Instill like the idea of contexts and have gotten a lot of mileage out of a fairly vanilla GTD-canonical list of them over the years, but I can definitely see your point. Between having a smartphone that has ubiquitous Internet and Office capabilities and the fact that I've been working from home this year, I feel contexts are starting to lose their punch.
I do still think a few kinds of context lists still hold all of their power: Errands (which you mention), Agendas, and travel-specific (when-in-city-x or at-conference-y) lists are still gold to me. I've also started trying to sort Next Actions by type of task--@Email or @Coding or @Drafts, not @Computer--to keep the main list shorter and group like items for batch processing.
But I feel a GTD reboot coming on, and I may try a more classic list again. We'll see...
I had started to find my contexts useless for the same reasons listed in the OP. Every next action was being labeled @computer which was becoming meaningless. Then I changed my contexts to suit where I actually wanted to do things and realized that though I COULD perform some actions at a computer at home or at work, I really needed to leave some things at work and not bring so many tasks home with me.
Contexts helped me decide in advance to STOP working when I leave a context, rather than helping me to STARTworking when I enter a context. Workaholics like me may find contexts useful after all.
Coming to this conversation late, but still fwiw here's my view.
Think about why we have contexts. Its not for some arcane reason. It simply recognises that we may have upwards of 200 Next Actions in front of us at any given time. Contexts are just a way to break down that list a little so that we don't have to scan through all 200 every time. The easiest way to reduce that list is to ignore those we can't do, which is why context was always so helpful. Not at home? Ignore those. No Internet? Ignore those too, and so on.
if you have no contexts, you're just going to have to trawl through a long list of actions, and probably face either missing important ones, or just feeling overwhelmed about the whole thing.
Granted contexts will change over time (@Moon?). but the need to drill down your list doesn't change. Just the opposite, as we all take on more and more tasks (and know to define them as such) we need better ways to drill down than ever before.
I've held off for a while with this topic...wow...page 7. I think context is important!
I love context. I tag every Next Action and Project with as many tags as appropriate. They help me a lot!
If a NA has a person associated with it I tag it to that person. Then when I am with that person I select their name and EVERYTHING I have with them comes up. This saves me all the time. I also tag with locations...I manage a facility with 25 buildings divided amongst two campuses. Tagging by location saves me all the time too.
I really feel Contexts is one of the best things about GTD.
I echo what others have said. It's true that some of the original GTD contexts may become unuseful (is that a word?) with the advent of new technology, but the principle remains the same.
I heard this question in a webinar recently: when you are in a given situation (context), what choices do you WANT to see? If you want to see all ofyour NAs, fine, but if there are situations where you would like a filtered list, then that is a context.
I like digital list managers for this reason. Like MarkDillon, I assign multiple contexts to each NA so that I can custom-filter as needed. For instance, email tasks get a tag of @HomeInside, @Online and @Email. That way, if I'm at home and want to see the full list of choices, I view @HomeInside. If I'm sitting in front of my computer and feel like doing emails I'll just pull up @Email.
However, at work I have pretty much ditched the traditional contexts. I have a desk job and don't travel, so I always have computer, phone, and Internet available. I rarely have more than 12 or so NAs at one time (my work system is separate from my personal life system), so I don't find it overwhelming to see them all at once. I just use consistent verbs to label them, so, when listed alphabetically, similar tasks (e.g. email) appear together.
I think you're missing the point.. You are still using contexts, they are just different.
Well said Oogie.
My contexts have definitely changed over the years. Heck, I probably change them every couple of weeks. But that's the elegance of the concept. Whatever your circumstance, they are still there to represent physical or working modes.
So for instance when about to travel to multiple cities, I have a context of "@before trip" and then I start creating contexts for each city e.g. "@accra". And yes, like everyone else many of my next actions end up in "@computer" these days so I break this down further to "@word", "@browser", "ipad" and so forth. My contexts indicate where I have to, or am likely to, do the next action. It allows me to get tasks done without context switching all day long.
The list may be small ... e.g. I may only have 3 things on my @home list but the nice thing is that if when I get home I know I have forecasted my day in such a way that I only need to see my @home context done before I relax for the evening ... voila! I get the three things done and shut off all electronics with a no guilt feeling.
Hope this thread has given you more ideas about how to tweak contexts for you.