How I Use Tags in Things 3

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
  • Automation
I’ve ended up with a set of tags comprised of 3 main groups:
  • Area
  • Location
  • When
Let me break down what each of those actually is a bit further.Things Tags.png

Area

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.

Location

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.

When

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.

 

8 thoughts on “How I Use Tags in Things 3

  1. Bob Luth says:

    Hi Andrea,

    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.

    • Andrea says:

      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.

      Best,
      Andrea

    • Andrea says:

      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.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Chris! Thank you! I’m always on the look ou​t 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!

  2. Ran Eitan says:

    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.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Ran,

      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!

Leave a Reply to Ran Eitan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s