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Context, time, energy, priority

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  • Context, time, energy, priority

    Do you use the time and energy axes for decision making? How often has it made a difference to you? I don't think I have even once - maybe I should try use them a bit more rigorously.

    My guess is that context is king here - that the vast majority are fairly adept at using context context to help decide what to do.

  • #2
    I'm generally with you. Time/energy very rarely enter directly into my decision-making process. Obviously, they affect the ultimate decision, but rarely do I *think* about it.

    There are times, however, where "time" kicks in as the primary driver. For example, if I've got 10 minutes before a meeting and I just completed something or have reached a good stopping point, then I will scan my list for a few things I can take care of before I head to the meeting -- usually sending follow-up emails on some of my waiting-for's. Or first thing in the morning if I manage to get a few minutes free before I need to leave for work, then I can maybe change that burned out lightbulb or drop some clothes at the cleaner.

    Energy, I suppose, does play into it; although on a more intuitive level. Eg., I'm at home, and have time to fix that loose doorknob, but meh, I'd rather do a little reading.


    • #3
      True, I guess sometimes I do that too. So you're making the decision at that time of acting - so not write (or type) "low/medium/high" and "5min/10min" whatever when you're organizing?

      So rather "just-in-time" than "just-in-case"?


      • #4

        I've always implicitly taken energy into account, even before GTD. But now, I'm explictly using a "@high energy needed" context. Three of us at work who have 25-35 mile drives (me in Chicago, the other two in DC) were talking today about how difficult it is to get going after the commute if there is unusually bad traffic, because it just saps your energy.

        Now the next step is how to create those high energy situations both at work and at home and protect them against intrusions from the outside world. Being a medication-only type II diabetic, part of it is physiolgical for me, but a bigger part of it is mental/emotional. There's a synergy with the "mind like water" martial arts GTD concept, but I'm still working on what my personal synergy needs to be.

        As far as time goes, I found that my "@personal-need computer" context was not performing as well as my other contexts. So I'm trying organizing the context into "0-9 minute" and "10+ minute" subcontexts. The 0-9 context becomes a game: how many items can I knock off in a row without getting bored during a break at work, and the 10+ context is only about 1/3 the size so it doesn't feel overwhelming.


        • #5
          Context - always taken into account, because you can't eg. do your computer NAs when you're not at a computer

          Time - I avoid taking on big time-consuming tasks if I know I don't have time to get properly into them

          Energy - I mainly use this criteria when I'm tired. Like it says in the book it's good to have some really easy NAs on your list for when you're exhausted (eg. put staples in stapler), because then you can still be productive when you're tired and the great feeling you get when ticking off tasks can actually start to give you more energy


          • #6
            Originally posted by rangi500 View Post
            . . . and the great feeling you get when ticking off tasks can actually start to give you more energy
            Great point.

            I've really been working the items on my @Errands list this week, and it feels great to be knocking off the items. Three of them were getting stale. Another got done pro-actively when it would normally be a last minute item. It feels good to have them done.


            • #7
              Originally posted by richard.watson View Post
              so not write (or type) "low/medium/high" and "5min/10min" whatever when you're organizing?
              Exactly. I find that I intuitively know how long each item will take or how much energy is needed just by looking at it.

              The low/medium/high designation for energy is so arbitrary anyway; whatever is "low" one day may be comparatively "high" the next. I think it's better just to ask "do I have the energy to tackle this right now?" A simple yes/no question rather than having to make a qualitative value judgment outside the context of the moment when I may actually choose to do it.


              • #8
                Time or energy - they are different criteria - form a bit part of my decision making process. At the end of the day, or if I find myself in a non-productive mood, I'll do the easier things.

                I don't track them as separate contexts in advance. It is much more as I've heard David Allen describe the way of using your intuition to find what to work on next.

                I find that a very liberating process.



                • #9
                  I think the context/time/energy/priority model is most useful in helping me understand conceptually what is true. Because of it, I immediately get why the priority-based systems didn't ever really work for me. I also get why the context lists do work. I never consciously think "Hmmm, I'm at my desk and I have 15 minutes, so what is my current energy level?" It's not that linear or specific. I don't look at this model as a process I consciously work through. My lists are in context, and I know that is right. The rest is intuitive and in the background.