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I'm exercising GTD for a long time and I've always found it hard to define contexts for my work place. My role is a project manager and I work at the office where I have access to a phone, a computer, the internet at all times. I don't have any next actions to be done on the road. Some of my work I do from home (nothing that must be done only from home).

Due to the nature of my work, I rarely use contexts. The only useful context I have is @Agenda. I use it to maintain agenda lists with people I work with.

I'd be happy to hear ideas for contexts I can use so I can improve my productivity and better utilize my time and enhance my ability to choose the right next actions to work on.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The purpose of grouping work by context is to let you do more work with less context-switching. This may be very obvious or very subtle depending on your own work and work style.

For a very obvious example, if you find yourself doing this "1: @askAlice to fix server"; "2: @askBob to update contract"; "3: @askAlice for FY08 report", you'd probably be better off reordering your tasks to ask Alice everything at once. So if you have more than one thing to handle with any particular person, that probably constitutes a context.

For a more subtle example, if you find yourself doing this "1: assemble folders for meeting"; "2: brainstorm about web marketing strategy"; "3: call tech support about broken mouse", it sounds like a chunk of your brain was worrying about tech support while you were trying to brainstorm. So if you can identify typical frames of mind that you regularly return to, those frames of mind could constitute contexts (perhaps @general-logistics and @web-strategy). It will help most if you can figure out how to make yourself switch into a particular frame of mind.

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Since there's really only one context in the classic sense, why not use the context ordering mechanism to order your next action lists by something else.

One thing I find useful is sorting my next action lists by activities, e.g. "updating social media", "researching IP issues". When I've finished an action that consisted of a specific activity class, there is no switching overhead to performing a next action of the same activity class: I'm already in the mental mode and have my tools set up, and it's very often the best use of my energy to continue in the flow.

Conversely, when I'm tired of what I'm doing after I've finished an action, then switching to a different activity class is often the best kind of relief.

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can you please elaborate on what is an activity class in your mind? Not sure I'm following. – OrenD Aug 31 '11 at 20:53
I used the term to refer to a context that is not defined by the tools at hand, but by what you're doing. The activity you're doing puts you in a certain mindset. Switching to an activity that has the same mindset has no mental switching cost, e.g you've just worked on a new website design - updating an old website is in the same mindset, and easy to do. The further away from this activity the new activity is, the higher the mental switching cost, e.g. you go from the website design to calling a customer about some payment problem with a 6-month-old project. – gzost Sep 4 '11 at 9:43

I work in a similar environment and as such only use a single @work context while I'm at work. That when when I'm at my desk I can see everything I could be doing right then, which provides the context for me to decide what I actually should do.

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It sounds like you're doing the right thing. I wouldn't overdo it with the contexts.

The real test is, if you are (often) looking at your list of actions for the context you think you are in, and you find yourself repeatedly thinking, "no, I can't do that right now because X is not available", then you need a separate context for that.

Don't look for the contexts to help you use your time better or make better action choices. You need to have your projects and goals clarified in order to do that. The only thing that contexts will do is help you not completely waste your time by staring at a list of actions that you cannot possibly do at all right now.

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