Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Productivity, like crime, requires motive and opportunity

Lately, I've had a non-standard routine going - more time in meetings than I'm used to, more attention-demanding things at both work and home, etc. The interesting side effect is that my days have been much more focused on "must do" than "wanna do" items and tasks. As a result, I'm not doing as many of the fun things as I'd like to - like reading and blogging.

Right now, I'm on a long layover en route to Spain and decided to carve out some time to actually write something. Whew - what a relief it is to be sitting at the keyboard blogging instead of doing emails and working on urgent items.

Diamonds form under pressure

In the past, I've commented quite a few times that one part of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system I don't use is "Contexts." The idea behind GTD's Contexts is to group next actions according to the context in which they can be performed. I found that so much of my tasks could be performed in so many contexts that this wasn't working very well for me so I quit using Contexts.

Well, the "pressure" of these past few weeks has caused me to re-think Contexts. Now, I really do have a lot of tasks that have clear contextual boundaries and I find I need to really maximize the time I spend in each context - much more deliberately than in the past.

Need begets function

As I started to try to use Contexts again, I quickly remembered one of the other reasons I was so anxious to get away from Contexts: the Blackberry does a lousy job with categories, making it hard for me to look at a context-based list.

Therefore, I've come up with a hybrid (read "bastardized") approach to help me get the right things done.

  1. I still maintain my lists using Outlook (using ClearContext, of course).
  2. Every morning, I do a daily review of my possible tasks, and look at the contexts I expect to be in that day. If there is a "must do" that doesn't have an appropriate context coming up that day, it's time to juggle what's on my calendar to create the opportunity to get the "must do" done.
  3. I use one index card (note card) for each of my major contexts, and add the items I must get done that day to the appropriate card.
  4. I carry those cards in my shirt pocket and refer to them regularly as I decide what to do next. I also carry around a blank note card that I use to capture new commitments I make during the day and to jot down ideas for other things I want to do later.
  5. At the end of the day, I check off (on the card and on Outlook) the things I've gotten done, and add any new items to Outlook.
  6. The process repeats the next day.

This takes little pieces of lots of systems - GTD, Managing Your Now, Hipster PDA, etc. but it is working for me right now. I'll probably change it up again when things calm down, but for now, this is my system.

What's my point?

I realized I had lots of motive in my life, but was lacking in the right opportunity (context) to act on my motive. By changing how I assert control over my day, things are getting better. Yes, I'm still crazy busy, but I don't feel quite as reactive.

What about you - any of this resonate? How do you deal with life when you are in these situations?

Related items: