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  • Contexts for a newbie

    I've read a few threads about different ways to organize contexts. Frankly, I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all. I've read GTD and have a basic understanding of the system. But I haven't yet figured out the best way to use contexts for my needs, and I'm hoping I can get your help.

    I'm a graduate student and artist primarily, and I also have a job consulting with a TV/film production company I started a while back. I have a home office with a desktop computer, which is where I do 75% of my studying and work. Often I will study or read or work in my home (away from my computer/home office) or in a local cafe. As far as art goes, I'm mostly a visual artist/photographer. I capture images on location and process them in my home office.

    I guess I could have these contexts:
    - Home office
    - School (things that actually have to be done at school)
    - On location (for photo shoots - does this make sense? It doesn't seem like it's clear enough to initiate action)

    But I'm not sure what to use for the times when I'm studying elsewhere (in a cafe, in the living room, etc.) or simply writing out something by hand that I can do anywhere I might find myself. For example, I have a Moleskine notebook that I frequently sketch ideas for projects in. I'll make a note in my GTD system to brainstorm for a new project, which I always use the Moleskine notebook for, but it could happen anywhere. So what context would I use for that? And what context would I use for studying that could happen in the library at school, at a local pub, or at the beach?

    Maybe my contexts should be more based on the tools/media I use than on locations. For example, a "Mac" context could be completed in my home office on my desktop computer, or on my laptop at a cafe. A "Moleskine" context could be done in my car, in an airport, or at home. But this seems like it's getting away from the basic structure of the GTD system.

    What do you think?

  • #2
    @Anywhere

    David mentions an @Anywhere list in his article on setting up the Palm. No reason to have a special "context" if you can do what you need to do anywhere you have your notebook or GTD tool.

    Regards,
    Gordon

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by BigStory View Post
      David mentions an @Anywhere list in his article on setting up the Palm. No reason to have a special "context" if you can do what you need to do anywhere you have your notebook or GTD tool.

      Regards,
      Gordon
      Do you mean setting up a context called "anywhere"?

      Funny, because that's what I've been using the past few days. But it tends to get very full of actions because work, school and art stuff could all potentially go in there.

      Also, I'm not sure an "anywhere" context that contains all of those actions would really help for me. Because then the "next action" in that context could be drawn from work, school or art. Often, though, I set out chunks of time for studying, for working, or for art - and when I sit down to do one of those activities I'd like to be able to see the "next action" for the one I'm working on - not the next action for a particular place, like "anywhere" or "home office".

      I though of just having a context for "study", "work" and "art", but again, I wonder if that is consistent with the way GTD is supposed to work?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by switters View Post

        I guess I could have these contexts:
        - Home office
        - School (things that actually have to be done at school)
        - On location (for photo shoots - does this make sense? It doesn't seem like it's clear enough to initiate action)

        But I'm not sure what to use for the times when I'm studying elsewhere (in a cafe, in the living room, etc.) or simply writing out something by hand that I can do anywhere I might find myself. For example, I have a Moleskine notebook that I frequently sketch ideas for projects in. I'll make a note in my GTD system to brainstorm for a new project, which I always use the Moleskine notebook for, but it could happen anywhere. So what context would I use for that? And what context would I use for studying that could happen in the library at school, at a local pub, or at the beach?

        Maybe my contexts should be more based on the tools/media I use than on locations. For example, a "Mac" context could be completed in my home office on my desktop computer, or on my laptop at a cafe. A "Moleskine" context could be done in my car, in an airport, or at home. But this seems like it's getting away from the basic structure of the GTD system.

        What do you think?
        I have some of the same problems with contexts. Most of my tools are available at both home and work, and some are "anywhere"- sort of. @Anywhere and @Computer really means either work or home for me, but @Anywhere doesn't use a computer. I think there is nothing wrong with arranging next actions by tools, as with @Computer and @Calls. It might be the same place, but the tool is different. I like your @Moleskine, because it implies a very specific form of activity. It's like putting on your running clothes.

        Don't be afraid of trying new contexts, and modifying or discarding them based on experience. I've tried @Reading, but it didn't work very well, because I do many different kinds of reading, and at different places. I've gone back and forth between @Errands and @Out, and between @Agendas and @People, just on the basis of the word I like to use.

        Comment


        • #5
          Don't be afraid of trying new contexts, and modifying or discarding them based on experience.
          You're not going to get your contexts just right on the first try; just start, and let your system evolve over time, as you learn what works & what doesn't.

          For some of those tasks you can do almost anywhere, I have contexts like "@online" (anywhere I have an internet connection) and "@think" (anywhere I have a quiet moment!).

          But I'm always adding and removing contexts as I refine my system, and as my life changes. Whatever system your using should make it very very easy to add and remove contexts.

          Good luck!

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful replies. I see that I'm going to have to do as you suggest and just try something, then change it as necessary based on what works for me. I'm using OmniFocus and/or iGTD, so it's pretty easy.

            Comment


            • #7
              Don't always think of contexts as places

              I think that one of the hardest things I had to resolve when I first started GTD was contexts. I always wanted to think of contexts as places, and because of that could not get many of my NA's to fit within my contexts, prompting me to constantly add new contexts. I have now relaxed my view of contexts as places and have trimmed down my contexts list to only 6, and find it much more useful to me. I would suggest that perhaps what you may really want is a context named @Study. NA's in there would be actions that need to occur when your are in the "Study" mode, not necessarily related to whether you are at school, home, library, etc... Good luck.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with tarheel810

                Context takes account of not only what tools you have available, but also your energy level, time available, and other factors. So your contexts will be whatever best suits you. And everyone else here is right: tweak your system until it fits your needs.

                For instance, you might want something like @Brain and @NoBrain, to distinguish between tasks that require you to think and those that you could do in your sleep. I worked for a while with @Nice and @Nasty, for the days when I was very stressed: it meant I could get something done without being faced by tasks that exacerbate that stress (even just thinking of them).

                Or you might want to use @Creative and @Plodding, for times when you feel creative and artistic, and times when you just want to crank some widgets. It's all up to you. Just don't have too many or too few categories.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Context, time, energy and priority are independent variables.

                  Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                  Context takes account of not only what tools you have available, but also your energy level, time available, and other factors. So your contexts will be whatever best suits you. And everyone else here is right: tweak your system until it fits your needs.
                  For me context, time, energy and priority are independent variables so context is not a function of time, energy or priority.

                  For example you would end up with the following contexts:
                  • @home_up_to_5_minutes_high_energy_very_important
                  • @home_up_to_5_minutes_high_energy_miscellaneous
                  • @home_up_to_5_minutes_low_energy_very_important
                  • @home_up_to_5_minutes_low_energy_miscellaneous
                  • @home_between_5_to_15_minutes_high_energy_very_imp ortant
                  • @home_between_5_to_15_minutes_high_energy_miscella neous
                  • @home_between_5_to_15_minutes_low_energy_very_impo rtant
                  • @home_between_5_to_15_minutes_low_energy_miscellan eous
                  • @home_between_15_to_60_minutes_high_energy_very_im portant
                  • @home_between_15_to_60_minutes_high_energy_miscell aneous
                  • @home_between_15_to_60_minutes_low_energy_very_imp ortant
                  • @home_between_15_to_60_minutes_low_energy_miscella neous

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Contexts - Helpful But Not Essential

                    At my first DA seminar (way back!) contexts were not mentioned. We organized next actions on a single list and from my experience it worked fine. Contexts are helpful with the volume of next actions but I think they get way overplayed as the lifeblood of GTD.

                    In fact you might want to experiment with no contexts at all. Over time and with experience in your own situation contexts that best suit your system might naturally appear.

                    In my own system I organize (Time/Design Activities Checklists) by the commonly recommended contexts:

                    Agendas (DataBank tab)
                    Anywhere
                    Calls
                    Computer
                    Computer - Fidelity (my company)
                    Errands
                    Home
                    Home - PC
                    Home - Mac
                    Office
                    Waiting For

                    They work for me and I like the "hard edge" during the Organize phase.

                    Mark
                    Last edited by Mark Jantzen; 11-30-2007, 03:34 PM. Reason: Forgot Agendas

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm still playing with my context lists. I know I'll get rid of @read/review, since that list is just growing. I read a lot, but somehow never what I put on that list (mental block perhaps?) Another context that I now love is @program, which I use primarily for 2 heavy programs. When in one of these programs, I often do a few things on my list. I got that idea here on the forum as a suggestion from someone (thank you again, someone) and it has saved me a lot of time. My contexts are as follows:

                      @office
                      @pc (anything not to do with the heavy programs)
                      @programs
                      @people
                      @waiting for
                      @read/review (<-ugh)
                      @errands
                      @home

                      It is all a matter of fine-tuning regularly to customize it to your style. Since I joined this forum, I have made quite a few changes, most of which have worked and a very few not. Try to be rigid but flexible, which I think makes sense to GTDers.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have combined @adjenda with @waiting for, I just put wf after the persons name.

                        I find it useful to combine @office and @errands because they both often involve the same route and taking things with me.

                        On both of these I found Memo on Palm helpful because it will sort by A to Z and I just enter the place name and the item or the person's name and the item and they will appear on list grouped with other entries for that person or place and I can see then that a stop in a certain area of town is worth it or that I have quite a few things to disucss with a given person..

                        Comment

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