John Kendrick’s Weblog

and Technology Musings

~Checking in on Waiting Tasks with Contexts

Posted by John Kendrick on September 30, 2008

Classic GTD Contexts

Like most good GTD’ers, I love contexts.  A context is a way to group tasks together so that they can be available in the appropriate situation (context), e.g. you assign the context “home” to all of those tasks that you need to be at home to accomplish, the context “computer” to all of those tasks requiring a computer, the context “phone” to all of the tasks requiring a phone.  So regardless of what project they are associated with, when you have a phone and some time, you just switch to your “phone” context and start dialing.

Extending the Concept

Soon after starting to use GTD, I discovered a real time saver in contexts.  I create a context for each person with whom I regularly meet.  When I enter a task into my GTD that involves that individual, I assign their context to the task.  Now here is the miracle.  When I meet with that person, I just click on their context, and everything I have associated with them pops up.  I never again leave a meeting wishing I had remembered to discuss something important.  And on those occasions when the individual I am working with on a task changes, I just change the context, its that simple.  

Breakthrough in Contexts

Recently I had another flash of insight on the use of a context.  I have many tasks that require something from someone else, before I can complete the task.  I’ve asked for a decision, I need a quote, a commitment, etc., and after making a notation in the task itself (you can see some real examples in the screen shot below) I would leave the task in my Next Actions list so I would be constantly reminded of the the task and could bug (gently tug) the person if they didn’t come through for me.  

Here’s the rub.  Because not everyone can act quickly on my requests, they tended to stay in my next actions list much too long.  You really need to keep your next actions list lean and mean, so as not to feel overwhelmed.

So here is the breakthrough of sorts.  

After writing these words, I checked David’s Book and sure enough this technique was in there – I had just forgotten it.  So while this was a breakthrough for me, it is not original.  That’s why you need to read, and reread, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  

So here’s the concept.  Rather than keep that “waiting for” task in the Next Actions list, I simply assigned it to the “Waiting for” context.  Now, I have no more than one task per project in my Next Actions list, but I can switch to my “Waiting for” context once a day and check in with all of those unkept promises and send reminders as needed.

Here’s a screenshot of my “Waiting for” context in Nozbe.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

Accessing Your Contexts in Nozbe

What could be better than contexts?  Can you keep a secret???  I have it on good authority that Michael, founder of Nozbe and iNozbe, is working on a feature that will allow Nozbe users to assign more than one context to a task.  I believe that will open up even more possibilities for contexts.  Who knows, maybe even another blog post ;-)  John 


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