First off, I admit I haven’t finished reading the new revised edition of Getting Things Done, so this might well be covered there. But after reading up on contexts and perspectives with OmniFocus, I think I’ve finally come up with a framework for contexts that works given that I can generally do anything on my list anytime, anywhere.
I start with an Eisenhower/Covey grid, but instead of Urgency and Importance, my axes are Focus and Energy. Let’s define those terms right of the bat.
- Focus: the degree to which I can stick to a single task. This is part mental concentration, part environment. Basically, high focus means I feel confident I can devote a whole Pomodoro to a task, 25 minutes of undivided attention.
- Energy: how much physical or mental energy I have available to devote to the task. High mental energy means I’m feeling creative or analytical, and high physical energy means I don’t, for some reason, feel like I’m in my forties.
Here’s what that grid looks like and the four contexts it generates.
In the top left, we have Quick. This is a state of low energy but high focus. Actions in this context require thinking, or at least paying attention, but they’re relatively small bites. These are quick hits that shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes each to knock out.
In the top right, we have Focus. This is a state of both high focus and high energy. All the creative work happens here. Writing, planning, learning new things all require both concentration and energy to pull off.
In the bottom left, we have the Lounge. This is for tasks that require little energy or concentration. Watching TV, recreational reading and web surfing fall into this context.
And finally, in the bottom right, we have Grunt, for grunt work. This is where I put actions that require energy, but little thought or concentration. Paying bills, mowing the lawn, household chores and other such actions end up here. I tend to turn to this context when I’m hyper, with a lot of nervous energy but no way to rein it in.
In OmniFocus, I have these four contexts as subcontexts of Anywhere, which is a top level context along with Home, Errands, Agendas and Someday/Maybe. Anything that doesn’t require a specific person or location to complete falls into one of them.