Task Contexts Keep You Productive

Task Contexts Keep You Productive

Productivity blogger Merlin Mann says he wasn’t nearly as ruffled by yesterday’s Gmail outage as many folks were because he organizes his tasks using GTD-style contexts. Any given project he is working on has next actions in a multitude of contexts, like “@phonecalls,” “@web,” and “@email.” Mann writes:

So if you forgot your phone, skip “@calls,” and move to anything else. Boss out to lunch? Skip “@Boss,” and move to anything else. Internet went down? Skip @web, and move to anything else. Gmail is down? Yes! You’ve already guessed it! Skip “@email” and move to anything else. Anything else. Anything. Else.

With tasks put in the right contexts (instead of piled up in your email inbox), you won’t be left flailing helplessly if utility workers accidentally sever your broadband link.


  • I’ve actually struggled to make much use of the @contexts because I work from home. Therefor @Home and @Work aren’t signifcantly different. Also, since the internet is broadband and always on, @computer and @internet are always the same.

    Having said that, I do find @calls and @errands useful.


  • Where I work spreads its offices across multiple floors in multiple buildings across the street from each other. So I use contexts like @10, @4, @chel to indicate what I need to do where — and cluster tasks when I know I’m going to be somewhere for something else. Like, today, I test rode a Citizen Bike, picked up some binders, and stopped by a colleague’s desk because of a @76 context.

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