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The right contexts

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  • The right contexts

    Good afternoon...

    I'm trying to implement GTD (using Outlook 2002, but that's beside the point). How do I figure out what my contexts are? The dilemna is that I don't want to have too many so that I'm not looking at the right ones, but I don't want too few so that I'm looking at inappropriate next actions.

    Here's an example: how do I separate Work related next actions from Personal next actions that need to be done during business hours?

    Or, since I have a work laptop which I take home every night and I use for personal stuff (like my finances, internet research, writing university assignments) how to avoid getting distracted at work by the personal things I should be doing in the evening @computer?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    @officedesk
    @officecomputer
    @officeemail
    @officenetworkinternet
    @workdesk
    @workcomputer
    @workemail
    @workinternet
    @workcalls
    @homedesk
    @homecomputer
    @homeemail
    @homecomputer
    @homeinternet
    @homecalls
    @personalcalls
    @churchcalls
    @volenteercalls
    @homefinances
    @personalfinances
    @homepaybills
    @stockmarket
    @maps
    @bookstobuy
    @personaloutbuying
    @personaloutdoing
    @yardwork
    @tvshows
    @moviestheatre
    @moviesblockbuster
    @xbox
    @staples
    @publix
    @wallgreens
    @homedepot

    books to buy, movies to see, movies to rent, xbox games to buy could all be in one @lists folder...

    If I remember the story correctly, in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", Goldilocks actually tried each one until she found one that was...just right.

    tim99.
    Last edited by tim99; 10-18-2005, 02:32 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      A context is the collection of resources -- time, location, people -- you need to do a task. Only you can say which contexts you need.

      In your situation, @computer-work and @computer-personal are not the same, even though they use the same physical computer, so they should be separate contexts. (By the way, do you *really* want to keep your personal financial data on a computer that your company can take back at any time?) Personal tasks that need to be done during business hours may or may not go on the same NA list as business tasks. For example, if you can make the call from your office phone, it might go on your main @phone list, or you might need an @cellphone list, too.

      Hope this helps,

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Storkman
        Here's an example: how do I separate Work related next actions from Personal next actions that need to be done during business hours?
        I think your thinking of "during business hours" or "during the evening" is not good. You could shop @homedepot during work hours or during the evening. You could make @perconalcalls during work hours or during the evening.

        Think more about 1) what location you need to be in 2) what tools you need to have and 3) is it work or personal.

        There are huge differences between:

        @work.calls and @office.desk.calls

        @personal.calls and @home.calls

        I make work and personal calls all day long from my office desk, my home desk and my truck, so I would not have an @office.desk.workhours.calls context. But my friend Eric has software at his office desk that makes phone calls for him and there are calls he only makes from that location.

        tim99.
        Last edited by tim99; 10-18-2005, 02:30 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          One way to find your own contexts is to start with just a single context called "Next Actions" that contain all your NAs. The volume will probably be too much to just have a single context, but as you look at your big, long list of NAs you might find contexts that work for you and others that don't. Start with DA's recommended contexts and the other (great) ideas suggested here.

          One of the end games is you want to look at these lists and not be repulsed, either by the volume or the items on the lists. My goal for NAs is, "That's easy I can do that".

          Mark

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Storkman
            Good afternoon...

            I'm trying to implement GTD (using Outlook 2002, but that's beside the point). How do I figure out what my contexts are? The dilemna is that I don't want to have too many so that I'm not looking at the right ones, but I don't want too few so that I'm looking at inappropriate next actions.
            My advice is to start with the smallest reasonable list, then add as necessary.

            I don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about which context is right. I don't differentiate between work and personal items. I make my context completely dependent on where I'd be most effective to do that NA. In general, I already know what tools are available in each location.

            I started with:

            @Phone
            @Office
            @Desk
            @Home
            @Anywhere
            @Shopping
            @Errand

            Even with such a short list, it seems to be working well for me so far. I guess if you have hundreds of items, then getting more specific would be helpful.

            I also have a few people-oriented context categories:

            @(wife name)
            @(boss name)

            This is where I note things that I need to talk to them about at the next opportunity.
            Last edited by Bill; 10-19-2005, 06:52 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              The basic idea behind contexts is that to complete an action successfully, a set of pre-conditions (or resources, as Katherine puts it) need to exist. A basic set of contexts that you can refine as you go is the best starting point.

              The "right contexts" are arrived at by first thinking about what you need to complete the next action successfully. The answer will give you two kinds of pre-conditions/resources: ones that you need only for that specific action, and ones that are common to other actions. Action-specific resources are support material, and common resources are contexts.

              If you need to return a file to Bob at Work, your contexts are @Bob, and @Work, and the file is support material.

              Multiple contexts give you the flexibility of getting an action done whenever it can be done. You can run into Bob outside of work and return the file if you have it.

              About separating work/personal NAs. I carry my NAs (and other personal data) are in an external portable hard drive. I can connect it to my work or my home computer and work off a single list. If you're using Outlook, you can use an "Outlook Data File", or PST. And as far as contexts go, you'll need to refine them to differentiate between contexts like "Online" and "Online at Home".

              Hope that helps.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Storkman
                I'm trying to implement GTD (using Outlook 2002, but that's beside the point). How do I figure out what my contexts are? The dilemna is that I don't want to have too many so that I'm not looking at the right ones, but I don't want too few so that I'm looking at inappropriate next actions.
                I would start with just a few. Then if actions on a list seem unreasonably dissimilar, see if you can divide it into more useful ones. For example, I broke out an @Home-Projects list for actions that require large blocks of time, like "Strip dining table."

                Your instinct is right -- if you have too many specialized contexts, you have more lists to review so as not to miss anything. (If you have a schedule of spending time in certain contexts that matches the urgency of the actions in that context, though, you may be OK.) And more context lists may be harder to maintain. On the other hand, if you have too few contexts, the lists can be long and have you switching between unlike tasks very inefficiently.

                Originally posted by Storkman
                Here's an example: how do I separate Work related next actions from Personal next actions that need to be done during business hours?

                Or, since I have a work laptop which I take home every night and I use for personal stuff (like my finances, internet research, writing university assignments) how to avoid getting distracted at work by the personal things I should be doing in the evening @computer?
                I have separate contexts for job-related and personal-related actions done in my office:
                @Office-Research
                @Office-Other

                The names are not that great, but the separate lists have been essential. I also have a master review list of everything I can do in the office, which includes everything in both contexts listed above:
                !Office

                In the morning, I review the master list !Office to help decide what I need to do. If I see some urgent personal items, I might decide to do those as soon as I get to the office, then switch to @Office-Research to spend some concentrated time on my work actions. Or, if I see no high-priority personal tasks, I switch to the @Office-Research context and stay there all day. I maintain the job-related list for the reason you mentioned -- not to get distracted by personal tasks. I even broke my job-related list down further eventually into administrative and core tasks.

                Do your personal actions really need to be done during business hours -- or not? If you can do all the personal stuff at home in the evening, try to look at that list only then. Or maybe review it quickly in the morning over breakfast for anything urgent -- then put it away till evening.

                Comment

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