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  • GTD, DIT, and contexts

    Hi Folks,

    Well, I think I have been able to integrate GTD with DIT (Mark Forster's Do it Tomorrow) reasonably well. I follow GTD in the collecting and processing phases, but shift more to DIT in the actual doing. One thing I have rediscovered is that contexts just really do not work for me. I can see how road warriors would thrive with contexts, but I have all of the standard tools available all of the time -- computer, laptop, phone, etc. I like one, clean list of next actions without having them broken down into several lists, which for me is hard to deal with. Are there others that do not work with multiple contexts, or am I a rarity?

    Best regards,
    Longstreet

  • #2
    Will try contexts again...

    Well, I am going to give contexts another go -- how about some advice from the non-roadwarriors out there and what contexts work well for them in their offices....

    Thanks,
    -Longstreet

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
      Well, I am going to give contexts another go -- how about some advice from the non-roadwarriors out there and what contexts work well for them in their offices....

      Thanks,
      -Longstreet
      I don't have very many contexts, but I like to keep a clean separation between @work, @home, and @errands. At the moment, those are my only contexts.

      I may break them down further for various reasons (eg., the list is getting too long to manage, or there is a context which is painful to get into or out of).

      An example of a "painful context": One of my previous clients had a VPN that I had to log into every once in a while. It took close to a full minute to connect and authenticate, the network connection was SLOWWW and the internet, my company's email, and other network devices (such as printers and shared directories) were completely inaccessible when I was attached to the VPN; when I was on the VPN, I could do nothing else with my computer. Invariably, I would log on to the VPN, do a couple things, log off, and remember, "Doh! There was one more thing I should have done." So I created a context list just for @VPN., so I would stop forgetting the little things. That list saved me a lot of time and frustration.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
        Are there others that do not work with multiple contexts, or am I a rarity?
        Adapt your contexts to your environment.

        My contexts are things like what field I am in or what town. If I am in the house I have computer, internet, desk etc all in one place so no need to separate them. I do have an @phone because I can make calls while filling water tanks or some other mundane task because I use a cell phone. My contexts are things like @hay barn, @red barn @back pasture @local town @ next town over and @larger city The larger city one is a combination, we have 2 larger cities we can drive to and most things acan be done at either place so I have them all in one list.

        So think what things you cannot do in a a certain place or at a specific time and make the different things you discover your contexts.

        Comment


        • #5
          Longstreet I can't say whether or not you're a rarity, but like you I do not seem to need to differentiate between very many different contexts. Home, office, errands is about it. Even the home and office distinctions are blurry for me because the tools I have access to are the same. I've got a cell phone, but I'm not so busy that I need to be working through a separate call list while waiting at the dentist etc.

          I love the GTD weekly review, capturing and collecting things that have my attention, focusing on outcomes and identifying next actions, the horizons of focus and someday/maybes. However, I am intrigued by DIT's daily closed list.

          I gather your system is quite simple, would you mind posting more details about how you have integrated GTD and DIT?

          Kevin

          Comment


          • #6
            I see contexts as a first filter.

            If I am traveling and only have my cell phone accessible, then all I can do is make calls. If I am traveling and can access my cell and laptop and have internet connectivity then I can make calls, do email and surf the web etc. But I if I need to do something specific to the office, then I can't etc.

            So contexts to me define what situationally I can and can't do.

            Now, about 60-70% of my time I am in the office and so I have at this point all my contexts available. In these situations context as a filter doesn't work so well because everything is on the table. So in this case I am using other methods to decide where to put my attention - this can be a combination of priority/energy by scanning across all my lists, or my favorite method at the moment which is scanning through my actions based on my areas of focus. So, in an office setting I may schedule 2-3 hours to work on sales that day and then 2-3 hours on admin. What I specifically then do will depend on what actions I have related to those areas of focus irrespective of context (since they are all available).

            Paul

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            • #7
              Longstreet, I'm like you in the sense that when I'm at work, everything is available.

              I still find contexts very useful, though. I believe it's more efficient for me to take care of all my calls while I'm on the phone rather than make one call, then email someone, then meet with a colleague, then make another call, etc. Not much more efficient, just a bit.

              I use an @PERSON list for each of my colleagues. I don't think that's how the @AGENDA lists are supposed to work, but I find it very efficient to be able to click on Outlook when Robert's in my office, get my @ROBERT list, and "remember" everything I had to discuss with him.

              I also have some @computer contexts that get pretty specific. For example, I have one that's @FINANCE for when I'm logged into my organization's finance system. It's not that it's particularly hard to log in, but I don't really like the tasks I have to do @FINANCE, and the ability to get them all done while I'm in there seems to help.

              When I'm at home, I have an @WEB-HOME context for things I want to do online. Using this list helps me to waste less time with idle surfing. If I had these items on a @HOME list or @COMPUTER list, the list would be too long and I would get numb to it.

              That's what (usually) works for me.

              Rachelle

              Comment


              • #8
                I've been thinking a lot about contexts and shift mine around... mostly adding more, in an attempt to get the number of tasks per context down to a reasonable number...

                Then I had an epiphany: instead of need more contexts, I just needed to get stuff off my context lists and on to several someday-maybe lists.

                Now I'm setting up a variety of someday-maybe lists that get reviewed at different time intervals.

                - Don

                Comment


                • #9
                  Contexts

                  I'm currently on a quest to find just the right contexts for me... this is what I am using now:

                  Discuss with spouse (we run a business together so this is long)
                  Buy (split in 2 columns - "sooner" and "later")
                  Phone
                  Computer (this could be e-mails, internet, etc.)
                  Home/Auto
                  Errands (which sometimes duplicates things in the "buy" context)
                  Misc

                  I really didn't want a "misc" category because I think it's too easy to dump things there but so far it's under control so I'm keeping it.

                  I use a 6x9 spiral notebook and fold in the top half of the page when everything is done. I put a circle in front of each task and if it's really crucial I put a star in front of the circle. During my morning and evening reviews I pull out the most crucial and write them on a separate page - those are my "must do"s for the day.

                  I know this isn't exactly GTD but it's a hybrid that seems to be working pretty good for me. I "tweak" more than I should but this one hasn't been tweaked in a while so that's good news.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
                    One thing I have rediscovered is that contexts just really do not work for me. I can see how road warriors would thrive with contexts, but I have all of the standard tools available all of the time -- computer, laptop, phone, etc. I like one, clean list of next actions without having them broken down into several lists, which for me is hard to deal with.
                    Contexts are always optional. But remember: you're only looking at one list at any given time, no matter how many lists you have. Having one master list might be easier at the point of generating it, but it might just as easily become unwieldy at the point of reviewing it. It's usually easier to look at a list of 20 items -- say, the ones you need to do at the computer -- than 100 items every time you need to decide what to do next.

                    I find that assigning a context to each action helps me ensure that it's really a discrete physical action, and not a multi-action task. Furthermore, it helps me batch process my actions. Even though I work from home, and could put all of my calls, computer actions, and domestic tasks on my @Home list, having all of my calls batched on an @Home list queues me to handle them in one sitting.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pks1994 View Post
                      I use a 6x9 spiral notebook and fold in the top half of the page when everything is done. I put a circle in front of each task and if it's really crucial I put a star in front of the circle. During my morning and evening reviews I pull out the most crucial and write them on a separate page - those are my "must do"s for the day.

                      I know this isn't exactly GTD but it's a hybrid that seems to be working pretty good for me. I "tweak" more than I should but this one hasn't been tweaked in a while so that's good news.
                      IMHO I think that is exactly GTD. I think prioritizing is a part of GTD and I do it almost exactly the same way when I select what I will be focusing on that day. I also write this separately in a list (I call it my "focus" list) in the notes section of my non-electronic calendar (my context lists are all electronic though - strange combo). It's usually 5 or so items. I don't create "closed" lists though. Mine are recreated daily from my NAs and projects and not determined much in advance. I don't use stars or "." or other symbols in my context lists to determine priority, although I'm thinking of beginning that.

                      I think this is pretty much GTD. I do all the other parts of GTD, like context lists, weekly reviews, horizons of focus. Maybe some will disagree.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Andre Kibbe View Post
                        you're only looking at one list at any given time, no matter how many lists you have.
                        I disagree. It is possible to be in several contexts at once: @work, @computer, @internet, @phone... I don't actually use all of those contexts anymore, but I used to; and it was not uncommon at all for me to be looking at my next actions in all of those contexts at once.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          @Anywhere

                          Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                          I disagree. It is possible to be in several contexts at once: @work, @computer, @internet, @phone... I don't actually use all of those contexts anymore, but I used to; and it was not uncommon at all for me to be looking at my next actions in all of those contexts at once.
                          Not to mention the @Anywhere context specified in the DavidCo's "GTD and Outlook" white-paper.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pks1994 View Post
                            I'm currently on a quest to find just the right contexts for me... this is what I am using now:

                            Discuss with spouse (we run a business together so this is long)
                            Buy (split in 2 columns - "sooner" and "later")
                            Phone
                            Computer (this could be e-mails, internet, etc.)
                            Home/Auto
                            Errands (which sometimes duplicates things in the "buy" context)
                            Misc
                            I have an @WAITINGTOBUY list next to my @WAITINGON list, instead of treating it as a context.

                            I'd suggest that "Discuss with spouse" is not a context and rather a list of Next Actions.

                            @Misc sounds like @Anywhere, which could technically be defined as a context, but I just don't list a context at all.

                            I work at home and my only contexts are @ERRANDS, @PHONE, and @PC (I'm a Mac user but occasionally have a task that requires pulling out my PC. Since I'm always at my Mac I don't make that a separate context from, say, @kitchen.)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mackiest View Post
                              I love the GTD weekly review, capturing and collecting things that have my attention, focusing on outcomes and identifying next actions, the horizons of focus and someday/maybes. However, I am intrigued by DIT's daily closed list.

                              I gather your system is quite simple, would you mind posting more details about how you have integrated GTD and DIT?
                              I know you asked for Longstreet to provide details, but I have also successfully combined DIT and GTD into a system using index cards and tabs.

                              The system structure consists of two major sections: a time specific section and a topic specific section. The time specific section consists of a tickler file and a separate set of numbered weeks (1-52). The topic specific section consists of alphabetical tabs referring to areas of interest, responsibility and roles. In DIT terms, the time section is the task diary. In GTD terms, the topic section is someday/maybe.

                              How the system functions:
                              1. Collection: As tasks (NAs) and projects come to mind, they are written down on separate index cards according to simple and flexible formats. The project cards list one or more tasks, so all the cards have at least one task (NA). Sometimes a card is processed immediately, but if not they are placed in the "inbox" (a card tab) and processed as a batch.

                              2. Process/Organize: When the inbox is processed, the level of commitment to the task/project is determined (as per DIT). If I am committed to doing the task in the relative future, then its given a time estimate and filed in the time section (month, week, day). If I am not yet committed, then its filed under a specific topic in the topic section.

                              3. Do: Each morning, the current day's cards are pulled and worked through. In DIT terms, the current day's cards - tasks and projects - form a closed list. The very first card is the current initiative for the day. The will do list is a set of daily routine cards separate from the task diary. Also per DIT, at the end of the day, tomorrow's set of cards (task diary) are checked and organized.

                              4. Review: Reviews are included in the time section as tasks (cards) themselves. Each major topic has its own review card. This card uses the project format, and this card is filed in the time section just like any other committed project. During a typical topic review, the topic cards are pulled and looked over to determine if any are to be committed or not. Also new ideas or projects can be generated. Depending on the time estimate, reviews can be relatively short (5 minutes or less) or involved planning sessions (20 minutes plus). The review cards insure that the "uncommitted" cards in the major topics section will eventually be seen at some point in the future.



                              Mark

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