Context

  • The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.
  • That which surrounds, and gives meaning to, something else.

GTD encourages the use of contexts to break down long and expansive to-do lists. Without them where would you start? What would you choose to do at any particular time? By breaking down your lists according to different settings and situations, it becomes a simple matter of selecting a list and tasks appropriate to your current context. For instance, if you are near a phone, you only need look at those next actions that require you to make a phonecall.

An extra benefit of contexts is that it it stops you from being distracted by next actions that are not relevant to your current circumstances. For instance, you don’t have to look at any tasks that are to do at home when you are at work. This is known as contextual limitation as it stops your attention being taken up by work you can’t do at that time.

Contexts can be as simple or as complicated as required depending on the actual depth and size of your to-do lists. Traditionally, the author of GTD, David Allen, puts a @ symbol in front of all contexts, and while this is not a requirement, it has become the common defining symbol for them. The symbol means location as in “Where are you at?”. Thus, @computer means “At your computer”.

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