Iíd like to share some thoughts I have had about the relationship between projects, contexts and next actions. A recent thread on here dismissing contexts as obsolete got me thinking. Sometimes I work really efficiently in a context but other times it is more helpful to stick to a single project for a while. Iíll illustrate my thoughts with two examples:
The first example project is to install a bookcase. A reasonable sequence of actions might go as follows:
Choose a location, size and colour with my partner
Drive to our favourite Swedish furniture warehouse and buy the bookcase
Assemble the bookcase
Realise that the notch to fit over the skirting board is not big enough
Phone a friend and ask for their jigsaw
Drive and collect the jigsaw
Modify the bookcase
Discuss precise placement with partner
Mount bookcase with brackets
Drive to return the jigsaw
The situation with the skirting board really did happen to me once. It wouldnít be too difficult to do all that in a day but you wouldnít get much else done either. All the changing contexts, driving around, waiting for my partner, maybe having a coffee with my friend when visiting takes a lot of time. These kinds of projects are best suited to working from a context. It might take a whole week to sort out that bookcase but Iíll get through a lot more stuff as well.
The other example project is writing a computer program. The vast majority of the time, the next actions are to implement a feature or fix a bug. Once that is done you move onto the next feature or bug. Yes, there are meetings, phone calls and planning but most of the time is spent writing and debugging code. In this situation, it seems better to work from the project, at least until a context change is required.
GTD recognises that you canít always predict the sequence of actions in a project but for this mind experiment, letís pretend that we can. Imagine a table where each row is a project and each column is a context. If we mark each next action with a star, it might look a bit like this:
If we organise our action lists by context, it might work really well for projects like the bookcase project but not so well for the computer program project. I have about two university programming projects, three freelance ones and at least half a dozen personal programming projects on hold. If I were to take my next actions and work through a @Code context then the mental effort of switching between codebases would be overwhelming.
@Partner @Errands @DIY @Code @Calls
Bookcase ** ** ** *
Program ****** *
I think a lot of projects lie between these extremes. Maybe a good guideline is to work from contexts by default but if a project has several next actions in the current context, either focus on that project or avoid it in order to do the unrelated next actions.
Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or suggestions for me then I would be glad to hear them.