Contexts.Granularity vs usefulness.

Contexts are great way to break down work into different chunks based on specific criteria. Rather than keep looking at a long list of things todo you split them based on location, type of work, tool, mood, time estimate etc. Anything that can assist you in breaking down your work and organising it into more meaningful chunks can be used as context.

The key benefit of using contexts is in grouping similar tasks together which allows you to take the advantage of the location you’re in, tools you have and the energy available. Also working in contexts reduces the waste normally related with continuous switching between different tasks.

When setting up contexts there is a great sense clarity and purpose. Thing are nicely stacked in piles but the true test comes when you’re doing the work. Can you successfully maintain system in such great detail. Do it make sense to have a context @printer or @shed or @shopXYZ if you don’t really print and visit shop XYZ once a year usually with specific purpose?

You can go very deep with contexts, breaking things down into very small categories. Although this may seem like excellent idea it may be a way of hiding tasks out of the view. This way the granularity can hinder the work you need to do.

So how can you maintain the usefulness of contexts and not get bogged down in the minute detail of managing too many of them?

  • match them to your work – this is key, context should be aligned with your work, think of the places, and tools specific to your line of work and design context around them.
  • keep them at bay – don’t allow to grow them beyond being manageable. Can you manage 6-7 contexts, can you manage 15? Avoid keeping context with 2-3 items in them as you will lose sight of them quickly.
  • have easy access to them – make sure you can access all of you contexts. Regardless of the system you use to keep your list handy so that you can take the advantage of the different places and tools and the are available. Do lose the time simply because you don’t have the right list.
  • review regularly – do a regular assessment of contexts you use, see if they have the right tasks, do they still match to your line of work, are the locations right, are tool still relevant.

Doing these small tasks and asking these simple questions will help you maintain a nicely tailored suite of context that keep you covered at work and home.

How many contexts do you have, do you manage them in any way? Please share your thoughts in the comments.