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  • What is the purpose of contexts?

    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?

  • #2
    what if...

    Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
    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.
    What if you'd have not available a phone?

    Can we assume therefore there are context in which a phone is available and other it isn't? If you are in the office you are not at home....

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    • #3
      If my kost important next action is at home when I'm at office it means I have to go home. Quickly. And it is rediculous these days not to have a phone at office

      Comment


      • #4
        Contexts are a way to group your action items. They usually represent a location, tool, person, or energy level.

        The main advantage is that you can work in batches so it will speed up your work. For example, if you have a context of "Phone", you can look at all the people you need to call or text.

        Other times, you can only do certain things at certain locations. For example, you can only buy toothpaste whenever you're out of the house. So an action item of "buy toothpaste" could have the "errands" context. When you're working in an office, there is no need for you to look at a list of errands. However, when you're out doing errands you can look at this list and see what you need to do.

        So yeah, main advantage is doing things in batches.

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        • #5
          Will you be traveling forth and back between your work and home all day?

          Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
          If my kost important next action is at home when I'm at office it means I have to go home. Quickly.
          So let's assume that you've got the following Next Action list - sorted by priority:
          1) Fix a door @home.
          2) Talk to boss about a new project @work.
          3) Write a birthday card to mother @home.
          4) Prepare an outline of a presentation @work.
          5) Wash the dishes @home.
          6) Install Omnifocus @work.

          Will you be travelling forth and back between your work and home all day?

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          • #6
            Yes, I prefer doing important stuff then low priority. And you?

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            • #7
              The GTD books talk about a hard landscape and discretionary time.

              So the things that *must* get done, go into your hard landscape, which may be a calendar. So there's the time when you might go home from work because you have to do it next.

              Contexts come alive during discretionary time. "While I'm here", what shall I do?

              So, maybe you have to go home from work to receive a big delivery. They are late ( always ! ), so now you can check your At Home context for something productive to advance your projects while you are waiting.

              The advantage is that you did the thinking about those next actions when you had the project in mind. Now you are in the situation, you don't have to re-think anything - you just do it.
              Last edited by pxt; 04-13-2011, 04:02 AM.

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              • #8
                Pxt, makes sense! My top priority is sales call or customer meeting. It means I should book making sales calls from 10 to 11 am. Then schedule customer meeting if any. And should I have time in between I will check my @action list. Right?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
                  Pxt, makes sense! My top priority is sales call or customer meeting. It means I should book making sales calls from 10 to 11 am. Then schedule customer meeting if any. And should I have time in between I will check my @action list. Right?
                  Sounds good !

                  PXT.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
                    Yes, I prefer doing important stuff then low priority. And you?
                    Answering even while I'm not asked. I'm new to GTD, but I have always thought that it is wisest to group task so you minimize the time wasted doing them. I think that is also at least partially behind GTD philosophy. If you have an hour to wait until next meeting, you can achieve 12 5-minute task during that time. Or an hour to rest if you decide nothing requires your attention right now.

                    Also it is easier to not to stress about fixing door when you are on context in which you cannot fix it but you have made a clear decision and have solid reminder to fix it when possible.

                    Best regards, Jukka

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                    • #11
                      Jukka,

                      "not possible" means never for me. My day is full of incoming calls and people. When there's 1 hour before the next meeting I would prefer to do the most important action across all the contexts instead of bunch of lower priority stuff. If the most important action is to fix the door to ensure my kids security then I will change the context to do it. And you would prefer to make 12 five lower priority actions instead?

                      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?

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                      • #12
                        My example was poor. If there is door to be fixed for childrens security I fix it before I go to work. Of course common sense if important, it overrides my task lists.

                        But for lower priority stuff. If task is not at least somewhat important it goes to trash (or maybe someday/maybe). All my next actions are actions which must be done at some point. Some are more important than other but they still have to be done. And I find (at least in thoughts, I'm still trying to implement this stuff) it is easier for me to achieve get most done when I apply context.

                        I realise that everyone of us different and what works for one may not work for other.

                        Thank you for your thoughs.

                        Best regards, Jukka

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Contexts are the very first limiting criteria that you face when deciding what to do with your discretionary time. That's why D.A. recommends organizing your actions by context.

                          If you're at the office during the work day with 12 minutes before a meeting you can't hang that picture in your living room or do any actions that require your physical presence at home.

                          Bottom line: You don't want undoable actions in your face when you're trying to decide what's the best thing to do at the moment given your available time and energy. When you're in the war zone you have to be able to make quick intuitive judgment calls and you can't do that when you have to pick out what you can and cannot do from a long list.

                          Choose your contexts carefully, though. Don't create too many; you need as many as you need but as few as you can get by with. Start with D.A.'s recommended default list and decide as you use your system if your life warrants additional contexts.

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                          • #14
                            Important stuff without unnecessary overhead.

                            Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
                            Yes, I prefer doing important stuff then low priority. And you?
                            I prefer to do important stuff without unnecessary overhead (travel).

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Paola52 View Post
                              Jukka,

                              "not possible" means never for me. My day is full of incoming calls and people. When there's 1 hour before the next meeting I would prefer to do the most important action across all the contexts instead of bunch of lower priority stuff. If the most important action is to fix the door to ensure my kids security then I will change the context to do it. And you would prefer to make 12 five lower priority actions instead?

                              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?
                              Here is I how I look at it. All your next actions are the actions that you have decided to get done anyway so it doesn't really matter which actions you do and in which order as long as they all get done.
                              So following this logic it doesn't make sense to waste time by switching contexts to do actions as long as they are about the same priority and don't have deadlines.

                              However it is not how I work either, so let me explain

                              I personaly don't use contexts much and instead I sort by area of focus most of the time. Every project gets labeled as a certain area of focus(work,personal,etc) and then I can filter next actions by this label(so I will see next actions only from work related projects and all work related single actions too for example).
                              I work online and most actions have online context so when I want to do work I will filter by work area of focus and when I want to do personal I will filter by personal area of focus.

                              It doesn't make sense for me to do all my online actions in a batch because the list is kinda endless and I can basically spend all day online.
                              Also it doesn't make sense to have separate contexts for online-work and online-personal, online-whatever because they are not real contexts and it just generates more lists to check and it's pointless because as long as I have access to internet I can do any online actions.

                              I still have contexts and use them the way they are suposed to: like errands, agendas, home and etc I just don't find them very useful since most of the time I'm not limited by context and I can do anything anyway. I also might assign a focus context sometimes to certain actions, it kinda generates a most important to do list based on the whole gtd system and it is not a real context. But I don't use it often either.

                              So basically I can choose to see all my next actions or to filter next actions by contexts or by area of focus and
                              I can look at my focus list or I can even just look at only one single project. It depends on real life circumstances and what I want to see.

                              The goal is tweak your gtd system so that it suits your needs and helps you personally... It is going to be different for different life/work styles. I can see how context could be very useful for a person who switches locations a lot and has to do different things at different locations, but if you're not limited by context most of the time then that makes them a lot less useful

                              Originally posted by Paola52 View Post

                              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?


                              if you're not limited by context then don't filter by context.
                              Filter by context only when you are actually limited by context or want to do actions only from certain context, does this make sense?
                              In short - Context is important but it doesn't have to be the only one single criteria for filtering actions. Even though DA in his book kinda emphasises heavily on it


                              And to answer the thread title quesion "What is the purpose of contexts?"
                              There are two purposes behind a context: limitation (I can only do X in/with Y) and batch processing (it's easier to make 3 calls in a row).
                              Last edited by May; 04-13-2011, 03:03 PM.

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