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Establishing a Routine Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
This is mosly cathartic. But because this was a big "aha" for me I thought I'd take a couple minutes to contribute what I've learned.

The subject is routine. I listened to David Allen a time or two, and I may be wrong, but I don't remember him mentioning much about the topic of routine. The only thing I remember is the routine of having a weekly review. Which is great. Imperative. Paramount!

The topic of routine needs to be extended further, though. I've been trying to apply GTD, and it wasn't working for the longest time, until I figured out this missing piece. It's probably an elemental part of time management—but it wasn't so obvious to me!

The problem I was facing, and not realizing it, is that even though I was organizing all my tasks into contexts, I wasn't placing myself in my various contexts on a regular, routine basis. Hence, many tasks weren't getting done. And even if I was in a certain context, I didn't necessarily have my contexts defined in a way that was practical. Hence, each context had an overwhelmingly long list of things to do that should have been placed into narrower contexts.

Divying up contexts. Let me show you an example of practicality in divying up contexts: I had a context called Home. Who doesn't? But the thing is, I have kids. There is a context at home where I can get things done (that's usually without my little angels running around) and a context where I can get some good old family time in and craft projects with my kids done (that's with the kids). Both types of tasks need to be done at home, but I must assign them to the correct home contexts. Mine are Home : Kids Time, Home : Saturday, Home : Sunday, and Home : After Work. Phew! a little more sanity in my contexts! Instead of looking at an overwhelmingly long list of things to do at home (any number of which are not practical because either I have kids around or they take too long (saturday, anyone?)) I can zero in—focus, if you will—on things I can actually do at that moment.

Okay, so now I have tasks in more descriptive contexts. The other aspect of routine is placing myself in those contexts on a regular basis. If I don't place myself in all contexts on a routine basis, those tasks will not ever get done.

Placing myself in contexts. Like most people, I work during the day. The boss pretty much mandates that I'll be there on a regular basis, and it makes only obvious sense to do work tasks while I'm in the work context. No problem there. Oky doky.

But home, again, gets a little trickier (My work life is not that tricky context-wise; perhaps your "tricky" area is work and not home). I need to designate daily and weekly times to place myself in certain contexts. For example, every night from 6-7:30pm is purely Home : Kids Time. That's my routine. And Omnifocus is not going to place me in that context. I have to do that for myself. Saturday is Home : Saturday time, where I'll do various longer projects, some of which are landscaping and house fix-its, as well as more family time. Other things are done on Home : Sunday because I want to focus on certain things that day. And then there are various other things I can do after the kids are in bed, hence the Home : After Work context every day from 7:45-9pm.

I also have various subcontexts for weekly review. They are Weekly Review : Financial, Weekly Review : Business, and Weekly Review : Personal They need to be chunked up (I don't often have enough time or energy to do it all at once). I need to place myself in those contexts on certain days of the week regularly. I've also chunked up several other contexts to make things easier for me.

So how do I remember which context I'm supposed to be in at what time? This is where the magic piece is for me. I took several hours to hammer out a weekly schedule: when I'd do errands (that's a context with several subcontexts), when I'd do each of the reviews, when I'd work on business projects, when I'd work on house projects, etc. And I wrote out the hours of each in a draconian and detailed manner.

I then placed the schedule into Freemind (a free open source app) and I plan on placing it onto Headspace (iPhone app. These are mindmapping apps that allow me to see my routine visually.

So there you have it. I'm pretty excited about this! Do you have any other ideas I can incorporate?
Thanks for the great post. Lots of good food for thought there.

I've been at this GTD thing for several years now, but hadn't thought of establishing a routine for moving through contexts. This seems to provide a bridge between some of the GTD ideas and the Unschedule idea from The Now Habit. I may need to revisit my context lists in light of your insight.

One way you could have some help in getting your focus shifted to the right context would be to use iCal's alarm functionality. One of the options is to have iCal cause a file to be opened. Make a perspective that shows only the stuff you care about in Home:Kids Time, for example, then set up repeating events in iCal that go off at the start of Kids Time and open that perspective's file, which you can find in the Application Support/OmniFocus/Perspectives directory in your home directory. You'll get a new OmniFocus window set to that perspective when the target time rolls around.
that's a great idea : using ical , it reminds me of the " places " function in life balance where you can set times of day that the place is visible .

now if there was a way to close those perspectives when the time was over ? maybe apple script ?
You could have iCal run an applescript that closed all of your windows but one and set that one to the desired perspective. I think if you rummage around in my postings you'll find a script that does just that...ah, here it is.

One issue with that script that is dodged by having iCal just open another window (without trying to close all the others) is what happens if you happen to have the preferences window as the frontmost window. The script as currently coded just tries to recycle the frontmost window, and the preferences window churlishly refuses to adopt a new perspective :-)
very cool , I've got to give this a try thanks !
This might really assist in focus issues with an @office, @home, @ errands perspective. For anyone that's wondering , the concept of places in LB was to only see items where they could be done and "when " they could be done . Contexts in OF handles the where , this might be a great help to when . Having an @errands perspective pop open at lunch and close the other windows .. woot woot : )
I've been doing this for quite a few months actually. I 'book myself in' to be in different contexts during the day. On Sunday night I block out my week with different contexts to focus on for an hour here, two hours there etc.

There's a fancy name for it 'time boxing' but it just seemed like common sense to me. I like knowing that tomorrow morning for 2 hours all I'll be doing is 'Comms'

If I don't manage to stick to the context I have chosen I don't sweat it to much. But at least starting on attacking a particular context and also knowing when that period is going to finish helps give you a feeling of DEADLINE.

And why GTD doesn't ever seem to mention self-imposed deadlines or even 'treats' I'll never know.

(By the way, having phone/email and other various contexts simply doesn't work for me in this day and age so I put anything to do with communicating with other people in my Comms context. Saved me lots of brainache!)
many moons ago [10 +yrs or so ; ) GTD was known as " Managing Actions and Projects " at that time , " the david " spoke of things like " habits " and " grooved on automatic " why he moved away from these terms I'm not quite sure .
The whole idea behind getting " GTD " is for the methadology to become second nature to you .
Now he seems to be focusing more on " big picture thinking " etc
The truth is , no matter how hard I work at it , " what's the next action " is not an automatic response and I need my habits and checklists etc . Recently , I found the book " flawless execution " by Jim Murphy from " afterburners " inc . It discusses the idea of " task saturation " and other interesting points , including check-lists . I"ve no affiliation with the company , it just helped me .
Divying up contexts is a great help, and ads a very useful granularity to any contexts that still leave you wondering precisely when you'd 'prefer' to do a particular task.

As BevvyB mentions, the 'booking yourself in' idea is essential for those of us who've forgotten the discipline offered to us (years ago) by the dreaded 'school timetable'.

Its all too easy to ignore contexts sometimes - opting to do something far less like work for instance, or even nothing! - so being told by your stricter self that you'll be in a position to tackle a certain context at a certain time in the future is a great help. Not having a P.A. or a nagging wife, I set repeating calendar items just for this purpose and it feels like I have a helpful assistant directing my week for me. Certainly stops me sliding into that slack state.
I currently have google Calendar popups / txtmsgs / emailreminders doing the job of keeping me on a schedule when I need it, but I must say I like the idea of automating iCal to open OF perspectives.
Thanks for posting this--revisiting my contexts now.

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