Are You a One-Context Wonder? - Next Action Associates

Toni Basil. Los del Río. Baha Men. You may not recognise these band names, but if you lived through the 80s, 90s, and 00s, you are almost certainly familiar with “[Hey] Mickey”, “Macarena”, and “Who Let the Dogs Out?” All of these bands have one thing in common: they released a hit single in their respective decade, and then more-or-less disappeared.

Similarly, the self-professed ‘one-context wonder’ can sometimes have a ‘hit’ with their initial adoption of the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, only to see that first flush of success fade somewhat with time. There are two main reasons for this.

First, very few people really have just one context in their life. Even those who work from home experience great benefit from separating personal from professional commitments, so as to give appropriate attention to each at different times. Location, resources, and even your own mindset and stamina can all factor into creating effective contexts.

For example, just about every adult has a grocery list. You would no sooner mix shopping items in with work commitments than you would try to draft a financial report in Tesco. It is clearly inappropriate. Yet just like the hammer-owner who only sees nails, when all you have is one context, everything looks like it belongs on that single list.

People sometimes point out that they mostly work in one place, with all of the available tools they need to hand, and mostly experience consistent energy throughout the day. Fair enough, and as a result that one context may indeed become quite large. One way to manage this type of list is to decant a sub-list to focus your efforts for the day. I discuss some critical keys to making that work in another article.

However, the second big reason that one-context wonders sometimes fade is that the difference between ‘mostly’ doing GTD in the place and mental space where you ‘mostly’ work – and doing GTD comprehensively throughout all aspects of your life experience – is truly night and day.

You see, commitments are commitments. As we point out in our seminars, a troubling personal matter can eat away at you throughout the workday; and mis-managed professional commitments can wake you up in the middle of the night.

Furthermore, not doing GTD in one aspect of your life can effectively de-prioritise that whole area. You see, managed correctly, your lists will attract you into completion and accomplishment in that domain. You will naturally gravitate toward engaging with the well-clarified, sometimes at the expense of other, more nebulous avenues.

So, perhaps counter-intuitively, managing the ‘fun’ stuff appropriately and well doesn’t take the fun out of it – rather, it lets you focus on the fun parts even more. In a previous article, I confessed how GTD has even helped amplify the fun in relation to one of my own guilty pleasures.

Finally, practicing GTD across all of the real domains of your work and life gives you – guess what? – more practice overall. It signals to your brain that GTD is not just “that thing we do over here”, but something you are committed to ingrain as a habit.

You don’t just install an operating system on one part of your computer; it undergirds everything you do in a consistent way. GTD is the operating system for a more effective, stress-free life.

So, if you’ve been cheating yourself by engaging with fewer next action contexts than you really have, I would encourage you to consider that moving from ‘mostly’ to ‘comprehensively’ could mean the difference between the odd random hit of productivity and the consistent success of music legends like The Beatles, Madonna, and Sir Elton John.

Surely, that’s bound to make you sing.

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