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Contexts: when to use?

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  • Contexts: when to use?

    Do you use contexts to:

    1. utilize descrete time between planned events? or
    2. do actions at planned times?

    There's no 3d option, it looks like

  • #2
    I use contexts both when I am between specific planned events and at a planned event to make sure I remember everything to do in that context and also when I need a break I will switch contexts and work from there. SO there are at least 3 options.

    Contexts provide the framework for organizing my tasks so I am more efficient and can work less and still get the right things done.

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    • #3
      I use contexts when I decide I want to do something at a location where I am currently not. That location being a physical place or a state of mind.(level of horizon, role, someday maybe)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Fritz58 View Post
        Do you use contexts to:

        1. utilize descrete time between planned events? or
        2. do actions at planned times?

        There's no 3d option, it looks like
        Oh, come on, there are lots of other options.

        I might (in theory at least) do things off my "home" context list sometime during the evening, for example.

        I might plan ahead to do a particular thing sometime that evening.

        I could plan to spend an hour "doing things off my actions list" at a particular time in the evening, without specifying which things.

        I could plan to spend an hour doing that sometime that evening, without specifying exactly when.

        What I actually usually do is probably more like: I use my context list to look at the first few actions (i.e. previously classified as highest priority), decide that there's nothing too terribly important, and get to relax and do something else.

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        • #5
          3 fold nature of work

          For me, context is a part of the predefined work (in the 3 fold nature of work model)

          3 fold nature of work contains three (!) parts:
          Unplanned work (UW): Work as it appears
          Predefined Work (PW): Work as planned
          Defining work (DW): Processing work

          Since you always are in a context, you can always choose one of the three things above. You have a choice to engage with your context or not.

          The least successful way is to work in UW mode. You will want to get out of this zone as fast as possible. Use the 2 min rule.
          The most leverage is to work in PW mode. Then you probably work on big project which will hopefully boost your career.
          But the biggest game is the DW mode. Here you can have big leaps, transformations and revolutions happening. You've just have to figure it out first! Be aware, you can spend too much time in DW, eating away at your PW-UW time.

          Life is good

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          • #6
            Originally posted by BjornLjunggren View Post
            The least successful way is to work in UW mode.
            I don't think that applies in all situations. Doing work as it comes up can be a good choice in the following situations:
            • Something clearly very important and urgent comes up.
            • You're working on something of a normal level of importance, (implying that you've looked at your lists recently and don't have anything urgent to do), and something a bit more important than normal comes up, and you're able to conveniently interrupt what you were doing.
            • Something comes up of the type that you would usually want to do, and that can be done more effectively immediately than later ... for example, answering the phone and telling someone the answer when they ask a question.
            • All your work is usually at about the same level of importance.

            Doing work as it comes up saves time by not spending any time processing or reviewing. It's to be avoided only if there are gains from processing and prioritizing, enough gains to be worth the time spent doing so.

            Some people's work may involve a lot of things at very different levels of importance, so they may be accustomed to processing and prioritizing and see a lot of benefit from it, but they need to understand that it may not be like that for someone else. Many people might have certain categories of their work that they usually do most appropriately as work as it comes up. David Allen recognizes work as it comes up as a valid category and a regular part of the GTD system.
            Last edited by cwoodgold; 07-09-2012, 06:34 AM.

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            • #7
              Doing work as it comes is an exception for me.

              Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
              I don't think that applies in all situations. Doing work as it comes up can be a good choice in the following situations:
              • Something clearly very important and urgent comes up.
              • You're working on something of a normal level of importance, (implying that you've looked at your lists recently and don't have anything urgent to do), and something a bit more important than normal comes up, and you're able to conveniently interrupt what you were doing.
              • Something comes up of the type that you would usually want to do, and that can be done more effectively immediately than later ... for example, answering the phone and telling someone the answer when they ask a question.
              • All your work is usually at about the same level of importance.

              Doing work as it comes up saves time by not spending any time processing or reviewing. It's to be avoided only if there are gains from processing and prioritizing, enough gains to be work the time spent doing so.
              I do not agree.

              Doing work as it comes to save time processing and organizing leads to doing the latest and loudest stuff. This philosophy would degenerate my life to basic instincts of following bright and shiny objects.

              I process and review to avoid it. To find a better way of achieving my goals.

              Doing work as it comes is an exception for me - not a standard way of operation.

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              • #8
                Unplanned work...

                Originally posted by BjornLjunggren View Post
                The least successful way is to work in UW mode. You will want to get out of this zone as fast as possible.
                I know what you're saying - one doesn't want to be in a constant state of interruption.

                But I think it's important to note that unplanned work isn't inherently bad. It could be the arrival of some hitherto unimagined, really exciting new project, and the worst thing you could do would be to say "Sorry - I've only got two minutes because I've got to get back to my predefined work..."!

                I think one of the great things about having fully defined all of one's commitments (the "PW" category) is the freedom if gives us to determine, in the instance of UW, just how important it is for us to honour the interruption. It frees up choice, discernment, and possibility.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Fritz58 View Post
                  Do you use contexts to:

                  1. utilize descrete time between planned events? or
                  2. do actions at planned times?

                  There's no 3d option, it looks like
                  There is a third option and that is to do actions when at specific places. Those places can be either literal such as @grocery store, or @boss's office or more abstract such as @idle reading time.

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                  • #10
                    Manuelhe,

                    That would fall into utilize descrete time category. You are between planeed events open your @boss or whatever context and start nocking out actions.

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                    • #11
                      Given the choices

                      1. utilize descrete time between planned events?
                      but only after I've scanned my actions with due dates and calendar to make sure there are no fires that require me to change my current context. And also after quickly scanning my Projects list to make sure I'm ok with not doing things that are not in my current context.

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                      • #12
                        I struggle with when to use contexts because I am mostly a mobile worker meaning I can always run an errand, make a phone call, spend time on a work project, spend time on a home project, etc. So those contexts have not been all that meaningful for me. I think that is becoming more common for more people and noticed my instructor struggled to justify these contexts by constantly referring to the being on an airplane, one of the few places left where there are some limitations.

                        That said, context offers a second way of organizing time and presenting tasks so I feel like there is some powerful way for me to use it, but I haven't figured it out yet. The Waiting-For context is an example of this more interesting way to use contexts.

                        Perhaps state of mind would be an option (busy work, meaty work, etc.), but any more suggestions would be appreciated.

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                        • #13
                          I think state of mind is a good way to define contexts. I have a lot of contexts that exist purely because once I start doing one of those tasks, the easiest thing for me to do is to continue with other similar ones. They tend to use the same mental processes and materials. Examples are:

                          @Calls, @Chores, @Brainstorm, @DIY, @Paperwork

                          @Brainstorm and @DIY are on opposite ends of a spectrum. With @Brainstorm, it's all about mental state. Once I get going in the right mindset, I just keep feeding off the buzz created by the awesome ideas I've just had and end up being really productive.

                          With @DIY, on the other hand, once I've got my drill, screwdriver and hammer out, and while I'm covered in dust, I might as well crank through the rest of my DIY actions.

                          Another category of context I use is for large projects that involve a lot of work of mainly the same kind of action. For example: @Code Work Project A, @Code Work Project B, @Code Hobby Project, @Thesis. There is research showing that, especially for programming, the mental overhead of getting back into working on a project is such that it is horribly inefficient to go at it in short bursts, or even to be interrupted. With contexts dedicated to these projects, it's one way to incorporate large, productive chunks of time into GTD where the only actions I am seeing are from the project I am working on and I'm not being distracted by seeing actions from other projects.

                          These ideas work for me. I Hope they help you!

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                          • #14
                            Really? Can you really do your home project while driving?

                            Originally posted by joe consumer View Post
                            I struggle with when to use contexts because I am mostly a mobile worker meaning I can always run an errand, make a phone call, spend time on a work project, spend time on a home project, etc. So those contexts have not been all that meaningful for me. I think that is becoming more common for more people and noticed my instructor struggled to justify these contexts by constantly referring to the being on an airplane, one of the few places left where there are some limitations.
                            Really? Can you really do your home project while driving?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by joe consumer View Post
                              I struggle with when to use contexts because I am mostly a mobile worker meaning I can always run an errand, make a phone call, spend time on a work project, spend time on a home project, etc.
                              I've struggled with contexts too, because I work from home and most contexts are always available. I've found 2 things that helped:

                              1. I make heavy use of my someday maybe lists. During my weekly review, I move a lot of projects back to S/M if I don't expect to make any progress on them in the next week or two. That keeps my action lists short, so then I'm willing to look at multiple context lists when I have some time available. It also helps reduce overwhelm at the number of tasks you could possibly do at any one time, which can otherwise be an issue if there aren't limiting factors.

                              2. I still use contexts, and a few of those are limitations (gardening prefers dry weather!), but most are used for batching tasks. If I picked an errand off my task list as my next action, I'd like to know what other errands I could also knock off while I'm out. If I'm using a particular computer program, are there other tasks I could knock off while it's open.

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