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Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts

LifeTopixThe Life­Topix app includes many fea­tures to sup­port David Allen’s Get­ting Things Done® (GTD) method, and it also pro­vides pow­er­ful project man­age­ment fea­tures that are essen­tial for those who wish to gain con­trol over their busy per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives. In this post, I’ll show you best prac­tices for using con­texts and best prac­tices for cat­e­go­riza­tion of items — using real-life exam­ples. Cat­e­gories and Con­texts might seem to be sim­i­lar con­cepts; how­ever, you will learn that they are applied dif­fer­ently in LifeTopix.

What is GTD?

If you’re not famil­iar with GTD, it’s “the ground­break­ing work-life man­age­ment sys­tem by David Allen that pro­vides con­crete solu­tions for trans­form­ing over­whelm and uncer­tainty into an inte­grated sys­tem of stress-free pro­duc­tiv­ity,” accord­ing to David Allen’s web­site.

GTD has reached the level of a cult fol­low­ing and GTD fans believe the sys­tem changes their lives for the bet­ter. Many believe that GTD has helped them to do so much more — with much less stress.

What are GTD Contexts?

In GTD, Con­texts are typ­i­cally based on a phys­i­cal loca­tion, resource, or the equip­ment that’s nec­es­sary to com­plete a task. Pro­duc­tiv­ity is increased when you’re not “switch­ing con­texts.” For exam­ple, you’re more pro­duc­tive if you return phone calls dur­ing blocks of time, rather than switch to a dif­fer­ent task — such as graphic design or cod­ing. Exam­ples of Con­texts are @office, @home, @grocery store, @computer, @train, @vacation, or @phone. Also, in GTD, items are allowed more than one Con­text. For exam­ple, you could assign a Con­text of @office and @phone for phone calls that are com­pleted at the office.

What is Categorization?

In Project Man­age­ment, Cat­e­go­riza­tion allows you to dif­fer­en­ti­ate projects from each other. It’s used to iden­tify a set of items with sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics or prop­er­ties. Cat­e­gories can be bro­ken down fur­ther into more gran­u­lar sub­cat­e­gories, sup­port­ing a hier­ar­chi­cal approach. There are no offi­cial, agreed upon cat­e­go­riza­tion of projects, but sug­gested cat­e­go­riza­tion is described below.

Lynn Craw­ford, pro­fes­sor of project man­age­ment at Bond Uni­ver­sity, Aus­tralia and vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Cran­field Uni­ver­sity, School of Man­age­ment (UK) has sum­ma­rized project attrib­utes and char­ac­ter­is­tics as:

  • Appli­ca­tion area or product
  • Stage of life-cycle
  • Grouped or single
  • Strate­gic importance
  • Strate­gic driver
  • Geog­ra­phy
  • Scope
  • Tim­ing
  • Uncer­tainty
  • Risk
  • Com­plex­ity
  • Cus­tomer
  • Own­er­ship
  • Con­trac­tual

One or more of these could be used to cat­e­go­rize projects.

Life­Topix Con­texts Best Practices

What I’ve found is in the mod­ern world, we have access to our equip­ment 24/7 via lap­tops, smart­phones, and tablets; there­fore, the “Tools Con­text” seems to be anti­quated, unless the tools are very spe­cial­ized for your job or your com­pany dis­al­lows work out­side of the office for secu­rity rea­sons. In addi­tion, if you per­form all of your work at the office and all of your equip­ment is acces­si­ble at the same time, location-based Con­texts might not make sense. As a result, Con­texts should be based on your indi­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion. You might con­sider using Con­texts based on other attrib­utes, such as @someday-maybe, @on hold, @risk, or @assistant.

Life­Topix pro­vides two basic Con­texts, which include Work and Home. These location-based Con­texts may be mod­i­fied in any way that you pre­fer. The fol­low­ing screen­shot shows an exam­ple of Con­texts that you could pos­si­bly begin with.

Contexts in LifeTopix

Tap­ping any of the items above shows the details of the items asso­ci­ated with these Contexts.

Errands, Home, and Office are location-based Con­texts. They allow you to sep­a­rate your work and per­sonal life, and to also group errands that need to be run while you’re on the go.

Some­day — Maybe is a list for your cre­ative future plans that you don’t have the time or resources to pur­sue at the moment. When you have a great idea that comes to mind, you can assign the Some­day — Maybe Con­text to it so you won’t for­get it when the per­fect time comes along to get going on those projects.

Wait­ing For is the list of items that you can­not com­plete because you’re blocked in some way. For exam­ple, your TPS report may be due; how­ever, you’re wait­ing for the new cover sheet. Con­se­quently, you would tag it with this Con­text. This way, you will make sure to fol­low up on these items before they become overdue.

Assis­tant is a Con­text for items that you can del­e­gate to another resource. This will remind you that you can take these items off your plate, but also that you need to ensure they’ve been completed.

Life­Topix also sup­ports a Quick Inbox (with Soon and Some­day cat­e­gories) for ideas you want to cap­ture quickly. You can use this as a place­holder, and process these items later and apply the proper Con­texts. These items can be quickly con­verted to Tasks, Notes, Appoint­ments, Reminders, Projects, Trips, Vis­i­tors, Events, Shop­ping Lists, or Gifts for Others.

You should note that in the cur­rent ver­sion of Life­Topix, you can only assign one Con­text to an item. In a future update, you will be able to assign mul­ti­ple Con­texts to each item.

Life­Topix Cat­e­gories Best Practices

Cat­e­gories and sub­cat­e­gories are very pow­er­ful in Life­Topix. The num­ber of sub­cat­e­gories are lim­it­less, but Project Man­age­ment best prac­tices experts rec­om­mend that you keep the num­ber of sub­cat­e­gories to no more than three. Projects and Tasks share cat­e­gories and subcategories.

You man­age cat­e­gories in Life­Topix Set­tings. In the fol­low­ing exam­ple, I’ve cre­ated sev­eral sub­cat­e­gories for “Mar­ket­ing Projects” for a fic­tional Mar­ket­ing agency. These are the “prod­ucts” or “ser­vices” that the agency offers for its clients. You can view a screen­shot of these cat­e­gories below:

Categories in LifeTopix

Once your cat­e­gories are set up and you’ve assigned cat­e­gories and sub­cat­e­gories to Life­Topix projects, in the Tasks + Projects topic you can view all of the Mar­ket­ing projects for which the cat­e­gories and sub­cat­e­gories have been applied. In this exam­ple, projects are cre­ated by “client” so you can eas­ily see which services/products have been agreed upon by each client. For each client’s project, you can also attach all sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion (book­marks, files, audio, photo, video, notes, expenses, ser­vices); actions (tasks, check­lists, shop­ping items); and sched­ules (appoint­ments and reminders). You can view a screen­shot of the projects and their sub­cat­e­gories below.

Project and Subcategories in LifeTopix

And when you tap one of the Cat­e­gories or Sub­cat­e­gories, such as SEM, you can eas­ily view addi­tional sub­cat­e­gories that were cre­ated for more gran­u­lar­ity (such as Land­ing Page Opti­miza­tion and Adwords/PPC, which are sub-components of SEM). You can also view which clients’ projects these services/products apply. You can see an exam­ple of this below.

Project and Subcategories in LifeTopix

As you add items through­out Life­Topix, you will see how impor­tant it is to lever­age the Cat­e­gory fields. For exam­ple, you’ll be able to bet­ter locate, eval­u­ate, plan, and resource projects and other items that you’ve cre­ated in Life­Topix based on their cat­e­gories. When view­ing the his­tory of your projects, you might iden­tify that some cat­e­gories of projects con­tain more risk than oth­ers and that some projects yield more pay­offs. And projects of dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories require vary­ing sets of best prac­tices; there­fore, apply­ing cat­e­gories will help you choose the appro­pri­ate doc­u­men­ta­tion. Cat­e­go­riza­tion will help you make future deci­sions based on past performance.

Con­clu­sion

Now that you under­stand the dif­fer­ences between Con­texts and Cat­e­gories and how to lever­age them in Life­Topix, it will be eas­ier to ini­tially set up Life­Topix to sup­port GTD. And as you use Life­Topix and GTD more and more, you will find Life­Topix is flex­i­ble enough to add new Con­texts and Cat­e­gories as you progress.

Keep in mind that Con­texts apply to Assets, Events, Gifts, Notes, Per­sons, Projects, Ser­vices, Ser­vice Providers, Shop­ping Lists, Sub­jects, Trips, Vis­its, Appoint­ments, Audio, Book­marks, Check­lists, Expenses, and Files — not just projects and tasks. Cat­e­gories apply to Assets, Book­marks, Events, Expenses, Notes, Prod­ucts, Projects/Tasks, Ser­vice Providers, Ser­vices, Sub­jects, Log Entry Units, and Shop­ping Item Units. This enables you to apply project man­age­ment tech­niques to every­thing you do in your life — result­ing in a more effi­cient, happy, and pro­duc­tive YOU!

More Infor­ma­tion

GTD is a great sys­tem for man­ag­ing your busy home and work life. If you’d like to know more about best prac­tices using Life­Topix for GTD, refer to the fol­low­ing posts:

Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Pri­or­i­tiz­ing Tasks in Life­Topix
Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Cap­ture and Col­lect
Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Pro­cess­ing
Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Mas­ter Orga­niz­ing
Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Prac­tices for Get­ting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

Please com­ment on how you use Con­texts and Cat­e­gories in Life­Topix or other GTD and/or Project Man­age­ment tools.

10 Comments


  1. Tim B
    Mar 17, 2014

    I have an idea on how to use con­texts, hav­ing come from other to-do style apps, plus I under­stand that they work across dif­fer­ent top­ics.
    How­ever, I still don’t quite “get” Cat­e­gories.
    They appear to be in one Topic only, but then cer­tain ones appear in the other Top­ics as touch­points.
    There seem to be cer­tain cat­e­gories which are sim­i­lar to those in other top­ics (such as “health­care”, which appears in dif­fer­ent top­ics), but then have dif­fer­ent sub-categories.
    Plus, the cat­e­gories in some top­ics like Health + Goals or Assets/People + Ser­vices make sense to me, but the ones in Projects + Tasks don’t and I worry that if I set up new ones, then I will either break exist­ing touch­points, or that you will cre­ate new touch­points in the future that might ren­der my cat­e­gories obso­lete.
    How do cat­e­gories inter­act between top­ics and can you give me some more exam­ples of how you could use them in the dif­fer­ent topics?


    • LightArrow
      Mar 17, 2014

      Tim,
      You cor­rect in your under­stand­ing. Cat­e­gories are within their own top­ics, and con­text tags are inde­pen­dent (go across things). Some pre-built cat­e­gories are touch-points between the top­ics. How­ever, we allow you to man­age the top­ics (cre­ate your own, delete unused ones, etc.) while pro­tect­ing the touch point and used ones from being deleted. So you can add other ones as you seem fit — they are meant to be con­fig­urable. We may have gone a lit­tle over­board on the out of the box ones! We some­times wish we made them inde­pen­dent of top­ics, so they could have been used across top­ics in gen­eral — how­ever, con­text tags serve that pur­pose very well.

      Touch­points are inter­est­ing only from a vis­i­bil­ity per­spec­tive — for exam­ple, being able to see Edu­ca­tion cat­e­gory projects (they are projects, they belong in that topic) from the Edu­ca­tion topic, Edu­ca­tion notes, also being vis­i­ble from the Edu­ca­tion topic, etc. — for the sake com­plete­ness. The actual objects belong to some cat­e­gory in their native topic view, but a cat­e­gory of inter­est is made vis­i­ble in other top­ics. More on touch­points: http://lightarrow.com/lifetopix/common-questions/q-what-are-touchpoints

      We hope this helps.

      Team LightAr­row
      Austin, Texas


      • Tim B
        Mar 17, 2014

        Thanks again.
        Ok, that makes a bit more sense.
        So can you have mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories as well as mul­ti­ple con­texts on the same item, task, etc?
        Have you got some more exam­ples of where you might use cat­e­gories, rather than con­texts? (par­tic­u­larly in Projects + Tasks and maybe Events/Trips and People?)


        • LightArrow
          Mar 17, 2014

          Tim,
          Yes, you can assign mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories and con­text tags to items.

          Think of cat­e­gories more like hier­ar­chi­cal fold­ers — things are where they belong. Con­texts, on the other hand, are con­cep­tual tags (“2014 Res­o­lu­tions”, “Health”, “Fam­ily”, “Self Improve­ment”, “Work”, etc.) so you can see a mixed bag of items together under it’s con­text in the My Con­texts view. For exam­ple, “Self Improve­ment” could con­tain a project, some health met­rics, some book­marks, notes, tasks, etc. of infor­ma­tion I have col­lected and tagged as “Self Improve­ment” — regard­less of what topic or what cat­e­gory within a topic they may be under.

          Team LightAr­row
          Austin, Texas


          • Tim B
            Mar 17, 2014

            Ok, I think I’ve got it!
            Thanks,
            Tim

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