Getting Focus through contexts

The using of contexts is one of the main differences between David Allens „Getting Things Done“ (GTD) and a common taskmanagementsystem. Contexts – or in a wider definition categories – prepare you to do the tasks through batching similar tasks throughout all projects.

“Categories are like having an extra weapon in your armory – they allow you to group tasks from different projects…“ #10stepsbook
What are these mysterious weapons?

What are contexts?

Projectlists are fine to gain an overview of your plans and commitments during the weekly review. But contexts let you come in a specifically mood oder situation, where you can do a specific sort of tasks.


Contexts are discrete categories, which divide your great amount of tasks, so that you can really do them. According to David Allen is a context necessary tool, situation or person to do a task.

First Step of deciding what to do next

Consequentialy this is the first step to decide, what to do next. With a spade you cannot write an letter, nor with a pencil dig over your garden. Only when you have the right tool etc. right at hand, then you can do the job!
So the other criterias to decide what to do next, depend on the right context: Your amount of time – your energy level and at least your priorities. All starts with the fit to the right context.

development of contexts

So far so good – seems simple – but is it really?

Clearly distinctions till the 90s

In the former times you went to your workplace to do your job. Back at home you were private and/ or a family person. In that way the context were distinguished: At the computer in the bureau you could do your work. At home you could write – even on your personal computer – private letters and so on.

confusions through the smartphone-revolution

Today everything has changed because of the smartphone-revolution: we can e.g. write emails everywhere – even business or private ones. Today we are always online – we do not need to go to a specific place, to a computer connected with the internet.
The fact of this causes us to rethink the use of contexts. Here is my try:

How i use contexts

I’m experimenting with contexts for years how my context settings suited best to my life:

Tools and technology

I use the category „technology“ to do all the tasks I need a computer for: All what can i do with my smartphone, tablet or stationary computer.
Still i use the category „phone calls“ and „email“ yet to differenciate these tasks, because of their specific character: Phone calls can i do during car driving (with a headset of course) or when i have only a few minutes befor the next meeting. For processing emails i have reserved a few periods a day, when i want process them (not check!).


Contexts also stand for a certain state of mind: When i want process my emails, i go in the email-processing-mood. Same with taking calls.
Thats why i have contexts defined for specific moods like „thinking“ or „reading/reviewing“.


Places have still a importance: Some tasks i can only do in the “bureau“, others at „home“ or while “purchasing“.


If i meet colleagues, it is useful to know what i have to discuss or clarify with them. So for important persons in my job or private life i have a context with their „name“. Have i tasks delegated to someone else, i add the category „waiting for“ to this task – fortunately my GTD-software Nozbe allows me to give a task more than one context. For this example the name of the person in combination with „waiting for“.


In my professional life meetings have an important role. Therefore all my tasks have the context of this type of meeting with them where i have this manner to discuss:
– Meeting with my pastor colleagues
– Presbyterium (the leading organ of a parish)
– committees
– groups like the visiting service and so on
The task gets the date of the meeting where i have to discuss this topic – very helpful to structure the themes of meetings which reoccuer regularily.


My most important tasks i want to complete today get the „MIT“-category. In Nozbe i can filter my priority list so that i can see these 1-3 MITs only – until i’ve completed them. I assign these category during my morning routine.


Thats the overview of my category-settings.
I experimented even with „Energy levels“ according to Sven Fechner which i added additionally to my tasks – but i found this a step to much, because i want define my tasks as easy as possible.
Contexts still are the weapon to get your stuff done. But a rethinking if your defined contexts still fit to your needs is necessary from time to time.