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Separating contexts - @work and @home

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  • Separating contexts - @work and @home

    I am currently revamping my GTD system at the moment, and I was hoping for some feedback to see if anyone could spot any potential pitfalls.

    Right now, I have a single @work context, which is everything that needs to be done from my office, be it computer based, reading, filing etc. That way I can just switch to it at work, and I know THIS is what I need to do today.

    I also have @computer -this is stuff that can be done at ANY computer, and typically is more recreational and unimportant (e.g. look for updates on some website, download music album). If something on there becomes important, then I move it into the @work context to make sure it gets done, otherwise it might get lost amongst other more trivial things.

    I have a similar thing for home -I have an @home context which is more recreational, trivial things that can be done if I have time (e.g. sort through old photos). and I'm now introducing an @home - work context. This'll be stuff to do at home that is important and really needs to get done (it might also be stuff from work I bring home). For example "contact plumber about leak" - I don't want it to get lost amongst other matters when it NEEDS to get done.

    Does this sound viable? Could there be any potential problems with separating out home into two sub-contexts - it feels a bit like prioritizing which I know isn't very GTD-like. Any thoughts?

  • #2
    re: Contexts

    Stay strict with your contexts by keeping them based on location alone (i.e., where you *have* to be to get that thing done). Don't fall into the trap of using location contexts as topical categories that divide your work. It's not so much about what is recreational and what is not, but more about where you need to be to get some specific task done.

    What you can do is add sub-contexts to better clarify things more. So if your photos are located in a particular room of your home, you can use @ Home (Living Room): Next action to take on your photos, or something like that. You can put an asterisk or some other mark next to significant or important reading. I also like to put the estimated time, e.g., "@ Online(<15min): Read this in order to improve your productivity."

    Also don't use your @ Work context only for "important" tasks. @ Work doesn't mean more important but simply "@ Work". And it is probably better to use @ Office since that is more accurate for where this location is.

    The last thing is to not have two separate systems (e.g., one for work and one for personal) so you can divide tasks based on personal or work. The more you work your entire list with everything on it the easier it is to see what the values are that are driving your decisions and to gain greater clarity on those higher horizons of your life (e.g., career, destiny, purpose). Having personal and work separated keeps a person from discovering these higher dimensions.

    Hope this helps.

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    • #3
      My suggestion is not to separate out the "trivial"from the "important" because by definition everything you are committed to doing and on your next actions lists is important. Use contexts to separate out stuff by the place or tool you must have to do the job.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by El_Stiff View Post
        Does this sound viable? Could there be any potential problems with separating out home into two sub-contexts - it feels a bit like prioritizing which I know isn't very GTD-like. Any thoughts?
        It sounds viable to me. I don't exactly agree with separating @home into leisure and work, but on the other hand I understand your reasons for doing so and it's not such a bad idea. Technically speaking "it's all work" in GTD, meaning that if it's important enough that you've committed to doing it it should be given equal time with everything else since it needs to get done eventually. If you haven't really committed to doing it then you might move it into someday/maybe and just review that when the urge strikes you. I don't normally follow my own advice here as I've got many stale next actions that haven't been culling in the weekly review and that really should be moved into someday/maybe.


        I don't think priorities are non-GTD it's just priorities are considered dynamic and they are the last thing you consider once you've filtered your next actions by context (where you are and what tools you have access to), how much time you have, and how much energy you have (I've always been very uneasy with that criteria since it seems like a loophole for procrastinating). At least that's the GTD best practice but I've never quite gotten away from priority thinking.

        Myself I use @work @home @agenda and @errand. It's not perfect but anything more granular than that and I just resist it.

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