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  • Prioritizing Your Next Actions Without Having To Drill Down Each Context List...

    I have a question about context-oriented task/next action lists. Suppose you have several things to do on your computer. You need to pay some bills online. You need to write a letter. You want to answer some Facebook notes. You also have some errands to run. Let's say for purposes of this discussion, you have to pick up a prescription, you want to get your car washed and pick up a pair of jeans at the dry cleaners. I know that it's most logical to run your errands at one time which would be one list.

    But let's say you gotta' pay the online bills now and the rest of the computer stuff can wait. Your other priority is to pick up your prescription 'cause you don't feel well. The jeans and the car wash can wait. In other words, the two things that are important for you to get done NOW are pay the bill online and pick up your prescription. These are on my system, what I'd call "A" priorities whereas the letter on the computer, Facebook, dry cleaning and car wash are not high priority to me at all.

    If you're using a context-oriented task list, won't that conflict with your priorities? In other words, why would you want to mess around on Facebook and write your letter to a friend when you really need to get over to the pharmacy?

    Yes, I understand that if I'm inputting data on my computer or washing the dishes, you're more efficient if you complete the task. But I haven't figured out how to reconcile my scenario above with context-oriented task lists. Can you help me understand this?

  • #2
    Context are meant to help...

    Context are meant to help you to choose the most "profitable" next action but they are not meant to force you to stay in a given context against the common sense.

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    • #3
      There's two things. Firstly if I had to do it today, which could be the case with bill paying and I guess could be the case with the prescription as well, it would be on my calendar rather than my next action list.

      But ignoring that, there are of course different priorities within each list. You don't just start at the top and work down - the priorities change fluidly through the day.

      Ultimately if I'm at work, it doesn't really matter what's on my home list, I cant do it, I'm not there. So contexts help you rule out whole groups of next actions that are just not possible/plausible to do at that time.

      And the reverse applies, it helps you spot things that you could do together. In your case washing the car certainly isn't a priority, but if you see the errands together and realise the car wash is near the chemist, then you could knock it off the list in one trip and save the time. If they aren't near each other, or you're too under the weather, then don't do it. At least you made that decision maturely, rather than just missing the chance.

      If you think about the alternative, which is that you keep all your NAs in one list, you still have the same priority decisions, only you have to look through potentially dozens of additional NAs that you wouldnt be able to do anyway.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by prouddad View Post
        Can you help me understand this?
        Context is just the first way to figure out what to do. The other 3 pieces to consider are how much time you have, your energy level and your priority per the Mastering Workflow cheat sheet.

        So in your scenario I'd pay the on-line bill, take a quick look at the rest of the items on your computer lists. Decide that at this time I have neither the time nor energy to tackle them and they are not high priority so I move to a new context. Run errands. Go pick up the prescription, while out take a quick look, perhaps discover that the dry cleaners is on the way to the pharmacy so I do that one as well as pick up the Rx but nothing else

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        • #5
          Stay in context or do what must be done (from other contexts)

          Originally posted by prouddad View Post
          If you're using a context-oriented task list, won't that conflict with your priorities? In other words, why would you want to mess around on Facebook and write your letter to a friend when you really need to get over to the pharmacy?
          ProudDad,

          I think your are asking "how do I reconcile staying within a context, versus doing things from other contexts that must get done" (i.e. higher priority actions). Just because you are sitting at your computer and have 12 @computer actions, doesn't mean you shouldn't run an errand or make a time-sensitive phone call.

          Several good answers have been posted, and I look forward to hearing the coaches' opinions. (Kelly - Perhaps a good topic for a Coaches' Corner?

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          • #6
            I violate GTD and assign my projects a priority of 1-5 (1 = affects my health or ability to pay rent, 5 = eh, if I have time [but still important enough to not be relegated to Someday/Maybe]).

            I then keep five Next Action lists (one page for each priority). This is not a hard and fast rule, but I have 400 next actions at any given time (I am really good about breaking tasks down into mini-tasks; I'm not over-committed) and it *is* hard to pick out the most important things from a multi-page list. Using loose priorities helps ensure I at least see the most important things first, even if I don't ultimately choose to work on them.

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            • #7
              Julian Hit The Nail On The Head

              Thanks to each of you for your responses. Each answer had some valuable insight. I find myself leaning towards Priority most of the time, but the Errands list is critical too.

              Do you simply set up each of these lists as separate tabs in OneNote or different categories in Outlook or do you use another program? A friend of mine seems to love Nozbe. Your thoughts?

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              • #8
                Priorities not prioritary but...

                As someone already wrote, priorities do not get high priority in official GTD but... in my experience I noticed there is already a priority screening when you decide what goes to your NA (or projects) lists, what goes to Someday/Maybe and what to the trash. The assumption is all your NAs are things you are commited to do, so it is more efficient to do them when you already are in the appropiate context. If there is something urgent you may choose otherwise, but that is an exception, not the rule.
                Last edited by Marcelo; 05-16-2010, 07:29 AM.

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                • #9
                  I would say that you should not have priorities, but figure out what task makes the most impact on your life / work / others. Priorities is dangerous since they are to static.

                  Impact-thinking creates more value in what you do and then the priority-thing is done automatically.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by High View Post
                    I would say that you should not have priorities, but figure out what task makes the most impact on your life / work / others.
                    This is how you determine priorities

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                    • #11
                      Errands as you may consider it are priorities too. All you do is assess if they are really essential to do in that particular time. Which in your case, IS important...considering that getting that prescription is one factor that makes you accomplish all other tasks left to be done, whether at the top of your priorities or the least of it. Health should come first...Managing your time, as important as it may be, should always be joined with self-management.

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