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Dr. Contextlove or: "How I learned to stop worrying and love iCal"
Merlin Mann | Feb 27 2006
A favorite topic of GTD'ers is the contexts that we each choose to identify the times, tools, or locations by which a given task can or must be undertaken. This is a highly personalized decision, and I've learned a lot from seeing how other people are doing it.
Since I see it's been a while since I've talked about how I'm using contexts, here's an update that reflects how I'm now using Kinkless GTD and iCal to keep things wrangled.
It's worth mentioning that a lot of my approach has been shaped by my move from Entourage to kGTD + iCal. While the actual contexts haven't changed too much, the way I organize and think about them has evolved, as we'll see a bit later.
The context themselves, with a brief explanation, where it's useful or non-obvious:
Unactionable or deferred contexts
(Note: the "+" sign tells kGTD that these contexts don't generate next actions or iCal syncs)
So, that's a snapshot of where I am now. A number of those contexts are "on the bubble" right now -- too cute or fussy or potentially procrastinatable (is that even a word?). I comb through contexts in general every few weeks, or more often when one of them seems to have become an oubliette for the items I want to banish from thought. That's a good sign that the context is not about action at all and should be removed or refactored immediately.
And now: the sexy.
iCal sucks in a lot of ways (that's for another post), but it does do one thing I love: it let's you put your separate "calendars" -- which, in our case, are the actionable contexts we've synced from kGTD -- into "groups." I'm using this to make three "meta-contexts" that mirror the very general types of work into which all my tasks (and their parent contexts) belong.
But why bother with organizing these into meta-groups? Ah, because it makes it so easy to reveal or hide all the tasks that I can work on at a given time, just by ticking the group's little click box. This makes having many contexts so much more manageable. So, if you're keeping score, here's how they break out in iCal
Which gets me to the secret point of this post. It's the basic kGTD approach that's been really useful to me:
This has the effect of keeping you really focused on the doing rather than the fiddling. Once you've got kGTD set up to a point where you trust it to mind your world, try living in iCal instead. For one thing it's a lot less engrossing to play with, which might send you back to work more quickly than the amusement park ride that kGTD can be. You end up with a shorthand way to mentally gauge your "doing-to-fiddling ratio"; If you find you are spending a lot more time in kGTD than iCal you know it's time to ramp up the working and dial down the fussy meta work.
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