ForumsGetting Things Done®Purpose of and implementation of Contexts (GTD newbie)

Purpose of and implementation of Contexts (GTD newbie)
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Linda M

Posted: Jul 26, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
I've read that Contexts are for Tools, People, or Places which are needed for the task to get done.

Basically it sounds like a Context is a set of resources which if all are present, one can achieve the task. Obstacles removed.

Since there are infinite combinations of resources, I find the choice of a DROP DOWN very limiting in the ToodleDo implementation of Context.

I'm tempted to use Tags to list the resources needed for each task, since that is a more flexible field, and it is searchable.

Other web pages I've read lately describe contexts differently - for example,

I"m just figuring out this GTD stuff, so if you've used it and become orders of magnitudes more efficient because of it - I AM ALL EARS!!! :-)

thank you,
Canyon Russell

Posted: Jul 26, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
In GTD, context aren't the nexus of any number of tool and place combinations. They are simply the easiest subset of "limitations" on whether you can do a task or not.

For example my Context list is


So if I'm at Home, with my computer, and my phone. I could do tasks from any of those contexts. If I'm at work, with a computer, and a phone I can do any from those contexts. If I'm waiting to pick up a friend from the Dr. office, then I may only have my phone, and therefore could only do tasks from that context. I even have some "computer" tasks on my Home context list because I can only do them on my home computer, not my work computer. The limiting factor is home, not computer. Things I can do on either I put in the computer context.

I have People under a different set of lists marked as "Agendas" that I can reference when ever I speak to them, either on the phone or in person. I use my Phone context for people I need to call whom I don't have an agenda list for or that I need to initiate the contact with, not just wait until i see them again.

Context's aren't about limiting what you can do, it's a step in the process phase. What limitations do i have on doing the next action of this project? If i can only do it at home (clean the stovetop) then I shouldn't have to look at that task again until I'm at home and it's an option for me to do. Then I can use other criteria, such as available time and personal energy level, to see if that is what i will do. That's part of the GTD concept of "having all the thinking done" and just being able to do the tasks. This is why having tasks as true "next actions" and not as results is so important. If it has multiple, even two, actions then they might be in different contexts. That's why that would be a project and projects don't have contexts. Projects are results and tasks are physical actions. Physical actions have contexts.

The real trick with contexts is to have exactly as many as you need, but no more.

Posted: Jul 27, 2011
Score: 1 Reference
Posted by Linda M:
Since there are infinite combinations of resources, I find the choice of a DROP DOWN very limiting in the ToodleDo implementation of Context.

Some people really want to be able to drill down to a list of things they can do if they have five minutes, high energy, a laptop and a gerbil (ok, I made up the gerbil). But for most of us, the limitations are simpler: some things I can only do at home, at work, or while out and about. And that's a good place to start. Ambiguities start to creep in because, e.g., people can now do the same things at home, work or maybe a coffeeshop. How you resolve these kinds of issues is something you might want to work out by testing.

The Simplicity Is Bliss website is testing/advocating contexts that reflect energy level and/or work type. I am playing around with this idea, but I think it is fair to say it is probably best for beginners to stick with a basic list to start.
Linda M

Posted: Jul 29, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
At home, I have a landline phone and 3 different computers (two of which have internet connectivity, one of which does not). I have a mobile phone. I run errands in several different neighborhoods. I have other people who need to be around for me to get certain things done.

While I can do some internet tasks while I'm at the Library, or B&N or Starbucks, I prefer to do most of them from home. And with a 3G mobile phone, sometimes "@internet" is sufficient (as long as it doesn't require lots of data transfer or lots of screen real-estate).

I can only print from the macbook and inspiron. The inspiron doesn't go on the 'net. So "computer with both 'net and printer" is the macbook. (I will eventually install the printer software on the Vaio too) Some computing tasks just don't work very well on a mobile screen due to the tiny screen size (e.g. a large spreadsheet for a cost-benefit analysis of various solutions to a problem). That context would have to be something like "computer with spreadsheet program and large screen".

One does not always know ahead of time all of the resources one will need to get the thing done.

I don't know if contexts in ToodleDo are going to work for me yet, because I don't like having to create extra (bogus, in my opinion) contexts in order to capture the combinations of required resources.

I already found Locations to be undesirable because a) they are too literal and b) have to pay to get more than 5 locations

My Contexts look like this right now:


Posted: Jul 29, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
Been GTD-ing for nine years now, so I've had plenty of time to try all sorts of wonderful GTD software and schemes... all in the quest for the "perfect" system. If there is one lesson I've learned (from a lot of wasted time messing with software) it is: don't underestimate the power of simplicity.

Yes, you can develop a multiple tag based system to cover multiple combinations of contexts, and then generate the perfect list, maybe. But this comes with a cost EVERY TIME you add a task. The more options, the more time you'll spend entering stuff, or resisting entering stuff. And when reviewing lists, you'll also spend more time cycling through more lists. (This concept applies to one's Toodledo field selection as well; I'm a field minimalist!)

At their core function, contexts break down a big list into smaller, more manageable lists. I've settled into a consistent set of contexts (I use 7, including @Waiting), but to get there I would often look at the number of items in each context. If one context list got too long, I'd consider splitting it, and if it were too short, I'd consider merging it with another context. Of course if certain tasks can absolutely, positively only be done at one place/tool, that place/tool probably deserves its own context. I also don't hesitate to create temporary contexts when needed.

One trick to add some more filtering capability with a shorter context list is to use keywords in the task description for something like "@TV" or "@Anytown".

The benefits are simple: entering tasks into your system is faster, and no matter where you are you have a smaller set of lists to look at.

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