We can’t do everything we need to do everywhere or anywhere. For some things we need a computer, for others access to a phone and some things can only be done in the office.
We gain concentration if we at each point in time only need to care about the tasks that are available to work on where we are at the moment.
So, how do you determine what can actually be done here and now, from all the things you need to do?
The answer is spelled “context”.
Some common contexts
A common context might be:
- @Office – meaning, “at the office”
- @Internet – when you have internet access
- @Computer – when you are sitting by your computer
- @Phone – when you have access to a phone (such as when you are stuck in traffic or when you are travelling)
- @Errands – when you are moving, like going to or from your lunch-break and you can buy a pack of paper clips while you’re @ it.
- @Home – things you can do at home (since you probably don’t have only work-related things on your to-to-list)
- @Anywhere – when you have something you need to think about, some decision-making needing to be done, and just need to collect your thoughts.
Some less common, but equally smart, contexts
An acquaintance of mine has a job that requires a lot of writing, and is particularly comfortable with writing while on the train. Since he frequently travels on assignments to Stockholm, he puts some of his writing-to-dos on hold until he is “@Train”.
I recently met a woman who has certain work assignments which are best completed when she is alone at the office, that is, @PeaceAndQuiet.
One of my clients has tasks that require cooperation with a co-worker in order to be done, which gives a context called @JoeSmith.
Tag your to-dos
Make sure to tag your to-do-tasks with the context you want and need to complete the task.
If you keep your to-do-list on a piece of paper, note the context in the margin so it’s easy to see, and maybe think of an abbreviation of the context so you can tag each task even easier.
If you have your to-do-list in a digital format, it makes it even easier. For instance, in Outlook you can use the “Category”-field for context when you create a new task.
What is your context, what can you do?
So, in your workday, when you are about to choose the next task to work on, focus only on those tasks tagged with the context you are in right now. You will most likely be on a roll and therefore grateful you were ahead of yourself and took the time out to tag all your tasks with appropriate contexts.
The beauty of having an electronic to-do-list is that you easily can sort your tasks by context and sometimes even hide the tasks which are not relevant to the context you are in at the moment. This gives you a dynamic list that only shows you what is realistically available to do right at this moment, which means you don’t have to get distracted or stressed out by tasks you need to do but can’t do anything about right now.
How do you do it?
What contexts best describe and suit your workday? Perhaps you also have some odd contexts as a result of an unusual job? Leave a comment below.