One of the trickiest aspects of GTD (Getting Things Done) to implement successfully is Contexts and Next Action Lists. But this is also what sets GTD apart from many other productivity methods / workflows.
Rather than grouping tasks or “next actions” by project or even role, GTD groups tasks by Context. The goal of grouping tasks this way is to ensure you’re only ever looking at a list of tasks you can actually do with the tools at your disposal. After all, being reminded of a task you cannot do in that moment does nothing but drain your energy and motivation.
The difficulty with implementing this method is that the contexts defined in Getting Things Done are less clearly divided these days than they were 20 years ago when it was first written. Digital connectivity means work bleeds into home life more than ever. Smartphones and tablets now give us access to the majority of our tools no matter where we are. We now run the risk of everything ending up on only one or two lists which completely defeats the purpose.
And in this new COVID-19 era, more people than ever are seeing the division between work and home dissolve. How do we decide what to do when there’s no one but us to decide when “work” and “play” happen?
In the deconstructed world we now live in, it’s important that we create structure and division in our lives. If no outside forces impose boundaries between work and family time, we must create them ourselves by deliberately engineering contexts where natural divisions are lacking.
In my experience, doing regular reviews of my work and life is absolutely necessary to keeping myself on-track and focused. Unfortunately all it takes is a week or two without a proper review before I start losing sight of what’s important and how I should be spending my time.
Reviews are important for staying on-track, for making sure projects and ideas don’t go stale, and for renewing motivation in active projects and goals. But, they are only a tool and cannot be allowed to take up too much of your time and energy. They should only take up as much time as necessary to be effective.
For that reason, it’s important to know what purpose each review serves, so that we can pare down the process as much as possible to get the benefit without the time-sink.
Here’s how I define my various reviews:
- Daily Review: determine the Essential Task for the day, or for the next day
- Weekly Review: review active and upcoming projects, make necessary adjustments, and ensure tasks are properly defined and ready to act on.
- Monthly Review: review active areas and upcoming major life changes; use Mid-Point Goals to plan shifts you want to make in your various areas.
- Quarterly Review: review Strategies to make sure you’re moving in the direction of your long-term goals.
- Yearly Review: review your long-term goals / life goals to make sure they’re still what you truly want; make adjustments as necessary based on what you’ve learned.
Learning & Creating
I’ve found that I’m most productive and creative when I am actively learning, reading, researching, and taking notes. Without that active learning, my ideas quickly grow stale and motivation dries up. This is why I want to make active learning a priority in my life.
I wonder if there is some kind of parallel in terms of fiction writing. Consuming other fiction tends to have mixed results…
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