Single actions, project actions and contexts

When implementing GTD you will notice there are two types of next actions.
Single actions – are those which are not related to any project or larger outcome. Once they are done there is nothing additional to do. Some examples include take out trash, call friend to catch up, etc.

Project actions – as the name suggests project actions are related to specific project and once one to-do is completed there is one or more waiting to be done.

The common element for both is context which denotes where a given action can be accomplished.

Navigating between the these might be a little confusing as it’s not always easy to figure out whether you should look at single actions or project actions, which context should take priority etc?

Few weeks ago I’ve read an excellent overview on how to approach this problem written by TesTeq. I would like to share it here because it’s an excellent advice that can be easy implemented and really helps understand what GTD is about. (The post was written in Polish so below is my paraphrasing of the advice.)

  •  if task was just a single item move to next item in the same context.
  •  if a task was part of a project you can select another action in the current context.
  •  if project is important focus on the next action from that project regardless of context. The key here is completing the project not just single action.

As you can see the advise is pure common sense but it shows how flexible and adaptable GTD is.

Many people complain about GTD that it creates too much overhead with all the lists, locations and contexts etc. Perhaps they haven’t experimented and adjusted the system to their specific needs.

If you like to focus on specific projects simply open the project file and tackle one at the time whether it’s making a call, writing an email or testing a bit o code. On the flip side if you travel a lot or shift attention between different work environments context are best way to approach your to-do’s.

As consequence of its flexibility and adaptability GTD is so popular and so widely adopted.

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