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  • Still can't get the hang of contexts

    I've been doing GTD for over a year now, & I still can't get the hang of contexts. I put things that must be done on my calendar, & if I finish those I don't seem to look at my contextual lists except for errands. It's frustrating because I find I don't do things unless they are on my calendar. Part of it is because I don't find that my daily plans center around a location where I can plug into a list. I could just as easily be in my office as in my car or on my handheld where most of my lists reside. Ugh. I fear I'll never really get this methodology.

  • #2
    I appreciate your frustration! Contexts are difficult to suss out.

    One way of handling this: Move to just one context. @Anywhere, for example. This will at least put all of your Actions in one place. After using it for a while, other contexts may emerge naturally.

    It's better to have a system you actually use than one with perfectly delineated contexts.

    Hope this helps!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Tom Munch View Post
      Part of it is because I don't find that my daily plans center around a location where I can plug into a list. I could just as easily be in my office as in my car or on my handheld where most of my lists reside.
      A context is either a required physical location or required tool to perform an action. So if your action requires a phone (more specifically, *any* phone), that action would go on a @Calls list (some prefer @Phone). The same idea applies to a computer. Your handheld device could probably function sufficiently to handle many @Computer tasks.

      Everyone has to discover their own contexts, but I believe that the majority of people would get along fine with D.A.s "default" list. I started with that list and created a few more specialized contexts as needed.

      Good luck,

      -Luke

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      • #4
        I don't have any trouble making contexts, but I have trouble looking at them. I have all of the typical contexts, but I still find myself putting tasks on my calendar if they really need to get done today. I still need some way to prioritize what needs to be done at what time. The weekly review helps with this, of course, but once I'm into the busy day those tasks need to be in front of me.

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        • #5
          Are you using paper or a digital list manager?

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          • #6
            I'm using digital - currently Pocket Informant & Omnifocus on iPod Touch.

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            • #7
              Make it Easy to be Mobile

              Originally posted by Tom Munch View Post
              Part of it is because I don't find that my daily plans center around a location where I can plug into a list.
              This is what struck me. If you don't have a system that invites you to play with it and carry it everywhere you won't use it and contexts won't make sense. You have to enjoy your implementation enough to carry it all the time. Ubiquitous is not just for capture but also access to your lists.

              If you like paper then you need a nice way to carry your lists that you enjoy using whether that's a leather notebook, steel clipboard, hipster PDA, circa system, whatever. Somewhere I remember reading about a lady who had a mink fur covered notebook for her lists. I loved the idea even if I'd never carry one myself, it just seemed so personal and fun.

              If you are using an electronic system what is the mobile way to carry your lists? Does an iPhone or iPod Touch look cool, blackberry, Treo, netbook, what will you always carry with you and use regularly?

              Once you have a system that is always with you you can consider how to adapt it for your personal contexts.

              My contexts are not like anyone else's and my contexts change with the seasons. Right now I get by with 2 outside contexts, outside with help and outside by myself. In spring and summer I will make contexts by fields or barns. I will have a context of Red Barn for all the stuff I have to do there and another perhaps for the main orchard or lower pear orchard field. And I may set up a temporary context that I only use for a short while before deleting it.
              Last edited by Oogiem; 01-11-2010, 07:39 AM.

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              • #8
                Well, I do enjoy my system & organizing it very much. The current software I'm using is very inviting & very useful - even fun to use, but that doesn't mean I can just pick the context of my current location & get down to business.

                There's more to the day than just plugging into a list at my current location & cranking widgets. At some point I need to look at the over-arching plan & see what else I need to get done in other contexts as well. That's where I end up putting things back on my calendar that have to get done today or tomorrow. Unfortunately there tend to be enough things there that I never get back to my context lists. I'm comfortable that I've collected & processed what needs to be done in different projects & contexts, & that's a good feeling, but if I never look at them because I'm too busy with the items on my calendar then I'm defeating the purpose of GTD other than trusting my system that everything's been written down & organized.

                I know the main reason for GTD (at least as I see it) is to free your mind to do what you really want to do in life & what is truly rewarding, & in a way that's what I'm doing by having things safely out of mind on a list that I'm not thinking about, but meanwhile there are things I decided are important to me that aren't getting done while I fight fires on the front line.

                I think it's time to immerse myself in a few David Allen podcasts & CD's to get my head wrapped around the core concepts again.

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                • #9
                  Are you doing regular Weekly Reviews?

                  Lots of people add daily reviews and/or keep a daily priority list. It isn't strictly GTD, but if you need something like that to stay on track, who cares?

                  Katherine

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                  • #10
                    Ah! Yes, I often need to check back in with larger goals, so I flip to my Projects list frequently.

                    That "over-arching plan" ideally comes from your Projects and Areas of Responsibility lists. Where are you keeping those? Can you look at them from anywhere?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kewms View Post
                      Are you doing regular Weekly Reviews?

                      Lots of people add daily reviews and/or keep a daily priority list. It isn't strictly GTD, but if you need something like that to stay on track, who cares?

                      Katherine
                      I'm pretty good at these, although I sometimes fall behind a little.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Brent View Post
                        Ah! Yes, I often need to check back in with larger goals, so I flip to my Projects list frequently.

                        That "over-arching plan" ideally comes from your Projects and Areas of Responsibility lists. Where are you keeping those? Can you look at them from anywhere?
                        Yes, my projects list is in the same app with my contexts.

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                        • #13
                          Lots of good ideas here. I really need to change my daily habits. My first instinct each morning is to check my calendar & tasks on the calendar. I do this throughout the day of course. If I'm relying on context lists, which one do I look at first - @Home Office, @Phone, @Home, @Computer? I'm on my iPod & my BlackBerry so I have the ability to make phone calls, check projects, read notes, get online, & do most of my tasks. So it's a wide open field where to start the day. I have Next Actions in lots of different projects, & I don't want to just start at the first context location I hit & just do those tasks for the day until I have an appointment to get to.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Tom Munch View Post
                            I really need to change my daily habits. My first instinct each morning is to check my calendar & tasks on the calendar. I do this throughout the day of course. If I'm relying on context lists, which one do I look at first - @Home Office, @Phone, @Home, @Computer?
                            Checking calendar first is correct IMO. Then you know if you have an appointment you must be at that is time specific. Nothing else goes on my calendar but specific apts. and I have very few of them.

                            I then check weather both current and forecast for the day and even week, what context I can be in is often weather dependent.

                            Next I do a quick review of all my context lists. I'm using Omnifocus so I just set it to show me the next actions for all contexts and take a quick scan.

                            It's usually obvious to me from a quick read of these which context is most in need of work. I can choose most any context so this is a way to decide where to work for a while. I pick a context and start doing. Then when I need a break or there is an obvious break like lunch or bathroom, I re-scan all my contexts/actions for a brief refocus for the next bout of working.

                            Doesn't take long and keeps me from getting so focused on a single context that I forget all other for the day or week.

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                            • #15
                              Wow, Oogie, way to work your system! That really sounds good.

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