Photo by cadmanof50s
In Chapter 2 of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity , David Allen spells out the four criteria model for choosing the next thing to do. He says that you choose what to do next based on (in this order) context, time available, energy and priority. In this series of articles, I will explore ways to maximize the criteria so that you always have the most possibility of getting something done.
Maximizing contexts is all about making sure you can do things wherever you are. You don’t have to carry your whole office or home with you everywhere, but you can expand what you can do anywhere to one or two contexts with the following tips.
Group Your Tasks
By saving up and grouping tasks together, you will get more done in the long run. For example, if you run one errand per day after work, you will use up more time than if you save them all for one night and do it all then. A little planning will allow you to maximize the amount of errands you get done with one trip. It can also help that when you are in an area of your home, you take care of the tasks that are there. For example, if your context is “home”, and you need to mop the kitchen floor, mow the grass and empty the dishwasher, it is more efficient to do the two kitchen tasks together, to save yourself the extra time transitioning between these sub-contexts.
While I will be one of the [first] to argue for turning the cell phone off, this gadget can work to our benefit. Using the cell phone to make calls while you are in other places can help you get things done. For example, if I am out walking the dog and need to call a few people, I will plug in the ear piece and go for it. I can schedule appointments while I am waiting for my daughter to get through with swimming lessons.
The same arguments can be applied to mobile email and internet connectivity.
As I covered in this article, by carrying papers with you, you will be able to take advantage of hidden minutes to accomplish things. I recently had a large number of thank-you notes to write. By having the list of names and blank cards with me, I was able to use odd moments to accomplish little bits of the task. Had I waited until I was sitting at my desk at home, the notes would still be unwritten.
Look At Alternate Ways of Doing Tasks
Sometimes we get locked into ways of thinking about how tasks have to be performed. If we step back, we may be able to see other contexts that could just as easily lead to our getting tasks done. For example, I thought for a long time that I could do no writing if I was away from my computer. Experimenting has shown me that I can also write using my PDA, and of course, the old-fashioned method of paper and pen. In fact, sometimes switching to these alternate contexts allows me to free up mental log jams.
The End Result
When we step outside our normal thinking channels and really look at what we have available, we will find that there is a lot we can do, regardless of where we are.