Work Contexts

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Stephen Brown, May 16, 2019.

  1. Stephen Brown

    Stephen Brown Registered

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    Hi, I have always had a problem with contexts and wouldn't mind a little help.

    Most of my work-related actions can be placed on a Computer context (I call it Lenovo to differentiate it from my MacBook). However, there are some actions that can only be done in the office so I have that an Office context. The problem is that I am in the office 90% of the time so I don't get much value separating them that way.

    I want to keep my lists short. Does anyone have any good strategies for this? I've considered breaking the work-related tasks out by priority. Any thoughts?
     
  2. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I love the splitting idea (that can be applied to contexts) described by @Gardener:

     
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  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    In my experience, sorting by priority tends to lower overall productivity. First there is the overhead of making decisions about priority. Then either the low priority stuff gets done very slowly or the high priority stuff repels you and doesn’t get done. It’s better to pick a simple category of work that has some volume and must be handled regularly. Email is a good category to try, for example.
     
  4. RS356

    RS356 Practicing GTD since 2005

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    I’ve tried organizing my next actions by priority and it didn’t work for me. Priorities shift frequently throughout the day and keeping the lists current became a chore.

    You might try expanding your contexts to include the type of task such as Email, Writing, or Brainstorming. It’s a subtle acknowledgement that actions may require other resources than simply being physically in the office or at a computer, and it’s worked for me in the past.

    Also, if you have a number of tasks that require focused attention, consider time-blocking them on your calendar rather than listing them as next actions. The trick is to keep these commitments to yourself while not being overly structured. This will depend on your nature of work.
     
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  5. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Priority doesn't work in my experience. But separating them by software or hardware used does. That's part of why my @Computer context really consists of 12 different ones all based on either connectivity, hardware required or software program I use. So my contexts are things like @Computer Internet, @Scrivener, @LibreOffice, @LightRoom & Photoshop, @MacAir, @iMac, @iPhone, @iPad etc. I also used finer grained locations, @Red Barn, @Shop Building, @Little House (Our guest house) even though I can walk quickly to any location.

    Another factor is compartmentalizing the places and machines where I do tasks so that when I do them I am most efficient. So I don't read or respond to email except when I am at my iMac because that is also at my desk and so I have my filing systems and all the tools I need to completely process emails in that location. I also have a larger screen so I am more efficient as I can read the email and easily see where or if it fits into an existing project and place the proper notes etc directly into Omnifocus. Sure, I could read emails on my iPhone but I am not efficient there so I just don't. I don't even have mail set up on my phone except for 1 emergency email account in case I need to send an email. Likewise I don't try to read my kindle books or long PDFs on my iMac or on my MacAir. I do those on my iPad, because that is the device I have set up with all my reading and annotation tools and it's more portable so I can take reading with me everywhere and get some done while waiting at the bank or in a doctors office or in line at he grocery store. I don't do LambTracker development on anything but my MacAir, because I've set up the development system on it because it's portable. I can take it out to the field for debugging when we work the sheep which I can't do with any other device. Just because you can do something everywhere or all things on one place device mean that's the most efficient and effective way to accomplish those tasks.

    Realistically I am always either @Home or @Town or @City. But I've found that separating the tasks into many more contexts makes me more efficient and effective in accomplishing my goals. I currently have 35 active contexts.
     
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  6. Stephen Brown

    Stephen Brown Registered

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    I understand what you're saying and how that concept might work. But if I had 35 contexts it would just feel like another long list of a sort.

    I think the problem for me is that I feel uncomfortable when looking at a long list. For example, my projects in OmniFocus is just a long list that repels me (especially when most have only a single next action).

    Sometimes, with my aversion to lists, I feel that GTD is probably not the best system for me. I just haven't found something better.
     
  7. Stephen Brown

    Stephen Brown Registered

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    Yes, I might start to really consider what I want out of my system. I could maybe even apply the splitting concept to my projects. For example, I could just categorise tasks by area of focus or topic in the projects section of OmniFocus but only create a project if there are enough items to justify its existence.

    I'm still not sure how to apply it to Contexts.
     
  8. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    As far as I understand @Oogiem's contexts are real and specific - not artificially created. She just has so many places/tools.
     
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  9. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    For me all those contexts are accurate and real and are what keep me from overlong lists. In my world that is. In general I tolerate and thrive on longer lists than most. For example I keep all potential projects I might or would like to do in the current 3 month season active in Omnifocus. Some may never get done this year but they are all things I could and want to do this season for them. Priority and energy may make some of them roll over into someday/maybe when I do my quarterly review at the solstice.
     
  10. vaughan76

    vaughan76 Registered

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    If you’re using OmniFocus, what about flagging your hot items for the day and then working entirely off that list? Then you can control how large of a list it is and keep it manageable for the day?
     
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  11. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I agree with this. Create a small "intentions" list. This is what you intend to do. Obviously, sometimes things can change and you may have to do work not on that list. That is okay. When you can, come back to your intentions list. At the end of the day, discard it and start over the next day. It is all about focus.
     
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  12. Stephen Brown

    Stephen Brown Registered

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    Good points everyone. Thanks.
     
  13. SimmonSydney

    SimmonSydney Registered

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    Hey mate

    How I would deal with the Office and computer list issue is to split them into what you can “ONLY” do on your computer and only in the office.

    So ask yourself the questions :

    Can I only do this on my computer while I am connected to my office network ? Yes

    @COMPUTER OFFICE

    Does this need to be done on my computer but I don’t need to be on the office network ? Yes

    @COMPUTER ANYWHERE

    is this a task that needs to be done in the office but doesn’t need a computer necessarily (ie printing something, or speaking to someone face to face in another department) ? Yes

    @OFFICE

    that’s what I would do. I had similar issues in the beginning with long lists, but found asking myself questions about what the task actually required helps me seperate them.

    I actually have a “Sitting in the car bored in bloody traffic again” list. No joke :)
     
  14. SimmonSydney

    SimmonSydney Registered

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    Whenever I read @Oogiem talk about her system, I can’t help but think that what she needs is another couple of Oogie’s ;) so busy, such a trooper ;)
     
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  15. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    The busy is of my own making. But I do focus on things in season, now it's lambs and lambing. 5 ewes left to lamb and then focus will switch to my historical society and family archiving projects.

    I have really started to implement a more rigorous tracking and planning system based on the 12 week year book that seems to really bring focus to my work. I was already doing that in general because of the seasonal nature of what I do but the book gave me some tools to fine tune and focus my efforts more effectively.
     
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  16. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    And the 12-week year book gives us a promise to have 4 years in one year. And fulfills this promise!
     
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  17. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Yes, the 12-week year approach has been a life-changer for me! :)
     
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  18. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    I'm a remote worker, which means a lot of what I need to do both personally and professionally could fall into just three contexts: at home, at computer (personal), and at computer (work laptop). You could even go so far as to say everything I need to do that doesn't involve client visits could just go into an "at home" list. Nevertheless, I find contexts useful.

    I do something similar to what @SimmonSydney does, dividing up my computer contexts in ways that make sense to me. In my case, it has to do with whether something is machine-dependent (for example, some things I need to do require software that resides only on my work laptop), or can be done in the cloud. I have cloud contexts for both work and personal so I'm not repeatedly sifting through personal tasks during hours when I'm unlikely to be doing them.

    I also have a couple of functional contexts related to a personal endeavor to create my own comic-book: writing and drawing. I like to schedule creative time blocks before work, and keeping those actions in their own lists for easy review helps make those blocks more efficient.

    I realize my use case is a bit different from yours. But hopefully sharing my thought process will help you to spark your own.

    You could also, as has already been suggested, group actions by the specific software or other computer-based tool you'll need to accomplish them. I find it easier and more efficient to group like tasks together. For instance, if I have a couple of key emails to send, it often makes sense to knock off any other email actions that are also on my list. When I switch between computer applications (for example: sending an email, then switching to MS Office, then doing a web search), the effort it takes to mentally unhook from one type of task to the next slows me down and eats away at my mental energy faster than staying at one type of task for an extended period.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
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  19. GTDengineer

    GTDengineer Registered

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    Stephen,

    You may be recording too many actions on the next action list. I would recommend to only record the single next action for any project or topic. If you have in mind a series of actions, then make a checklist and put it in your project reference material. Then, your single entry on the next action list might be "perform step 5 from project xyz checklist", whereby when you get in the flow of working you might perform step 5, then 6 and 7 before you come to a stop point. Then, you can update your next action as "perform step 8 from project xyz checklist" and go on to do something else like a lunch break or look up the next action for another project. This way, your next action lists are reduced to the minimum necessary content.

    And if you can substantially reduce the length of your next actions list, I wouldn't worry too much about the contexts. In my opinion, these context areas have to be pretty well differentiated to be useful. Like, if you have 3 different locations where you perform work which is only possible to perform at those places. And maybe there is a fourth category for work that can be done anywhere.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  20. Stephen Brown

    Stephen Brown Registered

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    Thanks for this suggestion. I think I’ll try this.
     
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