Step 4 – Work in Contexts
(This lesson a part of "10-step Simply Get Things Done" Course)
"A few actions can be done anywhere (like drafting ideas about a project with pen and paper), but most require a specific location (at home, at your office) or having some productivity tool at hand, such as a phone or a computer. These are the first factors that limit your choices about what you can do in the moment."
David Allen, "Getting Things Done (GTD) and the Art of Stress-free Productivity"
The "Contexts" concept proves that GTD methods are superior to simple to-do lists
To-do and tasks lists are great for putting things you have to do but as you’ve already seen in the previous lessons, GTD helps you organize these lists and indeed – get things done. The "Contexts" concept is another weapon to help you clear these lists and get more done.
What is a CONTEXT?
As David says – it can be a place, a tool or an environment…. which can be applied to to-dos in different projects. Some examples for contexts: phone (you call people to get more than one project done, right?), Computer (you have to perform tasks on your computer for your projects)... and there are more examples. Let me quote a few.
Are you in a mood for phoning?
I like the phone context – whenever I feel like taking a break from writing stuff on my computer, answering email (Email can be a great context too!) and I’m in a mood for calling, I first call my wife to ask how she’s doing and then I click on the "Phone" context in my Nozbe account and the whole list of people I need to call pops up. I call them all one by one and have it all done and then I can get back to the rest of my Next Actions.
My special money-related context – Finance.
As the owner of apivision.com – my small Internet company, I’m the guy responsible for my company’s finances and in many of my projects I need to pay someone, receive some payments, schedule them, etc. so I put all of these tasks to my "Finance" context and whenever I log in to my online-banking system, I click on the finance context and perform all the tasks at once.
A context can be a tool, a place… or a person.
My wife has her "Boss" context and whenever she has a task that she later will have to go through with her boss, she marks it with "Boss" context. Later, when she is about to go to have a meeting with him, she’s printing all of her tasks from the Boss context and she knows exactly what to do during that meeting. "I don’t need to plan my meetings with my boss anymore, my Boss context is my meetings planner now." she says.
Some other examples of contexts
I have a "shopping" context when I put stuff I need to buy for my projects and when I head over to do some shopping, I have the whole list in front of me in this "shopping" context. The same applies to errands – from time to time I need to run some errands and with the Errands context I know exactly what to do. I’ve added the "Later/Maybe" concept from David’s book "Getting things done" as a context too, as it seems more natural… so that I can review my later/maybe’s from many projects in once place as well and decide what to do with them.
Easy contexts with Nozbe
When designing Nozbe – the web based simply get things done tool, I took great care to make sure the advantages of Contexts would be available to me and to Nozbe users in the easiest way possible. This is how Nozbe handles contexts:
- Right then when you add an action, you can quickly choose a context
- The contexts are represented with nicely designed icons and when you click on a context icon, you’re being redirected to this particular context in Nozbe
- You can reorder (prioritize) your actions in contexts independently from your order of them in your projects or next actions
- When you start with Nozbe, you have 14 pre-defined contexts waiting for you to be used. You can later add more contexts, rename them or remove to arrive at your optimum number of contexts.
The bottom line:
The concept of Contexts helps get things done and process many actions at a time when you’re the most productive – with a tool at hand, in a certain environment or even with some person. Using contexts in Nozbe is easy and makes the whole process even more automated as you can manage your actions in contexts in a very similar way like you do it already with projects.
Michael Sliwinski is the founder of Nozbe – a simple productivity web application inspired by the concepts from the book by David Allen: "Getting Things Done and the art of stress-free productivity". You can reprint this article on your blog or web site but ask for permission first.