Foundation: Mind Mapping Your Tags

Foundation: Mind Mapping Your Tags

Tags help you focus on those actions that are most relevant right now and provide a convenient way to group similar activities

As you're designing your OmniFocus system it can be helpful to give some thought to what tags make the most sense for your life and work. This article will show you how a mind map can be used to help determine which tags to include in your OmniFocus setup.

Before we delve into the mind mapping exercise, I'll briefly introduce you to the concept of tags. Some other helpful resources for understanding tags are Making Productive Use of Tags in OmniFocus 3 (Membership Required), a detailed guide for using tags effectively, and Tags for OmniFocus 3 (Free), a directory that showcases the many uses for tags.

Using Tags for Contexts

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology introduced the concept of “contexts”. In a nutshell, contexts define conditions that must be present in order to perform a given action.

For example, replacing a lightbulb in your living room would require that you physically be at home. And having a chat with your spouse about this summer’s vacation would require that your spouse be present in some form. Additionally, some actions might require your full attention, while others may be so easy that you could practically do them in your sleep. It can be helpful to distinguish between the two so that you're making optimal use of your time.

Other Uses for Tags

Tags can be used for more than just contexts. For example, you might have tags that are used to earmark activities for specific days of the week and ones that define a task's relative importance or urgency. A tag essentially adds an attribute to a project, action group, or action that further defines its relevance.

Using Tags to Keep Lists Short and Relevant

Looking at a long list of incomplete actions tends to encourage feelings of overwhelm that can lead to procrastination. And this list may contain things that can’t currently be done, no matter how much time and energy you have available.

For example, if you’re getting some work done on a flight from Vancouver to Paris, an action of “water plants” is probably not very useful (assuming you don’t have an in-flight Internet connection that gives you access to your plant-watering robot at home). Conversely, An action of “Write the first draft of Chapter 12” might be highly relevant.

By filtering your actions by tag(s) that represent contexts you’re not wasting time and energy sifting through actions that aren’t available and are instead looking at a shorter, more relevant list.

You might also be in a situation where there are two hundred tasks that you could technically do right now, but be most interested in seeing a list of carefully chosen actions that are tagged with "Today" combined with tasks are due soon.