits which is often very individual to a person. I've found that I fail when i have too many options so because I am often in a more universal physical context, the best way to help my mental limits is to put less on action lists and active projects and be more aggressive pushing things to various levels of someday/maybe.
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OF user

I mentioned this somewhere else but I used to be context averse until I started creating more contexts. Then they became more meaningful and useful to me. I needed more granular contexts than the ones presented in the book or in the setup guides. Once i expanded my contexts to 13, they now become much more useful to me. For example, my MS Word context is usually for first thing in the morning because that is when I have the energy to write. When I tire of writing I may move to Comms (Communications) for a break, or some of my contexts that are heavy into notes and organizing like office, notebook, Tinderbox. On weekends, I'll spend more time on my Basement and Home contexts, and at night I will look at Online (meaning browser not having internet access). Anything urgent always gets done because it is on the calendar. Anything urgent and time-consuming gets time blocked. This has been working and has been more impactful than any system switch. In fact, I have learned that changing how you use a tool is always more impactful than changing a tool.


I have learned that changing how you use a tool is always more impactful than changing a tool.
Valuable lesson.

Feel free to add and delete contexts at will too. Mine are still pretty stable with 42 of them. I added a couple to accomodate some new agenda contexts for people but my standard set seems to still work in this environment. Some contexts are not really in use now but I won't delete them yet. They have things that will come up to be started in the future and only then will I need to figure out how to do them in the new COVID-19 environment.