How do you manage contexts when everything is to be done on a computer?

Stefan Godo

GTD Connect
So much on coincidences.
I just made a note to myself to write a post about contexts this Monday. Obviously, thinking is now almost unnecessary, given the excellent and deep thoughts here. Thanks to all!

Maybe a systematic wrap-up:
context = (set of) regularly happening limiting or enabling condition(s) necessary for a given action to be possible/effective
context types:
1. physical (just the ones we are teaching in our courses - place/person/tool/system)
virtual:
2. mental (energy / mindset (creative/maintenance/admin/learning...))
not listed
3. emotional (good mood, sad....) - for some people even this is relevant.

obviously, elaborate combinations can be created (If I am a gardener, a too long "in the garden" list might not make sense, I need to subdivide it by weather conditions...).

So one needs to find which limiting/enabling conditions are relevant for him/her - at a given time. As Dave Edwards said above - significant life changes require context adjustment/finetuning.

Have a beautiful day!
 

pgarth

Registered
One thought, which appears to work for me, is to expand the context with a relative area of focus. In this case you're combining the runway (Next Action) with a 20K area of focus. I still have the context (@Computer), but I'm tagging each item associated with an area of focus from 20K.

I can either click on @Computer and scan down to the (sorted by) tags - and focus on an area of focus which I know needs to be done at the computer, or...

I can click on the tag (which is an area of focus) and scan down to see which items i need to do at the computer.
 

Gardener

Registered
In my personal system, each of the following contexts exist, and tasks in these contexts will often be done on the computer or using the computer, but I don't think of them as "Computer".

Home
Home Tasks
Meta
Paperwork
Shopping
Writing
 

Stefan Godo

GTD Connect
One thought, which appears to work for me, is to expand the context with a relative area of focus. In this case you're combining the runway (Next Action) with a 20K area of focus. I still have the context (@Computer), but I'm tagging each item associated with an area of focus from 20K.

I can either click on @Computer and scan down to the (sorted by) tags - and focus on an area of focus which I know needs to be done at the computer, or...

I can click on the tag (which is an area of focus) and scan down to see which items i need to do at the computer.
yes, attaching actually ANY higher horizon (to which this action is contributing) as tag can be useful for some. Projects are the most frequently used - when working on a project requires "setting my mind to work on a specific project". I call these "virtual contexts" as opposed to the physical ones we teach in our courses (place/person/tool)
 

pgarth

Registered
One thought, which appears to work for me, is to expand the context with a relative area of focus. In this case you're combining the runway (Next Action) with a 20K area of focus. I still have the context (@Computer), but I'm tagging each item associated with an area of focus from 20K.

I can either click on @Computer and scan down to the (sorted by) tags - and focus on an area of focus which I know needs to be done at the computer, or...

I can click on the tag (which is an area of focus) and scan down to see which items i need to do at the computer.
Expanding on my own thinking here, which happens after posting in GTD forums....

In my past life as an IT Director, and now as Social Worker, if I really think about it I could come up with multiple "roles" within areas of focus and responsibility.

Typically, resistance (for me) occurs because it takes a while to get everything setup in order to do work -- multiple spreadsheets open, various databases, handwritten notes, online systems (that freakin' timeout), etc.

In IT Director mode, remembering back to IBM Domino, I would go in to my systems with a specific area of focus, for example, adding a new user (@Computer-Users). Then, when that task was done, I would opportunistically flip my area of focus to "security" (@Computer-Security) and notice that I had an action to review expirations of notes id's. Point being is that the physical context stayed the same (@Computer), but my intention of focus shifted while still working in batches. I tried to make it fun by thinking of all the angles I could work at while all my support systems were still open.

As a Social Worker Case Manager, this really works well, as "human" systems can occur at Micro, Mezzo and Macro levels. For me, when I've cleared out all the "one-on-one" items then the community-related ideas for actions start appearing intuitively. This happened during early days of Covid vaccinations. Focusing first on one-on-one conversations/scheduling led to a community awareness of a need, which led to a macro advocacy to the county to improve online scheduling features.

What I love about GTD is I can create an appropriate amount of contexts that make sense for my ability to pivot between AOF perspectives, while working in an oftentimes online world that happens to timeout.
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
I handle contexts the classic way and, yes, I do have that one long list with all that work to be done at the computer.

Alas, over the years that one computer also changed. It has become multiple computers, some more capable than others…

What works for me is to work the list. Haha, but that's the truth of the matter. If I work in a focused manner over hours, I just get a lot of things done.

By working from the list I also update my brain what else is there on the list. The more I work, the better I become at picking things from the list.

If I catch myself thinking "don't forget X" what I usually do is to add a reasonable remark to my calendar. Something like "have we worked on X yet?" on a thursday morning can do wonders ;-)

What about project Y the most important mission critical that will help us to conquer Albania?

Well, prior to GTD you wouldn't have thought that that project would be adequately organized with one meager todo item?

If I know that I'll want to work on project Y every day for at least two hours or so, in order to make friday's deadline, I will have that appear on the calendar, at least as an all-day reminder or something.

How many of these project Y projects are there anyway?

Shouldn't be too many.
 

Dmitry Kultaev

Registered
Hi there,
I'm using GTD for 2 years in my personal life now, and it works just GREAT. I love it. :)
In my professional life however, I'm facing some issues. Some parts of it work fine (inbox capturing, clarification, next action definition). The issue comes when the structuration asks me to put a context after I agreed "I need to do this, it will take me more than 2 minutes and I need to do.... when I'm on my computer - where I spend 90% of my time - now 100% as homeoffice is back again in my company). I tried to create subcontexts "On computer - requires less than 5 minutes" / "On computer - requires between 5 and 30 minutes", etc., to let me pick in the right category depending the time I have to pick the next one. But this does not work very very well. I could try based on energy required, but I feel it wouldn't work a lot too.
Have you maybe faced a similar issue and would have advices?
Thanks a lot!
Cheers,
Christophe
Hi Christophe,

Same situation here re - all work is in work computer. I splittend my next actions then into clear categories of types of work I do which to me clearly translates to needed energy and time:

Document - create short / long document, how to guide, clarification presentation or word file or some kind of conceptual article.
Coding - i maintain several group sharepoints and continuously adjust them for some efficiency features like notifications on lists changes or some Workflows or restrictions or automations in process flows.
Read / Decide / Review are from GTD Connect suggestions as some session.

Next Action - then anything else like email or some actions in big variety of corporate systems - but usually I do not group them by tool.
 

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schmeggahead

Registered
@Brain-Dead
I have been very resistant to adding a low energy type "context" to my NA.
This will make me laugh every time I see it and make me feel better about the low energy state.

When I was in an environment where I needed to review tons of material from multiple sources, I would separate them into like "reading" categories (e.g. Production Issues, Scheduled Outages, HR notifications, etc.)
I always knew the value I was trying to get from scanning them.
With the insane volume of email, I automated the sorting of these and could see unread counts to prompt review.

This might work for the computer list: sort by type of value. I also separated things to be done that other people were waiting for me to complete, kind of a reverse waiting for list.

Lots of good stuff in this thread.
Clayton.
 

Visual Learner

Registered
I love this topic so much and I feel your pain @christophe.portier. As a fully remote employee, nearly everything I do at work -- and at home for that matter -- requires a computer to get it done. Email, design work, writing courses, online purchases, reading articles or company communications, paying rent, researching a new idea, planning a trip... most technically happen on a computer. So how do you keep your @Computer list from becoming a wooly mammoth? What's been working well for me is changing the way I think about each context and the types of actions that fall under them, rather than changing the contexts themselves. As someone who likes to my system lean and mean, here's what's been working for me:

@Admin: Little life/work management tasks -- pay a bill, schedule a Zoom meeting, reorganize OneDrive, update Safari bookmarks, sign a PDF form, book a flight... Yes, many of these will happen at a computer (or iPad) but they're typically short and don't require much cognitive heavy-lifting. They're more about keeping life and work "up & running."

@Agendas: ALL my communications with colleagues, friends and family. Whether it'll ultimately be an email, phone call, MS Teams chat, 1:1 meeting topic, SMS, social media DM... if it's something I need to discuss with another human it goes under @Agendas.

@Computer: tasks that require me to be not just physically at my computer but fully present in "doing computer work" mode. Examples include building a PowerPoint deck, writing a course syllabus, designing an infographic, creating a home inventory spreadsheet, creating an itinerary for a trip to Rome... These are the longer, more cognitive-heavy (and processor-heavy) tasks that require a computer to get done (versus the shorter, simpler @Admin examples above that I can often bang out on my iPhone, iPad, whatever...).

@Errands: anything that requires my physically leaving the apartment (pick up dry cleaning, buy a book at Shakespeare & Co...)

@Home: anything that requires my being physically in my apartment (cleaning, organizing, installing, repairing, etc.). The @Home context is different from my Home area which includes any and all NA's relating to my home environment (i.e. an errand to pick up ingredients for dinner; and admin task to research new internet providers...)

@Office: this one gets a little tricky but I try to reserve this context for things I need to do when I'm in my home office environment, such as "rehearse facilitating material for new training course." While my computer is typically involved, it's less about doing "computer work" and more about being in office mode (for example, I wouldn't rehearse a workshop if I happen to be working from Starbucks). I don't use this too often but it helps for those work tasks that don't naturally comply with my definition of @admin or @computer.

@Purchases: anything I need to, intend to, or am considering buying whether online or in-person. Typically reserved for larger or discretionary purchases so I can compare all the things I plan to spend my money on and (hopefully) make an informed decision. It's also a way for me to incubate those nasty impulse purchases for a few days. (Small necessities like regular household items don't go here -- those will either become an errand or an admin item to pick up or order...)

@Read/Review: probably my favorite context. All the company communications, articles, newsletters, blogs, etc that I need or intend to read. Most of these, of course, are digital and I'll read them at my computer but this context helps separate them for when I'm in "reading mode."

And that's a wrap. Hope some of these help you out, too!
I have been using agendas and read and review for a whole. Stealing g admin- like that designation for small life tasks
 

Visual Learner

Registered
I just started to carve our contexts from my @computer list when I noticed that there is an/a energy / mood / mode of working that needed special attention.

So @Review&Approve was the first one that got separated out. This help me review all staff work regularly throughout the day without having to wade through everything on my @Computer list first.

Then @Write can next. This is actually @Google-Docs since that's where I do all my writing. I split this out because I found I needed to be in a specific energy to write ... especially where I have to be creative.

Then @Brain-Dead came next because I realized I never tackled those administrative tasks when they were buried in my @Computer list. I didn't even want to scan my @Computer list when I was in that mode! I separate them so they are easy to find, and easy to get done.

Of course I still have @Calls, @IM, @Home, @Office, @Errands and so forth. There doesn't tend to be much in those so @Computer still feels like the default list. But at least now I am generally in a focused work mode when I am tackling @Computer since I have parsed out all the other modes - whether software or energy related - into their own contexts.
Like brain dead
 

Jared Caron

Nursing leader; GTD enthusiast
Hi there,
I'm using GTD for 2 years in my personal life now, and it works just GREAT. I love it. :)
In my professional life however, I'm facing some issues. Some parts of it work fine (inbox capturing, clarification, next action definition). The issue comes when the structuration asks me to put a context after I agreed "I need to do this, it will take me more than 2 minutes and I need to do.... when I'm on my computer - where I spend 90% of my time - now 100% as homeoffice is back again in my company). I tried to create subcontexts "On computer - requires less than 5 minutes" / "On computer - requires between 5 and 30 minutes", etc., to let me pick in the right category depending the time I have to pick the next one. But this does not work very very well. I could try based on energy required, but I feel it wouldn't work a lot too.
Have you maybe faced a similar issue and would have advices?
Thanks a lot!
Cheers,
Christophe
The only distinction I use is a general @Computer context and an @Admin context.

I use the Admin context for things that are primarily administrative and require little thinking or creativity. - filling out forms, organizing files, scanning, looking up/retrieving rote information for later use.

I don't have an admin to delegate to so perhaps that's why I find that useful. It's also nice to be able to batch those things.

Everything else goes in @computer. I will at times start my next action with the name of an application (such as our medical records software) so that they sort together and remind me I need to start up or log in to something.

I experimented with many variations of subcontexts or more granular categories. I ended up deciding it was not worth the squeeze for me because it complicated my clarifying & organizing.
 
Hi there,
Following all your feedbacks, I have reorganized my contexts "On computer" into only 3 categories:
* Concentration ++ => for topics requiring a lot of time, energy and concentration
* Concentration + => for topics requiring time, energy and concentration in a moderate way
* Concentration -- => for topics I can do in parallel of part(s) of meeting(s) where I'm not concerned and I don't need to listen carefully, or at the end of my day for example
This works quite fine until now.
Thanks again for all your feedbacks above, very interesting and helping going further!
Cheers
 

treelike

Registered
One thought, which appears to work for me, is to expand the context with a relative area of focus. In this case you're combining the runway (Next Action) with a 20K area of focus. I still have the context (@Computer), but I'm tagging each item associated with an area of focus from 20K.

I can either click on @Computer and scan down to the (sorted by) tags - and focus on an area of focus which I know needs to be done at the computer, or...

I can click on the tag (which is an area of focus) and scan down to see which items i need to do at the computer.
This post has inspired me to try replacing some contexts with 20k+ subjects. I noticed when I am focussed on a higher level goal then I am er.... focussed on that goal. So it's a good time to combine next actions associated with that goal, as long as I don't have to travel too far. I'll try it anyway....
 

superchesty

Registered
This is a fascinating topic. Very complex if you don't dive deep into it and although, only polished by your own practice to find what works for you, nowadays that everything from Office is done from Home using a Computer and a Remote Connection.

Here are the contexts that I use and I have polished since March 2020 thanks to this pandemic (but I've been a GTD user since 2015).

- @Meeting: basically used for all meeting invites I need to send (and probably need prior analysis or preparation)
- @MoM (Minutes of Meeting): for all the work needed to send the notes and agreements from those meetings, considering that most days you jump from one meeting to another without any break. Here I also consider those agreements in meetings not hosted by me but are too important that I can not afford waiting for the meeting host to send the MoM.
- @Email: For all those emails I need to reply which require heavy thinking and more than 2 minutes to write
- @Training: All virtual trainings mandatory in my Workplace for which I need to block some time.
- @Agendas: All the communication that need to occur in a 1:1 mode with anyone (and which is more delicate to be treated just by an email or IM), like conversations with members from my Staff, Stakeholders, my Manager, Matrix Managers, etc.
- @Intranet: Everything that requires to surf the corporate intranet (and even the web) from my office computer
- @Excel: Oh boy, I have so much work to be done using it, so it has its own context :-S
- @Contact: All communication that I chose to do with IM, direct call or even quick email. For this @Contact category I decide which tool to use at the moment of doing it, as it generally is very simple communication and quick one also (in my Working Life GTD system I don't use anymore the @Calls list).

One important thing to say is that I implemented 2 GTD systems: 1) For my personal life (using Nirvana), 2) For my working life using Outlook (I tuned the CYD system approach as base for my GTD system in outlook and it is glorious!)

For my personal life system I use Nirvana and I apply all the regular contexts recommended by David Allen with some other additional ones and they work just great there
 

pgarth

Registered
This post has inspired me to try replacing some contexts with 20k+ subjects. I noticed when I am focussed on a higher level goal then I am er.... focussed on that goal. So it's a good time to combine next actions associated with that goal, as long as I don't have to travel too far. I'll try it anyway....
It's worth a try -- suggestion is to initially integrate just one of your 20K subjects as a proof-of-concept.

The end result is that, by clicking on your subject, you should then have awareness of all actions, across multiple contexts.

Also, my brain is telling me that DA is doing a webinar on a topic like this in March, so my thoughts are my own. ;-)
 

GTDgeekette

Registered
I love this topic so much and I feel your pain @christophe.portier. As a fully remote employee, nearly everything I do at work -- and at home for that matter -- requires a computer to get it done. Email, design work, writing courses, online purchases, reading articles or company communications, paying rent, researching a new idea, planning a trip... most technically happen on a computer. So how do you keep your @Computer list from becoming a wooly mammoth? What's been working well for me is changing the way I think about each context and the types of actions that fall under them, rather than changing the contexts themselves. As someone who likes to my system lean and mean, here's what's been working for me:

@Admin: Little life/work management tasks -- pay a bill, schedule a Zoom meeting, reorganize OneDrive, update Safari bookmarks, sign a PDF form, book a flight... Yes, many of these will happen at a computer (or iPad) but they're typically short and don't require much cognitive heavy-lifting. They're more about keeping life and work "up & running."

@Agendas: ALL my communications with colleagues, friends and family. Whether it'll ultimately be an email, phone call, MS Teams chat, 1:1 meeting topic, SMS, social media DM... if it's something I need to discuss with another human it goes under @Agendas.

@Computer: tasks that require me to be not just physically at my computer but fully present in "doing computer work" mode. Examples include building a PowerPoint deck, writing a course syllabus, designing an infographic, creating a home inventory spreadsheet, creating an itinerary for a trip to Rome... These are the longer, more cognitive-heavy (and processor-heavy) tasks that require a computer to get done (versus the shorter, simpler @Admin examples above that I can often bang out on my iPhone, iPad, whatever...).

@Errands: anything that requires my physically leaving the apartment (pick up dry cleaning, buy a book at Shakespeare & Co...)

@Home: anything that requires my being physically in my apartment (cleaning, organizing, installing, repairing, etc.). The @Home context is different from my Home area which includes any and all NA's relating to my home environment (i.e. an errand to pick up ingredients for dinner; and admin task to research new internet providers...)

@Office: this one gets a little tricky but I try to reserve this context for things I need to do when I'm in my home office environment, such as "rehearse facilitating material for new training course." While my computer is typically involved, it's less about doing "computer work" and more about being in office mode (for example, I wouldn't rehearse a workshop if I happen to be working from Starbucks). I don't use this too often but it helps for those work tasks that don't naturally comply with my definition of @admin or @computer.

@Purchases: anything I need to, intend to, or am considering buying whether online or in-person. Typically reserved for larger or discretionary purchases so I can compare all the things I plan to spend my money on and (hopefully) make an informed decision. It's also a way for me to incubate those nasty impulse purchases for a few days. (Small necessities like regular household items don't go here -- those will either become an errand or an admin item to pick up or order...)

@Read/Review: probably my favorite context. All the company communications, articles, newsletters, blogs, etc that I need or intend to read. Most of these, of course, are digital and I'll read them at my computer but this context helps separate them for when I'm in "reading mode."

And that's a wrap. Hope some of these help you out, too!
Great list!! As a relative GTD newbie, can I ask how you list in-progress book reading on your @Read/Review list? For example, I’m reading GTD and Atomic Habits right now - do I list each book title just once and check off only when finished, or do I make each chapter a check mark?
 

jwsamuel

Registered
Great list!! As a relative GTD newbie, can I ask how you list in-progress book reading on your @Read/Review list? For example, I’m reading GTD and Atomic Habits right now - do I list each book title just once and check off only when finished, or do I make each chapter a check mark?

Don't overcomplicate it. Do you really need to keep track of each chapter you've read?

I just keep two lists: 1) Books I want to read and 2) Books I've read. When I finish a book, I cross it off my want to read list and add it to the read list.
 
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