Dead Letter Contexts

In working through my GTD processes I've noticed something that I've known in my subconscious for quite some time but haven't really articulated until a few weeks ago; namely I have dead letter contexts.

The dead letter office (now known as mail recovery centers. How politically correct.) is the place where mail ends up when it can't be delivered for some reason or another. Ultimately it'll be auctioned off if the contents are valuable, ostensibly at whatever the going rate for such items would be.

How does this relate to my GTD process?

I've found over time I have contexts where I rarely check them at all, if ever. The prime example of a dead letter context is my @calls list. Even though I'm near a phone almost all of my waking moments, I dread using the phone, and will procrastinate as much as humanly possible until either the time passes where it's reasonable to make a phone call, or I gird my loins and decide to plow through my @calls list because they've been sitting there long enough.

Here's an example: the seat in our car is coming apart at the seams. I asked my dad for his recommendation on where to take the car to get the seat fixed. He gave me the names of several locations, and I dutifully looked them up via Google to get their phone numbers. I put "Call X at # to ask about seat repair @calls" into my @calls list. There. Next action captured. Done.

And it sat there.

and sat there.

and sat there.

Finally JoDee gave me the ultimatum: either you get the car seat fixed, or I will go out there with needle and thread and fix it myself. Rather than admit defeat, I told her if I didn't move forward on this by the end of the month she could go out there and sew up the car.

And the "Call X at # to ask about seat repair @calls" sat there on the @calls list.

Finally, near the end of the month I had an epiphany and decided to check for an e-mail address for these places.

Email sent. Information acquired. Now to find time to take it over.

By moving the context from something I dread doing (@calls) to something that don't mind doing at all (@computer) I was able to make progress in a project that has been sitting there for over a year.

How many other projects are stalled because you've put them in a dead letter context? Are you checking all of your contexts when you can act on them? Or are you parking things in contexts you'll never check and resisting doing anything at all to move things forward?

Be honest with yourself about your contexts, and if your inclination is to move something to a someday / maybe because you haven't moved on the project for a few months, it's time to rethink what your next action truly is.

Your contexts are letters to yourself of future actions. Know which ones need a forwarding address.


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