An Abundance of OmniFocus Tags

In the lead-up to my Learn OmniFocus workflow session, I wanted to share some of the nitty-gritty details of how I manage my tasks with OmniFocus. That session will focus on the magic of Omni Automation (✨!). So, over this week, I’m concentrating on the more foundational, structural side of things, like projects, tags, and perspectives.

At this point, we’ve covered my main ‘dashboard view’, more custom perspectives, some automation magic that helps with window management and navigation, and using the ‘focus’ feature and tags to switch between contexts.

Today, a breakdown of my tag structure.

Emoji, emoji and…more emoji? πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

I am a prolific user of emoji in my tags (and we’ll see this in my projects soon, too). You’ll notice that the vast majority of my tags are either a) an emoji and a label or just b) a single emoji.

At the end of the day, this is mostly a matter of personal preference. I like having them there, and I think they improve scannability. In the case of the single emoji tags, these do also serve a space-saving function.

A quick note about these single emoji tags: if I have a tag that is just made up of a single, non-alphanumeric character, I will typically nest it under another tag that describes its purpose. For example, take my ‘Quick’ tag: the tag itself is ‘⚑’ but it is nested underneath another tag named ‘Quick’. That means that if I want to apply the tag using OmniFocus’ tag field, I can simply start typing ‘Quick’, arrow down once, and select the lightning tag. You’ll see this in the following examples.

Grouping types of tags

I’d like to give a shout-out to the ‘Tags Revisited’ episode of Nested Folders, which precipitated much of how I think about my tags.

After listening to that episode, I added several ‘dummy tags’ into my tag list, with names like ‘β€”β€”β€”STATUSβ€”β€”β€”β€”’. I don’t use these for tagging, but they add a handy visual separation between the below types of tags without adding complexity to the tag hierarchy itself.

I’ve found that this helps me to consider the purpose of a tag, and to group tags in a logical way.

‘Action’ tags

‘Action’ tags

These tags describe the kind of action that a task entails. Broadly, I’m currently using two categories here: contact tags (email/message/call), and tags to describe the kinds of steps involved in many of my work projects. The latter are used to group by tag in my work-based ‘Today’ perspective.

‘Status’ tags

‘Status’ tags

There are two tags included here that indicate the status of a task:

  • The πŸš₯ (In Progress) tag is used for tasks I’m partway through. In general, I try to avoid using this tag by ensuring that tasks are completable in one sitting (or by using a repeating ‘work on’ tasks for bigger projects it doesn’t make sense to break up). But real life does happen, so I can apply this tag when I need to. This pulls the task into my ‘ASAP’ perspective so that I can get back to finishing it off as soon as possible.
  • My ‘⏳ Waiting’ tag is an active tag that I typically exclude from custom perspectives. By doing it this way, my ‘waiting’ list only shows me things I’m waiting for now, not things I may be waiting for in the future. This tag also has a ‘Post’ subtag to group things I’m expecting to come in the post, just to group these all together.

‘Constraint’ tags

‘Constraint’ tags

This group of tags represents the people, places or things that are required to do a task. These are, in general, fairly self-explanatory.

Some points of note:

  • My ‘🏠 Home’ tag group contains each of the rooms in my house. This allows me to use my ‘Defer Tag(s)’ Plug-In to ‘defer’ particular rooms (put them on hold temporarily) if I can’t access them for some reason (e.g. someone is sleeping).
  • My ‘🏠 Home’ tag and its subtags are automatically set to ‘On Hold’ by Shortcuts when I connect to CarPlay. When I disconnect from CarPlay, Shortcuts checks where I am and, if I’m at home, makes them active once more.
  • Many of the ‘🚘 Errands’ subtags (e.g. supermarket, hardware shop) are put on hold and made available on a schedule (again using my ‘Defer Tag(s)’ Plug-In plugin) to align with their opening hours, so that I don’t see them when they’re not relevant. The ‘Time’ tags are managed in the same way.

‘Optional condition’ tags

‘Optional condition’ tags

These tags group together types of tasks that might be related or that I might want to see together in particular contexts. I have at least one custom perspective that shows me active tasks from each of these tags so that I can pull them up quickly. Again, I think these are fairly self-explanatory.

‘Helper’ tags

‘Helper’ tags

This group comprises:

‘Scheduling’ tags

‘Scheduling’ tags

This group contains:

  • ‘⚠️ Due Today’ – Keyboard Maestro uses my ‘Tag Tasks Due Today’ Plug-In to apply this tag automatically to any tasks that are due today, to make sure it is included in my ‘Due Soon’ perspective.
  • ‘⏰’ (ASAP) – This tag represents things I’d like to do soon and/or which are time-sensitive but aren’t necessarily due. This tag populates the ‘ASAP’ custom perspective on my dashboard.
  • ‘TOMM L2’ and ‘TOMM L3’ tags are used for housework and are inspired by The Organised Mom Method.
  • The two ’12WY’ and ‘UNE’ tag groups are for planning out future weeks of The 12-Week Year and my university studies. You may note that there are two tag groups for each of these: I manually move weeks to the first group when the week arrives as part of my weekly review. Tasks under the ‘Scheduled’ parent tag are filtered out of many of my perspectives, so these don’t clutter other views.
  • The ‘🌟’ (Starred) tag is rarely used, but, if I want to pull in a task rather than a full project, I can use this.
  • The ‘Scheduling’ group of tags is managed by my ‘Scheduling Plug-In’ and represent the planned ‘do dates’ for tasks.

Managing all these tags

As outlined in my recent post on custom perspectives, I have a ‘Check Tags’ perspective that I use to check that all of my tasks have been tagged appropriately.

Once I’m satisfied that all tags have been added I use a keyboard shortcut combined with a simple action to apply a blank tag (‘β €’) to the tasks. This denotes to me that the tags are complete and removes the tasks from this perspective.

I also use my ‘Reorder Tags’ plug-in to keep my tasks ordered consistently.

And that’s a wrap on my excessive number of OmniFocus tags. Coming next: a look at my project list.

2 thoughts on “An Abundance of OmniFocus Tags”

  1. Hi Kaitlin,

    I’m just curious: do you use a “Forecast” (i.e., “today”) tag or do you work solely from flags. Do you even use the forecast perspective in your workflow?

    I ask because your “Scheduling” plug-in give the option of using a today tag or flags, which led me to think that you don’t have much use for a defined “today” tag in your workflow.

    I’ve always felt torn about forecast perspective and a forecast tag. I try to use them both but I can never quite make it work. Interested to hear what you are doing because that wasn’t really made clear in your LearnOmnifocus seminar.


    1. The short answer is: I don’t typically use the forecast perspective in my workflow, no. I did previously use a ‘Today’ tag for a while, but, if I recall correctly, I switched to a flag so that the ‘group by combined tag’ option worked better in certain perspectives.

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