Lots of good ideas here. I really need to change my daily habits. My first instinct each morning is to check my calendar & tasks on the calendar. I do this throughout the day of course. If I'm relying on context lists, which one do I look at first - @Home Office, @Phone, @Home, @Computer? I'm on my iPod & my BlackBerry so I have the ability to make phone calls, check projects, read notes, get online, & do most of my tasks. So it's a wide open field where to start the day. I have Next Actions in lots of different projects, & I don't want to just start at the first context location I hit & just do those tasks for the day until I have an appointment to get to.
I then check weather both current and forecast for the day and even week, what context I can be in is often weather dependent.
Next I do a quick review of all my context lists. I'm using Omnifocus so I just set it to show me the next actions for all contexts and take a quick scan.
It's usually obvious to me from a quick read of these which context is most in need of work. I can choose most any context so this is a way to decide where to work for a while. I pick a context and start doing. Then when I need a break or there is an obvious break like lunch or bathroom, I re-scan all my contexts/actions for a brief refocus for the next bout of working.
Doesn't take long and keeps me from getting so focused on a single context that I forget all other for the day or week.
Oogie McGuire - Mac, iPhone & Omnifocus
OogieM on Twitter
Paonia, CO USA
Wow, Oogie, way to work your system! That really sounds good.
ETA: I took most of my NAs at one time and cut them up into strips and made piles that made sense. That's what I came up with.
- Time-specific actions (i.e. appointments)
- Day-specific actions (actions that have to take place on a specific day, but not at a specific time. It can only be done on this day: it can't be done sooner and after this day it *dies*).
- Day-specific reminders (an upcoming due date, a note that your spouse will be home late because of a meeting, birthdays, anniversaries, etc)
...and that's ALL!
With that in mind, if you're putting phone calls on your calendar that don't HAVE to be done on a specific day, you're putting that action in the wrong place. It should go on your @Calls list. But, if you need to call someone by a certain date, you can *also* put a reminder on your calendar (Need to call Fred by 1/15 re: abc).
The answer to your question about which list to look at first depends on what contexts you have available. If you're at your office or place of business, you don't have your @Home context available. Put it away.
Once you've identified your available contexts, follow your intuition and pick one. Or, if you have an electronic organizer that allows you to view multiple categories at the same time; try selecting all of the contexts you have available and see what shows up (this could result in a BIG list).
Contexts give you the focus to know what you possibly could do in the present moment. The other factors that influence what action you choose is your available time, then available energy, then priority (i.e. biggest personal payoff).
One more thing about next actions. Think of them as bookmarks on your projects, not actions on a "to-do" list. You don't have to (and should not, at least always) just start knocking off actions blindly. Those next actions are there to remind you where your projects left off. So, if you're tackling a project that's due at the end of the week, the next action on your list will get you kickstarted. Then you might find yourself deciding and doing the next action after that, then the next one after that...etc until you reach a stopping point. If possible, record a reminder about what the next action will be after that and get it into your inbox. If you don't record the reminder right away, regular reviews of your Projects list (especially the weekly review) gives you the chance to capture those.