GTD Contexts in Springpad


GTD, being the popular methodology it is, lends itself to any number of different variants when it comes to setting up a digital tool to streamline use of the techniques.  I'm not going to try to explain a complete implementation here, but rather my own interpretation of how one of the parts of the process, in this case Contexts, could translate to an implementation in Springpad.

First, let's look at the idea of Contexts.  A Context in GTD parlance is a grouping of related tasks as to how or where they will be executed.  If you have a @Phone context, you might consider it all the phone calls you need to make, or look at it as everything you need to do when you are near the phone.  The same idea applies for contexts such as @Computer, @Home, @Office.  I can see translating the idea of Contexts into two main mechanisms within Springpad.  First I'll talk through a Notebook implementation and second we'll review a tag based implementation.

Notebooks are one of the core structures within Springpad and provide an aggregation method for multiple "Springs".  One way of implementing GTD would be to create a notebook for each context you are tracking.  Now in other systems this would be a limiting factor because of the inability to assign contexts to more than one notebook.  That isn't the case with Springpad.  Each Spring can be assigned to multiple notebooks.  If you have a notebook based context structure it is easy to see how a Spring could be assigned to @Home @Phone.

A tag based configuration allows the notebook structure to be used for other organizational needs while still providing the depth of contexts for each Spring.  Replacing Notebook contexts with Tag contexts could yield a Notebook for "Work" with contexts that span all notebooks such as @Email, @Phone, @Computer, and so on.

The important things you need to take into consideration when implementing GTD contexts within Springpad are:

  • How are you going to want to group and sort the information?  Will you want to see all your @Phone contexts at one time?
  • Will your items often change contexts?  (It is faster to change tags than notebooks within Springpad)
  • Will you share your contexts with others?  (Notebook based contexts make for easy collaboration)
There is no one perfect way to implement contexts within Springpad, but due to it's innate flexibility, you have a number of options and always the latitude to change if you find it isn't working out for you as you have configured it.