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Of Contexts and Subcontexts...

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  • Of Contexts and Subcontexts...

    I'm now using contexts and subcontexts to organize my next actions.

    For instance, take Home. I can do regular cleaning (vacuum, mop), deep cleaning (clean mildew off bathroom ceiling), organizational projects (go through yarn stash and sort new skeins from leftovers), outside (measure storm window so I know what size to buy when I'm in town), and then everything else.

    For my Office (which happens to also be at home but I want to keep separate), I have a list of personal items (balance checkbook), business maintenance items (such as recordkeeping that helps at tax time if done weekly but doesn't affect how I interact with clients), and client-oriented tasks (writing thank-you notes).

    For Errands, I have a list of errands that must be run this week (groceries, bank, gas) and then I have various categories of shopping that can be done when I have the time and energy but aren't urgent. I have Shopping - Clothes (if I'm in a store that sells clothes, my husband wants some new polo shirts so I'll check out what they have and what their prices are), Shopping - Household (I'm looking for new placemats for the dining room table but won't be buying any until I find the right ones at the right price), and so forth.

    For Calls, I have personal calls (plumber, appointment for oil change, etc.) and clients I need to call broken down into daytime calls and evening calls. I also have other business calls to make occasionally so I have a list for that as well.

    Why am I doing this? Well, it helps me prioritize and do things in chunks. If I have seven thank you notes to write, I have them all on one list. If I'm wearing grubby clothes, I can do some cleaning without worrying about messing up my nice clothes. If I'm in the mood to organize and declutter, I have a list of projects ready to go so I don't have to think about which one to do. If I'm in the office, if I'm thinking about work stuff, I can do it; if I'm more in my home mode, I can do that. It also helps me make sure I don't neglect one over the other.

    None of my lists are overly long - about a dozen items is my max. This just helps me to focus and not get overwhelmed with the variety of tasks I can do when I'm in a given context.

    It seems to be working very well and really decreased my anxiety about the things I need to do, a step similar to the one when I started sorting things by contexts in general as David Allen recommends. I do use a paper planner, so I have no idea how this would work with an electronic planner (one of the many reasons why I prefer paper over electronic), but that's beside the point.

    Since it is working so well, I just thought I'd share.

  • #2
    Cool, I may try this. I have one "@Home" context for stuff done around the house, and one "@Home Desk" context for stuff that needs to be done at my desk. Might make sense to create subcontexts.

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    • #3
      My situation is similar (working mostly from home the last 6 months), and I have some similar subcontexts, too.

      @Home includes
      • @Home-Research
      • @Home-Projects
      • Computer-
      @Home-Research exists because I want to focus much of my workday on these work-related projects. When it's time to work on a paper I'm writing or to analyze some data, I don't want to see any other tasks, even if they are physically nearby. I do not want to see "Fill hummingbird feeder" when I'm trying to work on my paper. Only a list of paper-related tasks.

      @Home-Projects also contains tasks that require large chunks of time. "Strip lacquer from dining room table" is on there right now. I need about 4 hours to move that project forward. Once I start some of the refinishing steps, I must continue with others within a certain time frame. So I want to see those all on their own list.

      Computer- exists because my home computer is a laptop. Many of my tasks require the laptop. It's nice to be able to look at the Computer list anywhere I take the computer. Soon I will be working in my office several days a week. @Office also includes Computer-, so those tasks will show up appropriately in both physical locations where I can use them.

      @Home includes everything that is on Computer and @Home-Research, plus all the other tasks I assign to @Home itself (like "Fill hummingbird feeder"). Being able to include tasks from other contexts gives me the one big physical list more like default GTD . But I can still look at each subcontext by itself, too.

      The @Home-Projects is not included in any other context, though. I look at those big time eaters only by themselves.

      And I maintain these contexts electronically.

      I know someone who has @Home-Garage. And I've heard of a context for outside just on sunny days, used by someone who lives where it rains all the time! I don't need this one at all -- here it's always sunny and the gardeners take care of the yard -- but it's interesting the different contexts different people can find useful!

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