Working in an Atic

Burn the To Do Lists!

Context Planning Rocks Without a Chore List!

My calendar today (not my to do list) has: a noon appointment with the board president of a nonprofit I volunteer with. It also shows I’m watching my granddaughter for 2 1/2 hours while my wife goes to a morning doctor’s appointment. I’ve arranged to visit a friend to borrow his chain saw to do some tree work this weekend. Also, I need to pick up a load of insulation to add to our attic. Finally,I wrote in that I’d install the attic vent insulation between the roof joists.

The Task List is NOT what happens Next

After watching Ava, I wrap up my morning routine by walking our 100# Dane-Boxer rescue dog (aptly named Dino). Time to get to the attic. Ah, but my wife mentions she’d like to go to the women’s Christmas chorale performance at our church this morning. She planned to bring Ava because child care would be provided. This would enable Linda to enjoy the event without the distraction of chasing after the grandbaby. But Ava was up unusually early so her nap came earlier too.

The beauty of a fully developed GTD system shows its full strength (because there are not To Do lists)

1. Because I captured my principles, values and responsibilities in each of my Horizons, I am ready for this. In Horizon 4 (Vision), I want to live a life with Linda as my closest companion. An often-repeated phrase I use is, “I want what you want” (which she finds irritating most times <grin>).

2. I’m in a mind-like-water state (at least this morning) with my GTD system pretty tightly tuned. I am aware that my companion values meeting with her friends and I have every confidence making this possible.

3. But I was going to do the attic vents! Actually, I couldn’t do the attic vents because of the sleeping baby.

But then again…

I could go get the chain saw and pickup truck. That way I can get the insulation (saving money and reducing resources is also of value to my wife-companion); but my wife would really like to go to church. Actually, this decision was easier to make than I’m describing it. All the commitments I made today (other than the meeting at noon) can be done anytime today. The only other time constraint is getting the insulation before the Home Depot closes–8pm tonight.

So, without wrestling with choices, I confidently (and ungrudgingly) offer to mind the baby while my wife is gone. She’ll be back in time for me to meet with the board president.

Bonus: Because I adhere to the “immutable” GTD principle that TO DO LISTS ARE UNNECESSARY, I can flow into whatever other priority items I have in the appropriate context.

I also experience the freedom from guilt. Without a To Do List, unforeseen events don’t pre-empt my day. In my case, I have an opportunity to do good by someone close to me. Additionally, the opportunity aligns with my Horizons.

So how is this going to play out now that my wife just pulled away? I can’t work in the attic; too noisy for the baby. I can’t leave the house to pickup the chain saw at Sam’s–the baby is sleeping and, oh yeah, our only car just drove away.

Contexts are the Key. While Ava is resting, I take the baby monitor to my home office and review my Context list (currently I’m honing “GTD with the Bullet Journal”).


The relevant Contexts I see are: Calls, At Computer, At Home, and Read/Review.
A quick flip through each gives me an idea of which open tasks make sense to consider. I follow the Context-Time-Energy-Priorities assessment criteria. 
Calls: none to make right now
At Computer: a long list of tasks, four of them marked as a priority
At Home: maintenance items that make noise or I’m outside in the yard, and some tasks in my home office
Read/Review: two items (What? You are surprised there aren’t more? Putting something on a Read/Review list is as hard-edged as putting something on the calendar). I only write it if I’m are committing to it–otherwise, it is in a Someday/Maybe list.


If all goes well and Ava sleeps, I’ve got 45 minutes to an hour. I’m not up for focusing on the Read/Review tasks. They aren’t a priority right now compared to other Context items; my energy level isn’t up to moving things around in the home office; the priority items at the computer involve some pretty involved research. I confidently conclude (and dare I say I’m at peace with) the choice to write the first draft of this article.

This is getting things done without a To Do list.

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