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  • context choice trouble

    Hi!

    I've already dabbled with bits and pieces of GTD over the past month, and after reading the book I'm ready to do a full implementation.

    Aside from the fact that I'm probably going to put my whole flat inside my inbox when I do the initial collection, I realised that one thing that is holding me back is the choice of appropriate contexts.

    I have tons of ongoing stuff in various domains. I'm self-employed (internet/blog consultant), no office. A huge amount of what I do is at the computer.

    So, here's where I get stuck: do I separate work/home, even though I'm at home to do both? Then if I separate work/home, I'm tempted to separate work-which-brings-money-in and work-which-doesn't-directly-bring-in-money. And then I start thinking about separating home-admin-stuff and home-flat-chores stuff.

    And then, the computer: should I just have a computer context, or separate online/offline/e-mail/google/websiteA/websiteB?

    I feel I'm mixing things up (contexts and areas of responsability?) I'm caught between "stick it all in one big list and feel swamped" and "multiply lists and get lost figuring out which lists to have".

    Does anybody have experience to share which could help me out?

    Thanks -- Steph http://climbtothestars.org

  • #2
    I'm not currently doing the self-employed, work-from-home thing, but I've done it in the past. I think that for me it would work best to separate Work and Home. Then within Work somehow mark which things are for paying clients and which aren't. For example, in my calendar, I wrote appointments in a different color ink to distinguish which were paid.

    I'd leave all the home stuff lumped together.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is also my situation. Everything is at home except errands; much of my work (in multiple roles) is on the computer. I'm finding that it doesn't help to create artificial contexts. I have an "At Desk" context; once I'm sitting there drilling down lists of tasks it doesn't really matter which role I'm in. The issue is not which role (or which project) a next action belongs to, but where I am, with what tools, in what frame of mind, in order to do it.

      On the other hand, I'm experimenting with a new piece of my system, based on a suggestion in Barbara Sher's book Refuse to Choose (for people with lots of interests! www.barbarasher.com). I'm scheduling in time each week to spend a concentrated chunk of time on each of my interests. (It remains to be seen whether I can get my days regular enough to actually schedule these, or whether I'll just need to try to get to each one by the end of the week.) I'm thinking about making a context for each of those concentrated times. So for instance, "call the gallery about when to take down the show" would go under "Phone calls." But I would also have an "Art marketing" context, and would list under it the next action to take when I do my chunk of time: "review website update needs."

      What do other people think? Am I diluting the context concept too much?

      Do Mi

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks, this helps a bit! Does anybody here use multiple contexts? (or is that stretching contexts too much and I should be using something else?)

        For example, I could have a task which could be "contexted":

        @online @work @blogme @clientname

        Should some of these not be contexts? I read a forum post somewhere about "context as mood" (ie, @e-mail, @blogging) -- does that make sense for anyone, or has anyone tried and failed with it?

        I suppose I should just start with these contexts for NA (because I'm holding myself back with this in an increasingly irritating way):

        - errands
        - work-paid
        - work
        - home (includes everything from paying bills to leisure? eeps)
        - calls

        ...what about online/offline/computer distinctions? should I treat Second Life or IRC as a context? (they're work-related tools)

        Arghl. (Sorry for thinking out loud, people.)

        Any feedback appreciated.

        Comment


        • #5
          I think contexts are a personal thing because they are sometimes related to the 20,000+ foot level planning issues. The question is simply "what is the best situation (involving place, time, person, mood, available resources, project, shop, interest, fear) for doing the next action". The skill is in keeping the number of contexts down. It develops over time.

          Originally posted by steph
          I suppose I should just start with these contexts for NA (because I'm holding myself back with this in an increasingly irritating way)
          Yes exactly, just get on with it. None of the contexts you state above sound wrong or silly but the only way you will find out what is best is to try them out (usually the best ones are wrong and silly).

          Comment


          • #6
            Steph,
            You can start with the short list of context you have (work, work-paid, home, errands, calls) and change them as needed. It depends on how many on-going projects you have. If you have a lot, then you may need to break-down the work context more to make it more efficient to view the NA. However, I suspect if you are diligent with your weekly review, your list should be manageable.

            Originally posted by steph
            I have tons of ongoing stuff in various domains.
            You need to make sure you sort these ongoing stuff and NOT have them all on your NA lists if they don't belong there; i.e. if they're not something you'll be doing this week (or next, up to you), they should be in your Someday/Maybe list. You move them into your NA list when appropriate during the weekly review. This way, you're less likely to be overwhelmed by the NA lists.

            The trick is to start now and tweak it later, if needed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by petdr
              Steph,
              The trick is to start now and tweak it later, if needed.
              This is a great lesson for GTD and for life. You won't be great at it until you use it for a few weeks. Keep starting. David Allen gives you some good ideas to start with. Adjust his contexts to your situation. Then you'll change them as you get comfortable with the system

              If you don't have an @work context that differs from your @home context, then don't create an @work context.

              Comment


              • #8
                How do I know if I have different work/home contexts?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by steph
                  I'm self-employed (internet/blog consultant), no office. A huge amount of what I do is at the computer.
                  do I separate work/home, even though I'm at home to do both? Then if I separate work/home, I'm tempted to separate work-which-brings-money-in and work-which-doesn't-directly-bring-in-money. And then I start thinking about separating home-admin-stuff and home-flat-chores stuff.
                  Similar work-place situation here. In the last weeks I worked the same area of my gtd-system. What I found useful so far:

                  1. "hard" physical contexts (@computer, @home ect)
                  2. a second layer of flags for "mental" contexts (eg ƒwork ƒchore ƒcrazyclient)

                  This way my in this very moment my @computer-list consists of 109 action items, while my @computerƒwork is only 17 action items long. That is almost enough focus for my, I found out. To eli

                  - schedule blocks of time for some mental-contexts, that means having office-hours where I am only alowed to work on ƒwork-flagged items, and a power-hour after work, where I try to eliminate as much ƒchore items as possible. After that I am @home.

                  Hope this is at least semi-inspirational.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I also work from home and I'm just starting out with GTD (only a couple of weeks in and nowhere near set up yet), so I'm in a similiar sort of position. I started out with a huge big mind sweep list which I split down into the following lists:

                    @home
                    @study
                    @studio
                    @errands
                    @family
                    @meetings
                    @garden
                    calls
                    someday
                    maybe

                    I'm currently trying to get stuff organised into project lists in omnioutliner and a lot of the stuff on my lists will doubtless end up being reclassified as the projects they really are. The lists are also constantly changing as I rename and reorganise categories and think harder about my particular contexts. For example, I just added @meetings this week after realising that I needed to pay a bit more attention to my work discussions with people.

                    For me, separating home stuff and work stuff is vital so that I can track what I'm actually doing and can see if things are getting out of balance. As you doubtless know, when you're working from home it's very easy to get sucked too far into household stuff when you should be working and vice versa.

                    For the home stuff I've got one big list which I split into 'now', 'defered' and 'someday/maybe'. Then I've split the 'now' list into headings based on geographical areas - we have a big house that we're slowly rennovating and it helps me to think in rooms.

                    My study/computer section is similarly organised, it's currently split into headings like 'scanning', 'email', 'blogging', 'writing', 'online' and 'GTD'. I also spend a lot of time at my computer but I haven't split it down into personal computer stuff and work stuff because I consider things like blogging to be part of what I do, in terms of networking and raising my profile as an artist, so it's not very clear cut for me. It felt artificial to split it down into personal computing and work computing but some people might need that distinction to stay on track.

                    Really I think you have to just play around a bit until you work out what's right for you, there isn't one solution that will work for everyone.

                    Kirsty

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by steph
                      How do I know if I have different work/home contexts?
                      If you find you're doing too much work stuff all the time then you need to split your work/home contexts. Similarly, if you find you are spending too much time doing "home" home stuff when you feel you really should be working then you need to split the contexts.

                      How much is "too much" time is for you, and only you, to decide. Again, you will only find out by trying.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Use your intuition, but how?

                        Originally posted by steph
                        How do I know if I have different work/home contexts?
                        The answer is to use your intuition because you are the only one able to answer that question. Great Mark, how do I do that?!

                        One good GTD question for perspective, "How do you want to be reminded of things?".

                        Try using no contexts at all. Keep a single "Next Actions" list or "@ Next Actions" if you use a digital tool. You can always change later.

                        The first time I went to DA's seminar he didn't teach contexts. I kept a single "Next Actions" list for years. But, contexts can help you focus efforts when volume is an issue or when you have physical distinctions as you navigate through the day.

                        The lists in the book are guidelines and a way to start thinking about contexts but there is a danger in translating them into more than that.

                        Hope that helps,
                        Mark

                        Personally I have these NA contexts (paper Time/Design system):
                        1. Anywhere
                        2. Calls
                        3. Computer
                        4. Errands
                        5. Home
                        6. Office

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Let it evolve

                          Originally posted by steph
                          And then, the computer: should I just have a computer context, or separate online/offline/e-mail/google/websiteA/websiteB?

                          I feel I'm mixing things up (contexts and areas of responsability?) I'm caught between "stick it all in one big list and feel swamped" and "multiply lists and get lost figuring out which lists to have".

                          Does anybody have experience to share which could help me out?

                          Thanks -- Steph http://climbtothestars.org
                          The best advice I can share is to create "best guess" contexts to start with and then let your system evolve over time. I started with a basic @Computer-Home and @Computer-Office because I had the same concern as you (billing vs. non-billing time).. As my system has evolved and I've become more comfortable with it, I've realized that @Computer-Web, @Computer-PhotoShop, @Computer-Planning, etc. are better contexts for me because I spend so much time in the context of the computer that it was too general to just say @Computer-Home or Work... I resisted doing it this way at first because I thought it was too much overhead. But I have come to realize that my brain switches context when I go into different applications on my computers. (When I'm "creating" I'm in Photoshop, when I'm "planning" I'm at LifeBalance and iCal, when I'm searching or shopping, I'm on the Web, and so on and so forth.)

                          When I gave myself permission to allow my system evolve, I experienced more freedom with it. So set it up with your "best guess" and then let it change over time as you become more familiar with GTD and how it can best fit your needs.

                          Darla

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hard Edges

                            Steph,
                            I recommend that you download David Allen's appearance on the Personal Productivity Show. Its available here: http://productivity.thepodcastnetwor...vity-show-003/
                            Here David addresses this issue with professional bloggers: home list, computer list, skype list, etc. Its a great listen and I get something out of it every time I hear it. David also recommends that if you have a home office, make hard edges around it so that when you go in there... you are there to work on your office stuff and nothing else... use anything that helps... plants, walls, etc. Whatever puts you in THAT CONTEXT....

                            Hope this helps...

                            -Erik

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              thank you!

                              You've all given me valuable and inspiring ideas, thanks.

                              I think I'll decide to use the bunch of contexts (or whatever you'll call them) that feel "right" to me (that means, probably too many of them). The idea of having one big NA list just makes me feel too anxious right now (I'm busy filling in my inbox, but don't really have solid days to work on it.)

                              When I start processing I might change my mind about my contexts (I'm expecting to).

                              Now I can start worrying about paper-vs.-plaintext files

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