Using tags for vague times in your task manager (Omnifocus, Things, whatever)

@RosemaryOrchard and @HeyScottyJ had a great tip on the Nested Folders podcast to use tags for vague time in your task manager

You can tag your tasks with terms like “after vacation,” or “after this meeting when I know more about the project” or “on a workday.”

I already do some of that – “after vacation,” for example (back when we took vacations).

Now here’s my own twist: I often don’t check Things until later in the day but sometimes I absolutely want to remember to do something, or several things, the first thing in the day, as soon as I get to my desk. In that case, I will tag the tasks “first.” And I also set up a reminder to myself in Due, to remind me that I need to check that “first” tag as soon as I get to my desk.

Now that I have had this kind of tagging articulated as a principle, I will start using tags for indeterminate time more often.

And now I have to avoid the temptation to switch from Things to Omnifocus again, because OF does tags better than Things does.


Thanks for the link, I find Things good enough, using both Anytime and a Someday folder, for me that handles stuff perfectly so far. Unless I forget to check them :slight_smile: which happens


I have a recurring task with a reminder in Things to avoid using another app for that.


Yes, don’t switch to OF. You’ll only come back to Things. I love both, but I’m trying to stay away from the app switching myself.


Just curious: how often did you set it to repeat for it to be efective?!

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I have a daily review that ensures I don’t miss things. I review it for the next day at 3:00. I also have 30 minutes everyday on my calendar for this. I’m genuine when I say I don’t forget tasks at this point. My system works extremely well.


Sort of hearkens back to the original GTD “contexts” concept in OmniFocus – “after vacation” could be a context.

Also reminds me of the “Forecast Tag” feature in OF.

Yes, it is very contexts-like, especially as GTDers have extended the idea of contexts to include energy levels, and other things that don’t fit the original, geography- and application-tied definition of contexts.

The David himself has acknowledged two initial limitations of GTD. One is that it was written at a time when internet access was limited, and available only from a laptop or desktop computer. So you’d have contexts where you had internet access, and a computer, and contexts where you were without those things.

Nowadays, everybody has an Internet-enabled computer with them all the time.

The second major limitation is that it assumed a certain lifestyle. The hypothetical model of a GTDer was a busy executive who needs to prepare for a meeting with investors, review plans to remodel the yacht, work on his extensive collection of vintage sports cars, or just putter around in the family vineyard. This is a person who will never, ever have “pick up the dog turds in the yard and clean the catboxes” on their to-do list.

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Well put.

Context never made much sense to me. The “contextual” feature that I thought would work for me was the “Location” setting in Reminders. Set a reminder to pop when arriving / leaving a location. (Extended now to “getting in / getting out of car”.)

Nope. Ignore. Not even automation that tells me “you are definitely in this context right now” works.

Maybe someday I’ll have some Apple Glasses on which a nattering avatar appears until I do the task that’s due.

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Hmm, speak for yourselves. :slight_smile: Contexts were really helpful to me in my entry level job in 2006, especially @phone and one for my periodic meetings with the owner, and @errands as I had a limited lunch break and needed to use it well.

I do not think they were meant to break down beyond @home and @errands for personal life, but also don’t think many of us need more than that if we are serious about doing our cat litter work and raking leaves when we get home (for many of us, anyway—I loved hearing from @OogieM how she has contexts for each building on her farm somewhere on this forum.)

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Wouldn’t know how to speak for you. :speech_balloon:

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For me, this would be useful in case of many tasks and using calendar blocks so I could just create task and insert them by context into relevant time blocks in the calendar.

One context from GTD a lot of people overlook that I think can be very useful is the concept of people as contexts. I think that having a list of “all the things I need to discuss with Sally next time we talk” has retained it’s usefulness in a way that @phone and @internet have not.


Yup. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Although, with Things widgets, you can kind of hack saved searches now!

My tags are exclusive to Home and Office for locations, and Wife and Team for discussions with either :slight_smile:


Good point. I’m not thinking of them as contexts anymore, but I have a set of tags in OmniFocus for everyone key individual I work with. When I need to check my outstanding issues with Kellie I have a perspective for Tag::@Kellie. Priority issues also have the today tag so they persist in the Forecast Perspective.


Still is in much of the country. I can go to spots within 5 miles of my house where not only is there no interent but no cell phone serrvice at all so no possibility of internet unless via sattelite. In our county, which has some of the best internet in the country, there are still a significant number of houses without any internet access or even in fact any electrical service.

I disagree with that assertion. I believe the GTD system can be applied to any business or lifestyle. I actually do have whole projects that are very similar to

except mine are scrape the manure out of the winter feeding corrals. There are separate projects and actions for the different pens due to what fences have to be taken down to do the task and rebuilt once the task is done to get them ready for sheep.

There are a bunch of interviews and also papers about applying GTD into very different jobs and lifestyles over on the GTD website. Not sure how many are publically available, they have a subscription to get access to everything they produce that I’ve found useful and so I’m often not aware of what you can get for free vs paid for. But, there is a free trial for folks that want to see what’s over there.

I create, use and delete contexts or tags as I see fit and they change in a regular cycle of the course of a year. As @cornchip said I have contexts for each major building on the farm, Main House, Guest House, Hay Barn, Red Barn, and Shop. During grazing season I often have contexts for each major field or area, Pear Orchard Pasture, Little House Pasture, Far West Pasture, East Orchard, West Orchard, Cedar Pasture, Cedar Corral. I also make contexts for both which device I am most efficient at doing the task at but also for each major application I use on a regular basis. For me it’s far easier mentally to switch between most projects but stay in the same app than it is to switch apps but stay in the same project. YMMV

The exception is some programming tasks where the IDE and my Scrivener Kanban like board of bugs and tasks are up simultaneously. I sometimes have my database tools so I can peek at the database after changing the code easily. Yes, I know I should write some good testing code but I haven’t done that yet. As the only developer the only real issue I have is making sure I know where I am in the coding process.

The other one is entering in historical data into the database because I have to extract it out from 3 separate systems and I’ve yet to even figure out a way to get the important data out in any sort of form from one database so I end up by hand looking up each individual and then re-typing the data into the new structure. Painful but after several months of attempting to get reports to work out of the old legacy system I found it’s faster to just look up and re-do the entries into the new database structure.

I have experimented with tags for energy like “braindead” and for weather like “snow day” but they proved less useful than I hoped. I find I do better filtering those myself as I look at a larger list of possible actions.

Contexts or tags are also more useful the more things you are tracking and doing. My typical Omnifocus setup is to run with somewhere between 175-250 separate projects active at any one time and usually around 300 available actions. I currently have 45 active tags or contexts but 9 of them are tags for my major Areas of Focus so I can track that I am keeping up with every major area of my life I consider important. They were a test that I started earlier and I’m finding them useful so they will stay. I’ve been experimenting with a tag for 5-10 minute actions but have found that it’s not particularly useful so at the next weekly review I’ll get rid of it.


care to elaborate? sounds like a ton of work

I have to agree with @MitchWagner that the GTD book really seemed to be written with a certain kind of job in mind (at least the 2nd edition was, I haven’t had the opportunity to read the 3rd edition but I understand it has some changes in this regard). However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied to other contexts. Indeed, the GTD book feels like it was originally written for salsey/executive types, but most of the people I see talking about it tend to be people who code or write for a living (so still knowledge workers, but of a somewhat different sort).

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Yes. I’ve learned to not assume too much in advance. Usually I don’t know precisely what “braindead” looks like until I’m in the middle of braindead and then turn to my list of available tasks and assess which ones I have the mental capacity and mental energy to tackle.

Nearly 100 percent of my job is sitting in a chair writing or editing. But the range of possibilities within that is wide enough that, even in the same project, in a sub-project of that project, I may find one task particularly easy or frictionless compared to another one that, on the surface, doesn’t seem all that different.

Sometimes that subtle difference is dictated by the challenge of thinking about how to reach the intended audience. Other times it’s dictated by the quality of the sources I’m working with. Other times it’s dictated by how well I have defined, or the client has defined, the intended outcome. And so on…

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My impression has always been that Allen knew this all along but that he also had to try to get a book published, and he knew which audience a publisher would think was most lucrative for what the book was selling.