Underwhelmed by Multi-Tags

I felt so uneasy to learn while watching the Learning OmniFocus 3 video that the Multi-Tags addition is a much-awaited feature.

I find it strange as I do not see helpful the Context feature. Many a time I choose “Errands” which is more like a filler.

I set up Contexts such as Home, Office, Phone, Keyboard, and so on, but find those are also fillers to make me feel complete while inputting an Action. As for making myself more productive, I have yet to decipher any values from my Contexts.

Am I missing anything? Any advice is welcome!

You may want to listen to the latest episode of the OmniShow it’s all about tags :)


Contexts don’t necessarily work the same for everyone. In the classic GTD methodology, contexts are supposed to indicate the person, place, or thing needed to do the task. This allows you to focus in on the things you can do when you are in that context - what do I need to talk to Bob about? What needs to be done in the office? What do I need to buy at the hardware store?

Depending on what type of work you do, traditional contexts might not be relevant. For example, I’m CEO of a small consulting business. I don’t have an office, so an Office or Work context doesn’t really make sense for me. My actual workspace might be a chair in my living room at home, on an airplane, or at a client site. So rather than using a Work context, which isn’t relevant because I can do work anywhere, I use a Computer context for a lot of my work, since I do need to use a computer for a lot of tasks. I use Communicate to list anyone I need to call or email, Waiting for anything delegated to someone else, Agenda for things I need to speak to someone else about, Plane for work I can do on my computer that doesn’t require an Internet connection, and Idea for a thought I had that I know I need to come back and revisit later. The only place-based contexts I use are Home for things I need to physically be there for, with subcontexts for Yard (don’t want to see things that need to be done outside when it’s raining or dark) and Woodshop for things I need to physically be in my shop to do. I also use Errand with a few stores I shop at frequently.

Using those contexts, I use built in and custom perspectives to be able to see what’s relevant to me at any given time. When I’m on an airplane, I can call up my Plane context to quickly get a list of actions I can do there. When I’m communicating with a client, I created a ‘People’ perspective that shows me anything marked Waiting, Communicate, or Agenda. I put the name of the person in the title of each of these tasks (e.g. Ask Dave about the Acme proposal), so I can use the search bar in the ‘People’ perspective and see anything with Dave’s name in it. As part of my weekly review, I look at my Idea context and determine if any of those ideas can now be turned into projects. This may not directly work for you, but if you think about the context as ‘what can I do at this place’ or ‘what can I do with this tool’, you should be able to come up with ways to use them to only show you the things that are relevant right now, so you can act on them.

Tags adds another layer to this that can be useful for organization. None of the examples below are really a context, except maybe the people. They are a different way of finding information, possibly within a context (e.g. I’m about to meet with Client X - show me all outstanding tasks for them, or Show me all tasks in my Yard context that can be completed in 15m) I used Todoist for a while, and used tags there to make it easy to pull out information in consistent ways. I used a different character to start each tag group so I could see at a glance what it referred to.

@Contexts - as described above

%Clients - Allowed me to quickly find any task associated with a particular client, looking across projects and single action folders.

#People - I used this similarly to how I described the @communicate context above. For my direct reports, important clients, and family members, I created a tag for each so I could quickly get a list of anything I need to discuss with them.

^Time Required - I used this to easily find tasks that fit into certain blocks of time. I used 5m, 15m, 30m, 1h, 1h+. Even though Omnifocus has an ‘estimated time’ field, I prefer this approach, because it can filter more specifically. Trying to filter on ‘estimated time’ in Omnifocus returns anything less than that time. If I have a 30m gap in my schedule, I want to knock out a task that takes 30 minutes, not necessarily see all the 5m ‘follow up with Bob’ emails I need to send.

!Priority - I tried this one a few different ways - 1,2,3, Urgent, Important, or Both, but never really liked it. This works for some people though.

This doesn’t work for me, but I know some people also like to use mental state as a context or tag. For example, ‘brain dead’, ‘full focus’, etc. Another one I’ve seen is time of day - ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, ‘evening’.

Hope that’s helpful


It is a much awaited feature indeed, but you don’t have to feel forced to use it. Personally, I can’t wait to use it, and I will give you a couple of examples of how I am going to use it:

  • I can finally add a “time required” tag to my items. For every item, I can now choose “quick”, “medium”, “long” or something like that, so depending on the time I have, I can filter my items quickly based on that;
  • Filtering based on client. Maybe I have a @phone context already, but now I can add a “client 1” and “client 2” tags so I know what phone calls I have to make for that specific client, and I can do them one after the other without having to look for related items. This also holds for every other context of course.

I understand not everyone will need this and that’s ok. If you don’t benefit from contexts, I doubt you will find tags useful. You can either carry on using your current system if it works for you, or you can try and change it to include contexts and tags and see if that works for you.

Tags is a great way to create on-the-fly lists or custom perspectives. But in this case scenario, I created a perspective that shows any tasks that can be done on 15 or less. It is sorted by estimated time so I can pick an appropriate task.

If I needed to, I can also focus on the “work” context/tag or the “house” context/tag.

This can be done in OF2 or OF3. No tags required.

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I have a similar perspective, except I did mine for 5m or less, and called it ‘Quick’. My issue with the way this currently works, and where tags would work better for me, is that the ‘filter by duration’ option in perspectives works by filtering for anything less than the number entered. I originally planned to do a perspective each for ‘quick’, ‘15m’, ‘30m’, ‘1 hour’ and ‘More than an Hour’, but there is no way to do this using the estimated time field. If you sort by 30m, it shows you all the smaller items too, not just the ones you estimated for 30m. Instead, I picked the ‘5m’ option to basically represent a tag for anything quick, and use anything bigger as just a time estimate that shows in other views.

With tags, it’s easy to set up this functionality for the timeblocks that work well in your workflow. For me, that’s either a very short task that I can fit in if a meeting ends 5-10 minutes early, or a 1/2 hour or 1 hour block between meetings. That worked for me in Todoist using tags, but that’s one of the few things I haven’t found a good way to duplicate in OF.

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I try to do a bunch of smaller ones or one bigger one. It depends on my feeling.

There is a discussion on the OmniFocus 3 Slack channel talking about an improved perspective editor with better filters to achieve something like this. Look for tasks that are exactly five minutes. Or look for tasks that are five minutes or less. It looks like it is in the early stages and needs to be thoroughly tested. It could be in OmniFocus 3.0 or possible version 3.1. But it is being looked at according to the Slack discussions.

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I really hope it will have several options for refinement. To be able to do things like:

  • Due date is within the next 7 days
  • Defer date is within the past 3 days

And even to have groupings like in Finder and iTunes such that ANY of one group of things are true and ALL of another are true, all within one perspective.

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Thank you all for the great answers. It now seems that much of typical usage of Tag / Context is to assign a descriptive “time chunk”. I now think it makes sense. (In comparison, the Estimated Time option under Inspector, for me, is never used as it does not allow for any smart way for sorting or creating Perspectives. ) Thank you all. @wilsonng @rosemaryjayne @Hal9K @JohnV @anon26058566

That’s possible in the latest betas. Filtering by date isn’t there yet, but I believe I saw somewhere it’s coming.