Contextual Relations

29 02 2008

david_allen.jpgSo what does all this mean for my GTD implementation? Well, I’ve obviously read the book, and I was implementing it. Or at least I thought I was implementing it.

That’s the point I’m trying to make here, as I come to re-read the book, all of a sudden things make more sense to me. I recall another comment by David (as part of the Productive Talk series) where he said it takes two years to actually “get” GTD. Now that can sound quite scary but David went on to say that the key is you get a little better in stages, you keep going, get a little better, keep going, get a little better still. It’s a slow but worthwhile process.

Slowly but surely you’ll make your way along until, roughly two years later, you’ll look back and realise you’re where you needed to be. I can certainly see where he’s coming from now, because I thought I was doing GTD, but really I wasn’t, and I’m still not even sure that what I’m going to be doing now is probably Getting Things Done. It’s just another step closer down the road. I’m sure I’ll look back in six months time and scoff.

What I would like to speak about, and this is where I think my particular implementation, if you can call it that, fell down, is contexts. Based on my research online, this has been a real trouble area for a lot of people. The problem, I think, is truly understanding how context really works. It took a second reading of the book, having taken some breathing space away from that initial enthusiasm, and now looking back reflectively, to actually get a better understanding of what a context really is, and how this fits how I work.

Context is not an artificial construct, but rather something that’s inherent in our lives anyway. Far from imposing a contextual setup onto my life, what I should have been doing is looking for the contextual setup that already exists in it. To get this right, I’ve decided to dump all my Next Actions into one list, go through it and look at the physical action verb association with each. This should, by itself, imply the context necessary, and if it doesn’t, I need to redefine the task. For example “call so-and-so” implies an @phone or Calls (David chooses the latter, I prefer the former) context.

By forcing myself to define my next actions in a way that fixes the context, whether it’s a location (like @home) or a tool I need (like @computer) I think I’ll get a better idea of how to set up my context lists to fit the way I work, rather than trying to force the way I work into contexts. Some people say they don’t work by context and have found great value in working off a next-action list sorted by project. Those people, to me, are actually simply using the projects as the form of context that suits them best.

Context should be a way of leveraging your energies to achieve the best result.


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