What is the purpose of contexts?

May

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debbieg;87850 said:
I'm also sorting by areas of focus. My question for you is this...

Let's say you have 3 high priority areas of focus. Do you have a separate list for each one where you capture ideas/future actions? How often are you reviewing these lists? If you are going to work on one next action from each of your three areas of focus on Monday, where do you keep track of these key next actions so you don't loose sight of them?

I don't have separate lists, all next actions are in one list and I can filter that list by context, area of focus (label), project. I use electronic system, it's very easy to keep track of everything, all I have to do is to set areas of focus (labels) for projects and contexts for actions and the rest is automatic (I don't need to set areas of focus for actions manually and I don't have to keep multiple lists).

I capture all new ideas and some new actions with evernote (inbox) or paper (goes to evernote inbox later) and then process it whenever I want to and add to my gtd system.

All new actions are added to some project (if it's a single action it is added to "work single action" project or "personal single action" project and etc.).
I review the system constantly but it takes only 20mins a day overall.
 

Myriam

Registered
Paola52;87669 said:
I have a list of 25 next actions sorted by importance (sales related then non-sales related). I do them one by one by importance. It doesn't matter in which context it is. If I have to call my client then I have to do it and not wait for the right context to appear. I make this context :)

When I sorted them by contexts then it just prevented me from choosing the most important one. I had to do double job looking through different contexts for the most important next action to do next.

Am I doing something wrong?

what you might see differently:
- a next action is only the next physical step for a project, it doesn't mean you have to stop after it. If I have a project to set up a now type of training that I will give for a client, then my next action might very well be "search old training material for training x at company y for inspiration". That might take me 10 minutes, after that I hava a choice. Eighter I'm glad with that tiny bit of progress (maybe I don't have time for more), and then I define a new next action, like "read old training material for inspiration". Or I have time to work on that specific project, and I go on till I have (for example) an outline for the new training. Then I stop and write down the next action, being "discuss outline with client". So a next action is like a bookmark (where was I for this project).
- you can not always "make" a context. if you have an urgent call to a client and it's the middle of the night, or you are in a train without a phone, you simply can not make that call. But in that train, you might do some reading.
- If you do have a choice of contexts, then yes, the urgency will define what context you choose. But if you have some time, then you might say "I made this urgent call, I'm in call modus now, let's make those 3 other calls I need to make"

Of course, if you have 26 fires burning, you will need to put them out first, without thinking "oh I got a fire going, and being close to a fire means I'm in @fire-context, so let's sit down and have a BBQ" :-D

greetings,
Myriam

ps: I loved the reply from TesTeq about "travelling forth and back between your work and home all day", it resumes the context story really well!
 

Paola52

Registered
Today's results.

Competed:
10 next actions: 5 @Sales, 5 unplanned, Zero @Other
5 meeting planned: 2 Sales, 3 Others, 2 Unplanned
41 calls

Feelings: feel no drive.

What statistics is missing here?

Waiting for tomorrow to compare the stats.
 

Paola52

Registered
Myriam;87867 said:
Of course, if you have 26 fires burning, you will need to put them out first, without thinking "oh I got a fire going, and being close to a fire means I'm in @fire-context, so let's sit down and have a BBQ" :-D

greetings,
Myriam

ps: I loved the reply from TesTeq about "travelling forth and back between your work and home all day", it resumes the context story really well!

Liked your quote about bbq! And TesTeq quote makes no sense. Let's say you have a big project to earn money and you go to the office to meet the customer. When at work you open your list just to find out that you need to make your tax that requires to be at home and this is the most important project after the customer meeting. So you jump to the car and go back. Won't you?

In resume we follow our priorities all day long. It sounds crazy as you said to have bbq because you have a fire to put out (in other words touse context to do something instead of the most important thing to do now). The day is limited to 24 hours and it's up to you to fill it with priority projects or other stuff.
 

Myriam

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Paola52;87869 said:
Liked your quote about bbq!

Thanks !:D

Paola52;87869 said:
And TesTeq quote makes no sense. Let's say you have a big project to earn money and you go to the office to meet the customer. When at work you open your list just to find out that you need to make your tax that requires to be at home and this is the most important project after the customer meeting. So you jump to the car and go back. Won't you?

Since I work from home (I'm self employed), this situation wouldn't require me to jump in my car... but I can't imagine your boss being very happy if you jump in your car to go do "something urgent" at home... There's home time and office time for most people and not everyone has the physical possibilities to run over to the other place. Also, I find it very difficult to prioritise private vs work projects. What is most important? My n° 1 work project or my n° 1 home project? Ask your boss, you'll get one answer, ask your husband you might get another... So the quote from TesTeq does make sense, and it is exactly what would happen if you only follow priorities... n° 1 is at home, n° 2 at work, n°3 at home again... then why not do n°1 and n°3 at the same time, and save yourself one round trip. And yes, that is exactly what contexts are about...

Paola52;87869 said:
In resume we follow our priorities all day long. It sounds crazy as you said to have bbq because you have a fire to put out (in other words touse context to do something instead of the most important thing to do now). The day is limited to 24 hours and it's up to you to fill it with priority projects or other stuff.
The great thing about GTD is that the longer you get going with it, the more you get to work on the non priority stuff. And that is when contexts come in very handy! Then suddenly comes the day that you have to make a small fire for some reason, and you do have the time and the option to say "let's do a BBQ at the same time, it's on my list, it's not urgent, but I can handle it now".

Myriam
 

kkuja

Registered
Paola52;87869 said:
When at work you open your list just to find out that you need to make your tax that requires to be at home and this is the most important project after the customer meeting. So you jump to the car and go back. Won't you?

No, I won't. I would make my taxes after work, when I'm at home. And if deadline is before I'm home from work, then I'd do it on previous day. If I notice it today then my system has failed me and it's time to revise it so I can trust it.

My boss expects me to be at the office from 9 to 17 (9am-5pm). So it's very logical that I don't waste my energy to stress about about things I cannot do. When I'm at office I select actions from my @office, @online, @computer and @phone contexts which are all doable.

Also, when I'm at home, I don't want to stress about actions I can take only at office.

So, for me, context are also about separating work and personal life. David Allen put it well: "Keep in mind, you can feel good about what you're not
doing, only when you know what you're not doing." (And you know there is reminder in trusted system about those actions, so they will be done.)

Paola52;87869 said:
In resume we follow our priorities all day long. It sounds crazy as you said to have bbq because you have a fire to put out (in other words touse context to do something instead of the most important thing to do now). The day is limited to 24 hours and it's up to you to fill it with priority projects or other stuff.

As I mentioned previously, I basically don't use priorities. If action is important enough to do It goes to my list. Some actions have due dates, because I have to get them ready at certain day. Of course common sense overrides all action lists. If house is on fire or there is some kind of serious accident, then it defines my next actions (E.g. 1. Find out what is happening (estimate seriousnes of situation, number of injured people, etc), 2. call for help, etc (from Red cross instructions for accidents)).

P.S. If I recall correctly DA said most important thing is to get stuff out of your head and to a trusted system. I interpret context and format of lists are secondary in importance.

Anyway, if/when you find what works for you, please report. No two people in this forum has identical needs and we all can learn from each other.
 

May

Registered
kkuja;87876 said:
So, for me, context are also about separating work and personal life. David Allen put it well: "Keep in mind, you can feel good about what you're not
doing, only when you know what you're not doing." (And you know there is reminder in trusted system about those actions, so they will be done.)

As I mentioned previously, I basically don't use priorities. If action is important enough to do It goes to my list. Some actions have due dates, because I have to get them ready at certain day. Of course common sense overrides all action lists. If house is on fire or there is some kind of serious accident, then it defines my next actions (E.g. 1. Find out what is happening (estimate seriousnes of situation, number of injured people, etc), 2. call for help, etc (from Red cross instructions for accidents)).

P.S. If I recall correctly DA said most important thing is to get stuff out of your head and to a trusted system. I interpret context and format of lists are secondary in importance.

Anyway, if/when you find what works for you, please report. No two people in this forum has identical needs and we all can learn from each other.

Just wanted to point out a couple of things.
First of all areas of focus are not priorities. Priorities are best assigned on the fly while you review your options.
Areas of focus/responsibility are groupings of projects into the various areas or roles of one's life. "Personal" or "Work" are typical examples of Areas of Focus. Areas of Focus helps you be more productive as you change roles throughout the day.

Again it's true that contexts are useful but there is no reason to use only contexts or only areas of focus for filtering next actions, it's easy to use both criterias, it's not like you have to dump one to use the other unless of course your system is paper based or very limited. Of course you can use areas of focus as contexts or mix them with contexts if you want but you don't have to and I think it's not the best approach. Personally I use both depending on the situation I'm in and what I want to see as my options.
 

Vickie

Registered
Not All About Context

In my job, I have to go in and out of various databases throughout the day. I have each database set up as a context so that, as I receive tasks I need to do within a certain database, I simply capture the task by context and then, when I go in there later, I can knock out 5-6 things I needed to do at one time rather than going in and out each time. This has really helped me. "At office computer" was too general and didn't buy me much as far as efficiency.

That being said, I also created a "hotlist" for myself of stuff that I need to do today no matter what or where so context is secondary in that sense.

I use Pocket Informant as my primary capture tool which allows me to switch how I view my tasks and in what order. I can view by context first or, can easily switch to view by my "starred" (hotlist items), or by next action. It also allows you to view by project folder. It's useful to have a tool that allows you to switch views because context may not be that important depending on what you are working on.
 

Jamie Elis

Registered
Optimal use of contexts depends on person, the projects and the total picture.

Depends on your life and your time/work management skills. If your life and work are very much under control then prioritizing is not so important because you have captured everything including deadlines and carving out time to plan projects and organize them. You are doing more things in bits as they go along and also allowing for the longer and deeper work sessions that some next actions require. If you are managing by crisis, then you may have to jump from and through contexts to meet deadlines.

If some of your physical contexts allow you to do more than one kind of action you may want to do some choosing between working in one context or another. It might be more important to follow a project through a few steps toward completion than to follow a context-based list. So you are making phone calls and you are also at your computer on-line. You have made 4 basic calls to schedule ordinary appointments but the 5th is to talk with a funeral director about the details of a funeral you are organizing. You finish that discussion but he wants you to look at his website for various extra frills for the funeral. You were @phone calls. You do not want to look at his site at all. You decide just to switch to writing up your thoughts right after that call and then send some emails to your cousins about the options discussed and not look at the website at all. You may want to skip, for now, your 6th call,which was to be to the snow plow company to discuss the damaged mailbox. Instead you may want to shop for a coat on-line. You need the coat to wear for the funeral so you may want to order it before you get involved in emailing the cousins.
 

May

Registered
Also I would like to add more thoughts about why David Allen doesn't describe having Area of Focus lists (filtering by Aof).

* You need to have a lot more lists.And if you want to use paper then that's going to make it too hard to maintain. I mean if you're going to have just contexts list with next actions then you might have around 5-10 lists with next actions.
Now if you want to also have Area of Focus lists then you have maintain 10-20 lists with next actions.
And if you want to have each Area of Focus list filtered by each context then you might end up with about 60 lists for next actions.

Now obviously it's a lot easier to maintain only 5-10 NA lists. I think David describes paper based system in his book even though the system doesn't matter for gtd.
I think paper is a lot harder to maintain compared to electronic :) so he has to strip the "features" as much as possible. But when we go electronic we are no longer limited by this paper based approach.

I think that using Areas of Focus aswell as contexts is a huge improvement and a huge advantage over old scholl only context approach.

* Another reason. Some people don't even need to use Areas of Focus much. For example one of the reasons why I need AoF is the fact that I work for myself and most of my actions are in @online context. If I'm going to look only at @online context all the time without separating personal from work then I might not do much work at all :) And it's going to take too much time to scan and re-scan the list.

* GTD is tailored more to a person who is not a leader and is constatly told what to do.

"The lack of a GTD personal leadership element is also prevalent in David Allen’s second book, Ready for Anything. Take note of the title. You’re ready for anything. But what is that anything? You’re ready to act, ready to get stuff done. But what’s the stuff? Who chooses it? Where does it come from? What kind of person would value the state of readiness above all else? Perhaps a martial artist. But perhaps a slave too."

I mean having only context lists would work really well for people who have a lot of hard landscapes, a somewhat structured day and a boss.
So when they go to work they simply don't have the option to switch any Areas of Focus and/or contexts, they only can do work at work anyway.
Also note David's examples in the book like whenever you get 10 minutes before a meeting or whatever...

Anyway those are my thoughts.
 

Suelin23

Registered
Paola52;87869 said:
Let's say you have a big project to earn money and you go to the office to meet the customer. When at work you open your list just to find out that you need to make your tax that requires to be at home and this is the most important project after the customer meeting. So you jump to the car and go back. Won't you?

No, I would have thought that the whole philosophy behind GTD is to make things so efficient and organised that you no longer have to do this whole 'chasing the most important thing' all the time, that you have time for all the little and big things in your life.

Doing the tax return has to be done at home, but you should have set a deadline for yourself for when you want to have submitted it. Also you should have either set it as a calendar to do or appointment to actually prepare the tax return. When you choose the date to prepare the tax return, you select a date when you know you will have time to do this at home, so when you see it on your to do list, you don't need to rush home from the office, you can stay there and complete other office tasks until it's time to come home.

If you're rushing from place to place maybe consider blocking out time each week in each context, there shouldn't need to be so much travelling in response to your lists.
 

Spalding

Registered
I don't really use contexts very much if at all, or you could say I have them simplified to just two, @work and @home. In both cases I always have both phone and computer available so that is all that I need. But I do keep a list for things that accumulate until I talk to my boss.
 

Marcelo

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Paola52;87669 said:
I have a list of 25 next actions sorted by importance (sales related then non-sales related). I do them one by one by importance. It doesn't matter in which context it is. If I have to call my client then I have to do it and not wait for the right context to appear. I make this context :)

When I sorted them by contexts then it just prevented me from choosing the most important one. I had to do double job looking through different contexts for the most important next action to do next.

Am I doing something wrong?

The purpose of sorting NAs by context is to be reminded of NAs at the right time and place, e.g. if you went to the post office at the mall you can take out your @mall list and see if there is something else you need from there - instead of looking through a long list of NAs or coming back home and remembering you also needed to buy milk. However, this is useful only if you have a long list of NAs. 25 NAs would fit in one page (if you were using paper for your lists), so in your case sorting NAs by context is unnecesary - you can see all your NAs at a glance.

As for your second sentence, if after you sorted your NAs by contexts you still look through different contexts... Suppose you are at home at 9 pm, would you look at your @office list for a next action to do right then? Or you are in the mall shopping, would you look at your @home list for a next action in the mall?

The idea of contexts lists is to reduce your search for the next action to the ones that are relevant right now instead of looking through all your NAs.

But again, if you have only 25 NAs and apparently your contexts don't limit your choices (someone might use @calls, @web and @office for example, though the NAs in those lists can be all done from the same chair), then probably you don't need contexts at present
 

Gardener

Registered
Paola52;87869 said:
Liked your quote about bbq! And TesTeq quote makes no sense. Let's say you have a big project to earn money and you go to the office to meet the customer. When at work you open your list just to find out that you need to make your tax that requires to be at home and this is the most important project after the customer meeting. So you jump to the car and go back. Won't you?

Definitely not. If I've organized my time and tasks correctly, then while my taxes may be the most _important_ task, they won't be an _emergency_ task. So there will be no need to waste a lot of driving time going home to do taxes, and then going back to the office to do something else.

Let's try an extreme example: You have an important meeting at 1pm, and another one at 3pm. The time between 2 and 3 is free. The "most important" task is one that has to be done at home. Home is 29 minutes away. So do you drive 29 minutes there and 29 minutes back, to have two minutes to spend on the most important task? No; you stay at work and spend an hour working on a less important task. The satisfaction of knowing that you're working on the "most important" thing is not valuable enough to justify wasting 58 minutes.

What if home were twenty minutes away, so that you would only waste forty minutes in order to work for twenty? What if it's ten minutes away? There's still time wasted. I argue that with correctly organized time, there's no logical reason to go home, because the at-home task won't be an emergency; you'll do it in the evening or on the weekend, when you'll naturally be at home anyway.

Changing contexts takes time, even when the context change isn't as extreme as going from work to home. Wasting time just to have the satisfaction that you're working on the "most important" task, when that task isn't in emergency status, is, IMO, wasting time.

Gardener
 

Juan

Registered
Some items are in the form of an email and some in the form of a task

.. Do I create folder in the email section and categories in the task section?
 

Juan

Registered
Call my boss

... Do I save it under @Call or @Boss or @Office.

If I need to review a process with a collegue. Would I save it under location, person, tool, or energy level?

Thanks,
Juan
 
I would not put that under @Boss--if that list is an Agenda list. Agenda lists don't typically remind you of the action to speak/meet with them, but rather topics to cover when you do speak/meet with them. So that leaves @Office or @Calls. No real black/white rule on this.

If I thought the only place I would do that action was in the office, then I might put it on that list. But I look at Calls often enough that it would be a trusted placeholder on that list too and if I was out and about and saw that, I'd likely just skip over it knowing I wouldn't want to make that call then.

I tend to have more like that with @Computer stuff. If it required my Mac or was personal, I'd put it on my @Home list to do on my personal computer or at home. But then I started to have so many of those I just created an "@Computer Personal" list.

Hope that helps!

Kelly
 

cwoodgold

Registered
Paola52;87701 said:
Jukka,
What is the plus of doing low priority stuff for one hour when you can change the context and do something of more value for you?

Example: You're at work and the most important thing on your list has
to be done at home.

Sub-case 1: The most important thing is 100 times as important as
anything else on your list, its deadline is within 24 hours, and
you have the kind of job where it's feasible to go home in
the middle of the day. Travelling between home and work provides
exercise and time to think and mentally relax.

Sub-case 2: Each thing on your list is about 10% more important than
the next thing, and they alternate between things needing to be done
at home and things needing to be done at work. Travelling between
home and work takes about as long as getting one of the things
done and provides little or no benefit in terms of exercise, relaxation
etc. but is expensive, stressful and dangerous. The deadline for
each thing is in about a week.

In sub-case 1, it's probably good to go home immediately and do
that important thing. That's probably what you're imagining. However,
for many people, most situations look more like sub-case 2.
For me, travelling between home and work usually means exercise and
some mental relaxation; still, it takes time. It's more worthwhile to
get several things done which are of considerable value (though not
the highest value) and get the highest-value thing done later, than
to spend a lot of time going back and forth and get a lot fewer things
done. If the deadline is in a week (or even tomorrow), the thing
can be done just as effectively later in the day, so there's no need
to do them in a particular order.

The value is: if you stay in one context and do several things,
you get more things done in total by the end of the day.
Valuable things.

Doing the most important thing first is a technique. It's not an
absolute rule (unless an individual chooses to make it so), and
it's not the ultimate goal of life. Other techniques, such as choosing
a way to get the most value out of the time available, can conflict
with that technique.

I don't think David Allen discusses in his books how to decide
when to change contexts. I disagree both with Paolo52 and with
another poster on this thread, who said essentially the opposite:
that you stay in a context until you've finished everything to be
done there. The choice of when to change contexts is a complex
decision based on many factors. I don't seem to have much
difficulty making those sorts of decisions.
 

kkuja

Registered
cwoodgold;88284 said:
I disagree both with Paolo52 and with
another poster on this thread, who said essentially the opposite:
that you stay in a context until you've finished everything to be
done there. The choice of when to change contexts is a complex
decision based on many factors. I don't seem to have much
difficulty making those sorts of decisions.

I agree.

Usually at office I can do next action from @office, @computer, @phone and @online lists. And at home I usually can do actions from @home, @computer, @phone and @online lists (last two with some restrictions). Current I change context between possible ones without thinking it much. I don't (yet) know if it's good or bad. I think that in my case the best reason to stay in certain list is that I'm already in correct frame of mind to continue doing stuff from it. E.g. When I'm making calls, I'm on a calls mode, etc. (Starting to make calls is very hard to me, but after I have made few, it temporarily comes easier.)

I just realised my opinions may seem to change very often (not saying it has happened now, I still don't believe in priorities and chancing physical location to change context and losing few hours while doing it.). Which is probably related to thing that I'm just starting to learn GTD.
 
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