ForumsQuestionsSeeking advice for using contexts

Seeking advice for using contexts
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Posted: Jun 09, 2015
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Hello all-

I've been using Toodledo for many years, but I've accumulated a lot of tasks and haven't been terribly effective at using my to-do list system to figure out what I should or could be doing next.

Right now, I'm using folders mostly as rough categories (Inbox, Work, Scouts, Music, Finances, Video Projects, etc.)
I'm trying to use contexts to figure out what it's possible to work on in any given situation. However, I have a innate need to categorize things, and I have lots of tasks that aren't fitting into my current contexts well. So far I have @home, @work, @phone (I can do anywhere I have my phone), @pc (I need to be in front of my computer), @out (like errands, not at home), @outside (my property, but out in the yard/garage).

I'm looking for advice as to whether I've written these tasks poorly (not actionable), or whether there are some other useful contexts I could add. I just found myself getting stuck, as it wasn't as easy categorizing by context as I had hoped. I was wanting this process to be quick an simple, not over-analyzed :) Any suggestions welcome! Here are a few troublesome examples:

* Plan kayaking trip (requires discussing with my wife, probably at home, talking to friends/family, and booking via phone or PC)
* Find new drill bits (I could buy them online from my phone, or get them out shopping, so either @out or @phone)
* Get checks from Randy (I could stop by his house, call him, or he could bring them to me)
* Scan sister's photos (which may be a bad task, because I need to arrange a time with her, then do the actual work)

Other tricky things are that some contexts are wholly inclusive of others. When I'm home, I'll be able to do anything in @home, @phone, @pc, etc. I've used saved searches to show any task in any of those categories to tell me what's possible at home.

Any general advice for what's working for you?


Posted: Jun 09, 2015
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Hey Korey
I read an illuminating article some time ago that you may like to look at by some guy who suggested an alternative to 'traditional' contexts. Personally I initially found using @home, @work, @phone, @pc, etc a bit uneasy because many/most tasks can be done anywhere(or in more than one context) due to the ubiquity of smartphones(I can work, shop, and even have meetings from my startphone) and flexible working etc.

He suggested replacing the traditional geographical/utility contexts with time/energy contexts such as "hanging around", "full focus", "thinking" etc

This is the article anyway:

I've used a modified system to the above where I use:

-Full focus (long tasks where I have to concentrate)

-Hanging Around (lazy but long tasks)

-Short dashes (quick tasks. I don't bother to differentiate between short dashes and braindead because for quick tasks it doesn't really matter about how much energy they need)

-Thinking (anything I have to decide on or anything that I'm uncertain about how to go about it)

-Trips (brief errands, long trips, and basically anything outside of the house except going to work. Even 'go jogging for 30 minutes' gets put in here)

-messaging (everything that I want to mention to people goes in here. I gave this it's own 'context' because then I can see at a glance everyone I have to contact, and also because there are so many ways of contacting someone whether it be speaking on the phone, emailing, bumping into them in the street or at work, or passing on a message to them via an associate, etc)

-awareness (this is the last one I've added and I'm still not certain about it. This is for things that i want/need to keep mindful of such as keeping an eye out for a new bike in the paper or shop window ads etc. Everything in this 'contexts' are things that I dip my toes into now and again where I could spend any amount of time on and usually have to be repeated at variable and unpredictable intervals)

I think overall the best system is the most simple because otherwise you spend more time organising your GTD system and less time doing tasks.

Hope this helps anyway

This message was edited Jun 09, 2015.

Posted: Jun 09, 2015
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Thanks, I'll give that some careful consideration.
Wayne T.

Posted: Jun 13, 2015
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I've started using tags for where I want to see something. Tasks can have more than one tag so something can be tagged with Phone, Work, Home, and Errands and show up on all of those lists. I am using Toodledo's "context" field for levels of urgency ala Michael Linenberger: Urgent (must be done today), This Week, Projects, Someday/Review.

Posted: Jun 14, 2015
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Hello korey99,

Your question has a lot of baggage, and you will have different answers as you have people in the forums.

I follow the Getting Things Done methodology, so my answer will be a bit dependent of that background.

Tasks are the breakdown of things that I want to accomplish and so, they are specific things. A project is when there is more that one thing needing to happen before I can call it done.

The contexts need to be specific to where or what you are doing, but they can be as general as you need them to be. This means that you can have a @personal_computer and a @phone_internet context, but perhaps you only need an @online_personal to distinguish from work context.

Unfortunately the examples you have given me are projects, not tasks:

Plan kayaking trip (requires discussing with my wife, probably at home, talking to friends/family, and booking via phone or PC)
is in fact a project called
"Take kayaking trip in date xxx" with actions ranging from
Go online to check prices and availability @online_personal
Discuss with wife if she would like to take a kayaking tryp @wife
* Make sure to define a data
* Show prospects of trips
Talk with Bob about if he would like to go @Bob
Talk with sister about if she would like to go @sister

Find new drill bits (I could buy them online from my phone, or get them out shopping, so either @out or @phone)
is in fact a project called
"Buy new drill bits" with actions
Check old drill bits so see size and model @home
Search online for prices of new drill bits @online_personal
Buy new drill bits from hardware store @errands

For me, you need to define your actions a bit more before tackling contexts, and then you can see what helps you most. I will now give you some examples of my contexts:

For home I have only 2 contexts:
@homeworks - for all things I must do around house
@computer_personal - this means a computing task, online or not (I use my iPad or iPhone even with this context)

For work I have:
@office - this means paperwork that must be in my desk
@building - when I'm moving around the several departments
@computer_work - this means a computing task, online or not (I use my iPad or iPhone even with this context)
@calls - this is self-explanatory but only have this context when i must make calls not for any of the following people.

Then I have lots of people contexts, that I filter when with them or talking on the phone with them, that will show me tasks that I must do with them, or tasks that i'm waiting for from them:
@randy (for your checks above)
@coworker A
@coworker B

The special context that I use that is not so simple is a @Thinking context, for tasks that I must flesh out or mindmap about.

So, hope this helps you a bit.

All the best


This message was edited Jun 14, 2015.

Posted: Jun 15, 2015
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Alex- thanks, that really helps. Splitting up those tasks is help, but I need to figure out the best way to handle precedence. Like for the drill bits, until I've checked what I have at home, and there's no point seeing the "purchase them" task.

I do like your @thinking. I've put that as a task on my list to consider it! :)
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