Errands / tag issue

I’m curious what users do for the following problem:

I have a bunch of errands that I’d like to do over time which are labeled with the [errands] tag. I don’t find myself sifting through my tags very often, and since these aren’t bound to any sort of project, I don’t end up getting reminded that many of them need to be done.

My instinct is to make a project labeled “Errands” but this seems wrong as they already have the [errands] tag. Most of my errands fall into two categories: Errands close to home that are quick, and errands that may have some undefined & longer amount of time involved.

Is there an obvious solution to this, if I wanted to make sure that I see these actions in my weekly review, etc.?


Even if not in a dedicated “errands” project, these items are presumably distributed across one or more existing Projects or Single Action Lists (SALs)? If so they should be visible when those Projects/SALs come up for review (the frequency with which a project/SAL comes up for review can be set per project/SAL). Separately you could also consider location-specific errand tags (e.g. “Errand — DIY store”) and define their locations allowing notifications when you’re in the area of the DIY store as discussed here

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While my use is not the default approach, I try to use tags to describe states rather than be descriptions. These are perhaps more Kanban style, like ideas, pending [get to this one soon], active [I’m doing it!] and most importantly, waiting [on a specified event]. Completed is not tagged because OF already recognises that. These are in a few SALs, depending on topic and whether it is in a cyclical group.

So, I would categorise errands rather than tagging them with that label.

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At the end you have a container for your Errands. Either a (tagged) list or a single actions project. It really doesn‘t make a difference. I use a single actions project like Shopping. Items I put in that list have an Errand tag. I put them in a project, because I have no better place for typical shopping items. Depending on the topic I may put the action into an actual project. But not for „get mustard“.

Part of my weekly review checklist is to look at my next action lists. That‘s when I have a look at the Errands tagged actions list. It doesn‘t work without that. If you have to go to a tools shop, then I need to know I have to go there. Another habit is to look at the list when I‘m e.g. at a supermarket.

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I generally write down purchases in an Apple Note. The individual shops are listed there by name and, if necessary, the goods to be purchased are listed below as a checklist. I’ll take a look in the note in the morning. A task with a due date in Omnifocus, for example buying vegetables is a no-go for me!

All tasks along the lines of “well, I’ll have to buy that sometime soon” have absolutely no place in my Omnifocus. I look at the Apple Note once a day in the morning and remember what I have to buy or, if necessary, write it down in my Apple calendar. The time blocks for my daily work were created the evening before (drag & drop from Omnifocus in Calendar). It’s my daily plan and so I can see if, where and when I can buy things.

In Omnifocus, I only record purchases that require several steps to get the product home, for example: We actually want to buy a new color printer with scanner at home. There are then several work steps involved. These are then also recorded in Omnifocus:

  • purchase of the test results from the test foundation
  • decide on 1 product
  • order online
  • pick up in the market
  • install and set up at home.

Due dates are only for tasks for which a deadline must be met (e.g. creating accounting presentation powerpoint completing til Tuesday.)
I leave everything out of Omnifocus that somehow says “you could, it would be nice to have something like that, maybe sometimes…”. I use due dates sparingly. I regulate my scheduling of tasks according to “Colter Reed A More Powerful Way to Schedule Tasks in OmniFocus”.
For me personally, it is “deadly” to capture every flash in my head with Omnifocus. At some point the weekly preview is so monstrous that, as I have already experienced, you fail when using Omnifocus 😭. For me this resulted in: “As much as necessary, as little as possible!!!” Since then, Omnifocus has worked great for me!

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Interestingly errands are the easier thing to me to not forget. My tag is ‘in the car’ so it is very natural ti me to remember looking at the ‘in the car’ tag when i am in the car, either starting or finishing my trip. (actually I made a perspective for a single click action)

I don’t spend that much time in the car, so this helps. If you ‘live’ in your car maybe this is not so useful.

You don’t have to remember what’s on the list but you have to remember to look at the list.
I live on a small town so I don’t use the location tag for errands.

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What works for me is an #Errands tag with sub-tags for various places. E.g. #Grocery, #Home Depot and #Amazon. That way, with custom perspectives I can see all outstanding errands or just the grocery list.
One nice thing about this approach is I can tag a single item with both #Home Depot and #Amazon when I’m not sure where I’ll get it.

For capture I can say “Siri add zebra steak to my grocery list in OmniFocus” and it happens. Or, I have a Shortcut that prompts me to speak the tag and then keeps asking for an item name until I tell it “Done”

It all works pretty well.

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Thanks everyone!
This is all very useful feedback; it’s quite interesting to see all the different takes on the subject.
I can appreciate that some people try to keep lists for small errand items out of OF, and that many times errands are something one remembers.

For me personally, I can never find the time/energy to do my errands unless they are pressing so I’m trying to find windows where I can get a bunch of things done at once with the car. I don’t live in my car, but I use it frequently enough that traffic can put me off from doing errands. I haven’t started using the ‘nearby’ feature of OF mobile, so maybe that would be another thing to consider.

I realized that my errands belong in various contextually bound projects, so I’ve made that modification to my OF system and now I can either look at the tag itself or a custom perspective I made, which I think covers it instead of making an [errands] project.

I use the location feature of Omnifocus to help me with errands, unless it is urgent (in which case I’ll also put a time on it). What I do when I’m out is I look and see what’s nearby that I might want to do. I find this works reasonably well for me - just means I need to look at what’s nearby when I’m out

Thanks - how do you implement ‘next action’ lists? Is this described somewhere in the docs?

The term next action list comes from the book Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen. It‘s implementation with OmniFocus (OF) is nothing special.

Think of what you can view on Project perspective as something that helps you getting focus: That‘s where you plan your multi-step outcomes (project in GTD and OF terms) and your actions required to achieve these outcomes. Also, as mentioned in my previous post there may be actions without a higher outcome (like buy bread). In OF you need a place (e.g. a single action list project) for them as well.

How do you get to these next action lists? You could of course look at your Project perspective and look at a project and do what you planned to do in order to achieve the outcome of that project. That could be ‚write an e-mail to your boss‘, ‚draft a proposal‘ and ‚have a personal meeting with XYZ‘. The first two you could do at your computer, but the last one requires you to be somewhere else to meet this person. That‘s where the next action lists come in.

You tag everything you can do at your laptop (a place, a resource required, a state of mind, … GTD calls this a context) with a tag called e.g. „Laptop“. So, when you‘re at your laptop you only see the things you can do at your laptop. You won‘t see what you can do only at the office, because you‘re maybe in home office or at Starbucks. So when you look at the Tags perspective and tap the tag Laptop you see all the things you planned to do at your laptop.

Why is it called next actions list? You make only these actions visible to be displayed on the Laptop list (Tags perspective) you can actually do something about. If you need to write the e-mail to your boss first before you can draft the proposal, then you make the first action visible on your next actions list tagged Laptop and not the latter. You don‘t want to have to scan a next actions list all the time deciding on which topics you actually can work on and which are blocked due to some other thing that needs to happen first.

Why did I write ‚make only these actions visible‘? OF has the concept of actions being blocked (e.g. by other actions in a sequential project), available (e.g. have no future defer date), remaining and so on. It can become quite complex to use these options well. If you really want to start simple you can manually set the tags to those actions you really want to see on your lists and just later start to use some of the more complex OF capabilities. This requires to go over your projects from time to time (depending on the speed of your life) to update the tags. At the end you look at your next action lists and ask yourself: Are these the actions I wanna see when I‘m at my Laptop. Are these the actions I wanna see when I‘m at home. Are these…

I hope the term ‚next action list‘ did not just be a fancy word for a trivial thing, but I was able to explain the idea behind it with a little bit of OF specifics.

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