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Stages of progress as Contexts? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Ever since I destroyed location-based Contexts (office, home, etc) in favor of effort/mindset Contexts, I have been searching for the right set of 'mindsets' for me. Right now I use something along the lines of short focus, full focus, low effort, etc. These have naturally begun to breakdown into thinking, planning, writing, referencing, etc. But I got to thinking.. has anyone tried using project progress stages as contexts?

The thought of using my Context view to not only identify which actions I need to work on, but also what 'state' my various projects are in is rather appealing. I'm envisioning a 'cascade' of progress stages. Let me elaborate. The life of each of my projects pretty much follows this pattern:

1) inspiration (from a thought, an assignment, whatever)
2) thinking/brainstorming (just thinking, maybe mind mapping, jotting notes)
3) planning (diagraming, maybe a project proposal or something)
4) research (fetching information)
5) producing/work/processing/needbettername (coding, writing, the "meat" of this sandwich)
6) reporting (writing reports, summaries, committing changes, etc)
7) finishing (any other final tasks that allow this to be filed under 'done')

Then my context view lists all my available tasks, by Context (phage), in linear order. If lots ideas are coming in but not getting much further, then it's obvious they are 'bunching' and I need to spend some time processing them to the next phase. If a lot of projects are lingering in the closing phases, then it's time to do some finishing, etc.

It's an idea I might play with. Anyone have any input/suggestions/thoughts? Please do share!
How do you envision this working? A project is just a few tasks, and you keep updating the contexts to reflect progress? Is this a way to track project status, primarily? If that's the case, and you are using OmniFocus' review functionality (if you're not, you should start!), here's an idea that's perhaps less disruptive that you could try out first. Each time you review a project, you make a note of the phase that it seems to be in, based on what you've completed recently and what is ahead in the upcoming actions. Make up a set of keywords so that you can search for them and not get spurious hits from your typical project/action names. Put the keyword for each project's current status in the project's note field, and make a perspective for each keyword that just shows you the projects in that phase, with the project collapsed (obviously, this is a project-based perspective, and the goal here is surveying the landscape, not picking an action to do next). After you've done your review and populated your projects with the current assessment, you can pull up one of those perspectives and see how many projects you've got in the planning stage, or the finishing stage, etc. and make your choices about which projects to emphasize over the coming days (flagging them might be one way to do that). You don't need to disturb your contexts to do this, so there's no big penalty if it doesn't work out. You don't even have to do this with all of your projects.

It probably wouldn't be too difficult to make an AppleScript that would give you a report of how many projects were in each phase (or had an arbitrary keyword in the notes).
The point wouldn't necessarily be project management. I believe other software is better suited for that (for projects of any scale at least). Tasks, projects and contexts would be treated as normal, the only difference would be ordering your contexts from conception to completion. You wouldn't see the actual projects in Context view, just the tasks of all projects, grouped by their context and incidentally by the phase that their particular project is in.
I had developed a similar approach with contexts that tracked the "phase" of a task in a project (explore, fish, cook, eat, tidyup ...). In the meantime, I am moving back to contexts that are more akin to the short focus ... ones that you started using (focus, detail, grunt, rote, daydream). I found the use of "phase" to be helpful in the planning and setup stages of the project. However, I was having difficulty determining what to do when the time came to put the plan to action. When setting up my daily schedule from a list of a dozen or more tasks with contexts of "phase" in a project, I was overwhelmed by what task to pick as the next best action.

So, in a nutshell, while my experience supports that "phase" related contexts are useful for planning, you might consider whether they will really help you be better at DOING.


Personally I use a mix of a few types of contexts:
- locations
- people
- state of mind (focus / type of activity)
- "stages of progress"

I call it "workflow" but I like your idea for a name. I will focus on one specific type of workflow in my computer-related work as a "pseudo project manager". Basically I take care of handling new clients for the main product suite of the company I work for. I will meet them as early as during the sales/demo stage, and then gather their requirements for standard configuration as well as customization and new development, do the training, some support, some analysis, etc. I don't manage resources, I usually deal with a manager from the dev team for example and "assign" the work to him/her then they take care of who will work on what and coordinating things.

Those projects can have up to 100 or more "things to track / do" for a medium installation, but if I actually break them down to single "steps" / actions, it becomes much larger. For example: "interface to system X" could include steps such as:
- determine method of connection
- determine content
- determine format
- develop interface
- document interface
- test interface (internal)
- deploy in test
- test interface with system X team
- get client signoff
- deploy in prod
- setup schedule in production
- monitor automated process for the first few days
- handoff to support team

At first I created a project for each of those, but it didn't work out well. In particular it was harder for me to prioritize across too many projects. Then I used groups of actions, but in general they don't work like I would like at all and I find them confusing.

For now, my middle-of-the-road solution is to keep only one action, or maybe break it in a few actions for the "big parts", and then I change the context to "move it" to the next stage and use the notes or a temporary group of actions if it is useful. It is really "loose", I don't have too many strict rules but rather goes with whatever works for the specific case. Going back to the example, let's say I just keep one action "interface with system X", it would probably go through those contexts:

- analysis (possibly with notes or subtasks: format, method, error-handling, etc.; this is a "state of mind" context for me)

- handoff (so when I login to the bug/feature tracking software or when I am at the office and can explain complex details in person, I can get everything and just go through it)

- waiting for dev (this context is on hold because there's nothing for me to do)

At this stage, when I do my project review, I might decide to change a few "waiting for dev" to "follow up" if I think I need to get an update or push to have it done soon.

- review (when the feature is delivered to me)

- deploy (when ready for test)

- handoff (this time the handoff is to the client when I communicate with them)

- waiting for client

... and so on. Possibly I would have a separate task to work on the documentation because I would do that in parallel while development is done, etc. I hope it is clear and possibly can help you.

Thanks and enjoy your day!


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