Last time, we talked about clarifying all your “stuff” into actions (in Outlook tasks), projects (single notes in OneNote) and reference (notes, sections, or even whole notebooks in OneNote, depending on scope). Now we need to discuss how to organize this stuff and stay on top of it.
It’s time to talk about contexts.
A context is anything that you require to get something done. It could be a location (home, work), a tool (internet, laptop) or even a state of mind (focused, grunt work). There is nothing more detrimental to your desire to do something than to look at your list and see a bunch of things, that for one reason or another, you can’t actually do right now. So instead of keeping everything in one giant Tasks list, we’re going to create new tasks folders in Outlook for each context and move the appropriate tasks there.
The easiest way to do this, even in Outlook 2016, is to go to the Folder view in Outlook, then right click on your Tasks folder. Click the “New Folder” menu option, and name it after one of your contexts. Then repeat as necessary until you have them all.
It’s easy to get carried away here and subdivide ad absurdum. You want to have enough lists that you have a place for everything that’s meaningful to you, but not so many that you have lists you never look at. Most people end up with about a half-dozen. Mine are:
And then I have my “Anywhere” context split into four different quadrants, based on my level of concentration (c) and energy (e). High levels are capitalized, like this:
- CE Focus (high energy and concentration, good for creative work or studying)
- Ce Quick (high concentration, but low energy, good for quick tasks that I can get done before tiring)
- cE Grunt (low concentration, but high energy, good for grunt work like chores or errands that don’t require a lot of thinking)
- ce Lounge (low concentration and energy, good for reading articles or fiction, watching TV, etc.)
As you go through your day, you’ll bring up the context list most appropriate to what you’re doing and where you are. If you have an “Anywhere” list, or several, like I do, make sure you consult those too. The more you check off, the better you’ll feel.
Eventually, your lists will get depleted. Next time, we’ll look at the Reflect phase and go over how to create tasks in Outlook from your projects in OneNote.
Jeff Kirvin, PEI
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