A couple people have asked me to post an update on how I’m using tags in Things 3. When I originally discussed how I was using tags last October, I had recently left Omnifocus (ironically due in part to its addition of tags and my inability to adapt to them). At that time, I was mainly concerned with trying to replicate my Omnifocus workflows as closely as possible. Now that I’ve been using Things for a while, I’ve had a chance to test out a number of different tags and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
In short, tags in Things help me to do three things:
- Filter the default views (Today, Anytime, Upcoming)
- Easily generate a list of specific tasks across all areas/projects
I’ve ended up with a set of tags comprised of 3 main groups:
Let me break down what each of those actually is a bit further.
Each of my areas (and sub-area projects) has a matching tag assigned to it. Once assigned to an area, tasks are automatically tagged with their respective area tags. Automatically assigned tags are also inherited so a task in Support get both the Support and Work tags. At first, this might seem redundant, but it allows me to filter the default views (e.g. Today, Anytime, Upcoming, etc.) by area – a feature that’s so powerful I’m not sure why it’s not built in.
Locations are just what they sound like. They allow me to filter any list down to only tasks I can complete at the location I’m currently at. If I’m at home and only want to see the tasks I can complete at home, I can do so by selecting the Home tag.
I’ve discussed my Evening tag before, but as a recap, I use this in conjunction with an AppleScript as a workaround to automatically move some tasks to the Evening section of the Today view.
Waiting is for any tasks that I’m waiting for either because they’ve been delegated to someone else or I’m waiting for something else to happen before it can be completed. I review this list each week as part of my weekly review.
There is one last tag that I haven’t discussed, and that’s the very first one, my Goal tag. I mainly use this as a pick-me-up by looking at the Logbook to see all the goal-related things I’ve accomplished.
Because Things doesn’t require tasks to have tags, it’s easy to forget to add them. With that in mind, I try to keep a few things in mind when using tags in Things:
Wherever possible, I try to assign tags at an area or project level so that tagging is done automatically whenever a task gets filed.
I’ve also learned it’s best not to add tags just because you can. More tags mean more tags you have to remember. If a tag isn’t useful for filtering down a list, it’s probably not necessary.
Occasionally it is helpful to add a tag temporarily. If you’re going on a trip, consider adding a location for that place or just “Vacation” so that you can filter your list to only what you can do while on vacation. My Shopping tag is another example of where temporary tags come into play. I frequently add and remove stores depending on where I shop. Just don’t forget to delete your temporary tags!
- Lastly, it’s worth noting that filtering by tags in Things is additive. Filtering a list by both the Home and Evening tags won’t show a list of tasks I can complete at home OR in the evening, but rather only tasks that can be completed at home AND in the evening. This is something I wish Things would change but understand it’s not likely.
I’ve found tagging (in any app) to be one of those areas where people struggle with (myself included). Most people either don’t know where to start or jump all in and end up with a myriad of tags they never use. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the end result is usually the same – you end up not using them. Hopefully, my tags will give you a few ideas for how to implement tags in your own use of Things.
14 thoughts on “How I Use Tags in Things 3”
Many thanks for this – much appreciated. Good food for thought, because I’m one of those “jump all in” people and your example is what I needed to help me dial back to make my tagging more useful. Thank you.
I’m a jump all in person as well which has made tagging a struggle for me particularly with my notes. It’s taken me a long time to realize it’s okay to not have it all figured out. Play around with what works. Some will stick. Others won’t.
Thanks for this post, adding Area tags is going to allow me to filter with a lot more detail.
Always good to read new posts from you.
Thanks for stopping by Mau. Area tags were definitely a game changer for me in terms of filtering. It’s a little trick I don’t think enough people know about.
Thank you for your blog. It is difficult to find good content for Things 3. You provide excellent content.
Hi Chris! Thank you! I’m always on the look out for good Things content as well, because you’re right. It is hard to find. My hope is that more people might be inspired to post their own content. Thanks for stopping by!
Hi Andrea and thanks for a well written post.
One of the things David Allen talks about (at least, this is my understanding) with regards to Projects, is that a project should include its respective description and its sub-actions should go under next-actions. Meaning, actions tied to a specific project will not be “under” the project but in the next-actions.
Following your system, I wonder about couple of things:
1. Would you also follow David mechanism with Things3 and keep Project lean and as a way to capture what the project is about, while tagging the tasks put under next-actions with the project name?
2. Do you prefer to keep the tasks related to a certain project under the project (the way Things3 is designed for) and use your Weekly reviews to deep dive into each project scheduling tasks accordingly?
In general I’m struggling between following David Allen strict rules around project vs. using the flexibility and good XP of Things3 with hope search criteria would be sufficient when I am doing my weeklies.
I do actually use projects in Things fairly close to how David Allen describes in GTD.
Conceptually, my project list in Things is just the list of projects in the sidebar. Remember, according to David Allen, you can’t do a project, only its action items, so a project list at its core is just a tool to jog your memory during your weekly review to make sure things aren’t falling through the cracks.
Next Actions in Things is really your Anytime list. This is what you want to keep lean. It’s easy to throw everything into Things, but the real value comes when you intentionally curate your tasks during your review so that only your true next actions appear in Anytime. I try to keep my Anytime list to only things I can do and plan on doing within the next week or two. Everything else goes into Someday/Maybe until it’s actionable or I’m ready to consider tackling it. Tags allow me to filter this list by context making it even more useful.
For your second question, tasks are definitely filed under their projects, and my weekly review is, just as you’d expect, where I review everything and make sure things are up to date and appropriately listed under next actions if need be.
As an added tidbit, I’m not sure how new or well versed you are to GTD, but after reading the book several times, my biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone struggling is to not take GTD as a strict system. Despite all the business jargon, GTD is intended to be flexible. Adopt all of it or just parts of it. The more you use them, the more you’ll understand what works and what doesn’t, which will help you to adapt your system to you.
Thanks for stopping by!
Some impressive task work!
Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for the great post, Andrea! I really like the idea of filtering with tags this way.
Forgive the question if you’ve answered it elsewhere, but how do you set up automatically tagging a task that is moved into an area? I read your earlier post “GETTING THINGS DONE WITH THINGS 3,” where you link to “Shawn Blanc’s All the Things course at The Sweet Setup.” Is that the source of the AppleScripts you use for this? I’ll gladly support him and his course to learn more. Just wondering as someone fairly new to AppleScripting but who loves Things.
I’ve shared how I do that in my post “Tricks for Improving Things 3” which you can find here: https://accordingtoandrea.com/2019/02/06/2272/.
Hopefully that helps.
Hi Andrea –
Lovely post. I can’t seem to find your instructions for automating the application of tags in the post you mentioned. Might it be elsewhere? Or am I just missing something?
Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. In the context of this post, I was referring to using an Evening tag to automate moving those tasks to the Evening section using the Applescript linked in the first sentence of the paragraph under the When heading. I hope I’ve understood your question correctly, but let me know if you were looking for something else.
I also wrote a bit more about Applescripts and Things 3 here: https://accordingtoandrea.com/2019/02/06/2272/