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I'm struggling with the "contexts" approach

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  • I'm struggling with the "contexts" approach

    I think I understand about creating categories that reflect the contexts in which you do work, but I'd like some clarification. I don't really set a time aside for phone calls, so should I use @Phone? What I've been doing is creating the next action and when it's time to do it, determine the best approach (email, phone call, visit) based on circumstances (I don't need an answer right away, I do need it right away, but I don't know if they're there, I need it right away and I'm pretty sure they're there).
    Or am I just doing this whole thing wrong?
    Thanks!

  • #2
    Process?

    bscott, make sure that you read ch. 2 of gtd and understand the system of processing your notes and understanding projects and next actions. If some of these smaller items require a quick phone call, you can place them immediately under the guise of "the 2 minute rule." deciding whether a correspodance should be a call or an email should be done when you are processing your notes/work. The ultimate result of "defining your work" is a @PHONE Next action list with the list of calls you need to make. its as simple as that.

    here is something i wrote in another post about context that may help.

    [LOVING YOUR CONTEXT. For me, home is the most difficult for me to open up the lists. There is no trigger to open up my lists. Whereas with @COMPUTER its easy- i just whip out the PDA and start knocking out the NA's, @calls I instantly look at when I get in the car, @WORK is when I am at my office, @errands is what I glance at when I am leaving home or leaving work. ]

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    • #3
      I little tick for @Home...

      I print my @Home list and hang it in the place I put everyday my keys... now I have no excuses, I always see the list and therefore I always use it....

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      • #4
        Where are you doing most of your work?

        Even if you work at home, it can be helpful to divide actions up into contexts such as email, web, etc.

        The key idea behind contexts is to put stuff where you will use it. If something can only be done at home, then it goes in the @home context. If something can only be done at work, then it goes in the @work context. If something is an errand, then it goes in the @errands context. The point of all this is to simplify your life when you're in one of these locations or "modes." When you're at work, you don't want to be looking at stuff you can only do at home.

        But contexts are also helpful for knocking off a bunch of smaller tasks. The example the book uses is that if you're in the airport and all you have with you is your cellphone, you can pull out your @calls list and begin going through it.

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        • #5
          More on my contextx question

          [QUOTE=madalu]Where are you doing most of your work?
          I do all of my work work at the office. That includes email, phone calls, producing stuff, etc. Maybe an example would help? In my weekly review I develop this next action "Talk with Bev about training for her people." I could a) use Outlook to set up a meeting to talk with Bev... b) call Bev and talk about the training...c) email Bev and ask her about training...d) go visit Bev and talk about training...
          This will be at least a 30 minute discussion and it's not something I need to do right now. But so I don't forget to do it, how should I categorize it?
          Or am I making this more complicated than I need?
          Thanks.

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          • #6
            try @Bev

            Originally posted by bscott
            [Maybe an example would help? In my weekly review I develop this next action "Talk with Bev about training for her people." I could a) use Outlook to set up a meeting to talk with Bev... b) call Bev and talk about the training...c) email Bev and ask her about training...d) go visit Bev and talk about training...
            This will be at least a 30 minute discussion and it's not something I need to do right now. But so I don't forget to do it, how should I categorize it?
            Or am I making this more complicated than I need?
            Thanks.
            My office is similar - I have a category in my outlook called (i.e. @Bev) for the task "talk with Bev about training...", and a folder (@Bev) where I put the training material and a little agenda for the talk if needed.
            Then, in this example, if I see Bev regarding something else during the day and she has time available, I can get the folder and have that training talk, or during my 3pm review of tasks left to do in the day I can see that I have to make a decision and switch this task to @Call, @Email- or just do it because it would likely be a 2 minute task to call or email about a meeting.
            I try to figure out what is an individual's best mode of communication (i.e. some people prefer to be emailed about everything vs. others who won't read your email for days).
            Hope that helps.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bscott
              Maybe an example would help? In my weekly review I develop this next action "Talk with Bev about training for her people." I could a) use Outlook to set up a meeting to talk with Bev... b) call Bev and talk about the training...c) email Bev and ask her about training...d) go visit Bev and talk about training...
              This will be at least a 30 minute discussion and it's not something I need to do right now. But so I don't forget to do it, how should I categorize it?
              Or am I making this more complicated than I need?
              Thanks.
              You aren't making it more complicated; you just aren't making the decision of how to proceed. Make the decision up front about the best next action. Do it up front. Decide now whether you're going to call Bev, email Bev with specific questions, email Bev to schedule a meeting, just put a meeting on Bev's calendar and hope she shows up, or walk down to Bev's office and start talking. Make that decision up front, and then focus on that approach.

              One of the greatest things I learned from David Allen was to make decisions at the best, most efficient, appropriate time. The system forced me to make decisions like this early, which forced me to think about my desired outcome/end result far earlier than I had been for many things.

              Back to your specific example: are you sure that the very next action is to make contact with Bev? If you expect that to result in a 30-minute conversation, do you know all of the issues that need to be covered in that conversation? Do you know what you need from Bev (information, authorization or permission, a decision, or something else)? Is the next action really to talk to or meet with Bev, or is it some sort of planning?

              Comment


              • #8
                Not only location

                When people talk about contexts they usually use location as an example. Another use is mindset. I live a pretty digital and mobile lifestyle and could do my work and personal projects from almost anywhere. Trying to set up contexts for that was a nightmare. But when I started considering contexts to be states of mind (or moods, or whatever), it all fell into place for me.

                Yes, I COULD do email from anywhere but I don't necesarily want to and so I have an @email list. Or, I can only fill out X reports from work, but I don't always want to be thinking about/seeing these reports on my list so I created an @X reports list (that can only be done at work). Contexts can overlap. They aren't for everyone. Don't beat yourself up if they don't seem useful.

                Your weekly review - now that is something you should ALWAYS utilize.
                Last edited by webagogue; 07-24-2006, 06:40 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SLPgtd
                  My office is similar - I have a category in my outlook called (i.e. @Bev)
                  Hope that helps.
                  I have the same thing for stuff I need to talk to my gf about... just don't tell her, okay?

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                  • #10
                    I belive the original question is "Should I use some kind of triggers or time map that bring to life this or that context list?" If that was the question then I think there were no answer in DA's book. Anyway there're only two options I know of (maybe somebody could add the list):

                    1. Time Map, i.e. 9am - @Calls; 10am - @Office, 17pm - @Home

                    2. Triggers, i.e. Car - @Calls; Leaving Home or Office - @Errands

                    Any other ideas? Maybe there're better ways?

                    I use both. I have a time map that divides my research, office and home life and I have triggers that I use. I belive if there're no triggers or time map you'll never use your lists because nothing will remind when to use it.

                    Regards,

                    Eugene.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It's about decision making

                      Originally posted by BrianK
                      you just aren't making the decision of how to proceed. Make the decision up front about the best next action. Do it up front. Decide now whether you're going to call Bev, email Bev with specific questions, email Bev to schedule a meeting, just put a meeting on Bev's calendar and hope she shows up, or walk down to Bev's office and start talking. Make that decision up front, and then focus on that approach.
                      Actually I think Brian K may have my key. I should decide immediately how I want to communicate with Bev (email, phone call, meeting). I suspect that if I email or phone, I may end up with a "schedule meeting with Bev" next action. So why not go ahead and schedule the meeting in the first place?

                      But to take Brian's next suggestion about the conversation further (i.e. do I really have the next action?), I should have a 'project' called "Train Bev's People" that has a whole bunch of actions (schedule meeting with Bev, document and publish notes from Bev meeting, etc.).

                      Learning, learning, learning...

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                      • #12
                        I'm a SAHM so technically I could have two contexts - home and town. However, I separate my contexts beyond those two. I have things separated in general categories as to what I feel like doing. I have outside, office, domestic stuff (regular things), deep cleaning, hobbies, etc.

                        I chafe under schedules and prefer to work according to inspiration. I find the weekly review essential to my success. I outline all of the things I want to do and can do right now and sort them according to my contexts. By doing my brain dump and yet having things fresh in my mind, I get more done than with any other method.

                        I find that if I set an intention to do something by putting it on a list, the inspiration will occur and I'll get to it. If I don't, there is generally some obstacle to getting it done, such as figuring out exactly how I want to do something. In those cases, having the item on my mind due to having it on my list sometimes works because I mull it over and come up with a solution. Other times, I have to discipline myself to think about why it's not getting done and come up with a more clear plan of action.

                        For instance, I've had calzone made with homemade dough on my menu for three weeks but it wasn't until I figured out exactly when I needed to start making it in order to have it ready for supper that I actually got it made. Generally I start thinking about supper when it is too late for such projects.

                        I also separate things according to energy levels. My two domestic categories reflect that. Regular items are stuff I don't really need to think about or devote a block of time to, generally. The other category (deep cleaning) also includes home improvement projects such as cleaning out closets and organizing shelves so they function better. I have to be in a creative, take-initiative mode in order to do those types of projects, but when I'm in that mode, I know exactly what I want to get done and can make the most of it. Other times, I need to feel productive but don't feel like thinking, so I vacuum or do laundry.

                        That's what works for me. It took me some time to figure out my own version that works best for me, but the experimenting and fiddling around certainly paid off.

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                        • #13
                          "think about"

                          I have a "think about" context for projects that need to move, but I can't seem to decide what to do next. I have some set processes that I use for my "think abouts", such as brainstorm five ideas, brainstorm for 5 minutes, think up a decision making process (for instance, my decision making process for planning a vacation is to first spend 30 minutes on the web looking at five different choices; then, to email other people who are going the vacation and get their feedback, etc...). All my think abouts are reduced to a specific process or time so I don't just think forever.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by webagogue
                            Contexts can overlap. They aren't for everyone. Don't beat yourself up if they don't seem useful.
                            I basically have three contexts: @Work, @Waiting, and @Home. If it's a work phone call I'll make it when I'm at work, regardless of whether that's at my own desk, in a few minutes between meetings, or from my cellphone at the airport. It's still "work".

                            The overhead of looking down the list to separate out the things that I can/can't do in a particular subcontext is trivial compared with maintaining separate subcontexts and remembering to look at them all.

                            What I do find is that I tend to group activities by type. So if I have to make an urgent phone call I'm more likely to work through the rest of the calls on my list. If I have to write an e-mail, I'll pick the rest of them off the list (my NA list is typically between 20 and 40 items at any time).

                            It's not "pure" GTD, but it does work for me. And that's what counts at the end of the day.

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