Using tags with GTD (OneNote, other...)

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss Tools & Software for GTD' started by AFG, Dec 23, 2018.

  1. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    As you may have seen in other posts, I am using OneNote as my main GTD tool, and have started coding up my own extensions for the things that are missing. Just a few macros make OneNote much more useful! I should probably write up my current BKMs - but that is NOT this post.

    This post is about using tags as part of a GTD system. I seek advice from others with regards to patterns of tag usage, etc. You may have experience with OneNote tags - I'm listening! You may have experience with tags or labels in other GTD packages - I am listening (especially if the concepts are easy to code). You may have experience with DIY (Do It Yourself) tags, in OneNote or other systems - e.g. several of you have recommended ignoring the rather limited tag systems of OneNote (and EverNote, and...) and just using text tag conventions, like #HashTags, @PeopleTags. Heck, you may have a system for tagging items in a paper GTD system (Post-It Notes and page flags, perhaps?)

    BRIEFLY: what tags do you use in your GTD system?

    I'll post some of my thoughts in followup posts. I welcome better suggestions.

    ---

    Because I blather on, let me cut to the chase:



    I have been using the One Note "To Do" tag, but inconsistently.

    I don't want to use many other tags or symbols, because they may disappear.

    I have code to do various tag searches.


    The most useful thing I seem to be able to do with tags is
    • enter/capture pages initially untagged
    As part of weekly or other review
    • search for pages THAT HAVE NO TAG - specifically, no tag on the page title
    • process such pages during the review
      • sometimes applying [To Do] tags, creating [To Do] lists *
    • apply a tag [GTD-PROCESSED] to the page title - so that the page does not atuirn up in other review searches (unless I really want it to)
    Note *: although I want to like To Do tags and checklists, I find OneNote's search facilities rather limited and less than useful. And I must admit that I am not quite sure what I want them to be.

    In part, I am posting this thread to try to ask people

    "What would you call a tag that you apply to a page or item to say that it has been processed into your GTD system, and should be ramified into next action lists, projects, reference, etc.?"


    [GTD-Processed] is the best I have come up with

    Or [GTD-incorporated]?


    Also, what emoji-like symbol would you use as a graphic indication that an item has been placed into your GTD system?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2018
  2. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    Like I said, I am using OneNote as my GTD tool, at least for the time being, and am writing extensions in my copious spare time.

    I am *not* *impressed* by OneNotes' tag support. I have even been considering rolling my own completely using named images. But I must resist the temptation to code. I suspect the OneNote tags are good enough to basically start working.

    ---+ Not using text tags (much)

    I have decided not to use text tags like #HashTags or @Work/@Home/... mainly for a trivial reason: I want to put tags in titles of pages and To-Do list items. OneNote's screen space is quite cramped, and a page title like "@Work This is an action item" simply takes up too much space on the screen. I can create views that elide the textual tags, but I want to use as much of standard OneNote as possible. At least the standard OneNote tags don't take up space in the list view...

    The standard OneNote tags don't take up space in the list view, which is good. They don't take up space because they are completely invisible in the view of page titles in a section (which the GTD Guide for OneNote recommends using as you list view). Invisible tags in the list view is bad. You have to open up the page to see the tags. Because tags are invisible in the list view, I can't rely on visually scanning for tags. But I can search for tags. Plus, one of the macros I have written can put the text name of a tag in the page title - which is good for visually scanning, but which is bad because the page title space is very cramped. I think that I will only use this for tags like [DONE] and [FAILED] or [BUG-FIXED], at the left side of the page title. I.e. "terminal" tag states, after which the item is probably not active any more, just saved for history or reference.

    It is confusing to use both standard OneNote tags and text tags like [DONE] and [FAILED]. Too late. (One of GLEW'S RULES: tag systems should always cooperate with textual tags, because textual tags are the only really portable tagging system. If you migrate from one GTD app to another, you will probably have text tags somewhere.)

    ---+ OneNote's tag support is inconsistent.

    OneNote2016, the old-fashioned desktop app, supports something like 143 different tag symbols. You can't add your own tag symbols. You can add your own tag names. The tag name can appear as flyover when you hover over the tag symbol. More than one tag name can share the same symbol. This can lead to confusion. Keyboard shortcuts ctl+1 ... ctl+9 can be used to apply any of the 9 most recently defined or edited tags. The keyboard shortcuts are all changed when you create a new tag or modify an existing tag. This can lead to confusion. There are a lot of things that can lead to confusion with desktop OneNote 2016's tags. I think this is why the other OneNote apps have much less tag support. Self-fulfilling prophecy: lousy tag support in OneNote dewsktop => people don't use tags => tags are removed...

    Tag support is much more limited in the other versions of OneNote. (I suspect because the OneNote Desktop app supports a lot of tags, but doesn't really provide enough support to make them easy to use except in the simplest way.) To a first order, the other OneNote apps, like the Windows 10 tablet OneNote app, OneNote on the web, the iPhone and Android apps, only support a single [To Do] tag, with states empty and checked. The "Send to OneNote" widget on iPhone is even more limited - it doesn't allow you to apply any tag at all. Since that is one of my main ways to capture things, I cannot use a flow that says "Apply a tag as soon as you capture an item."

    I can't use flows that rely on me tagging GTD items as I capture them, because non-desktop OneNote only has the To Do tag.

    But I may be able to use flows where I tag GTD items later after they have been captured - e.g. in my weekly review. I am committing myself to only using OneNote 2016 for my weekly review, so I have access to the full tag support.

    ... Until it goes away, that is. Desktop OneNote 2016 is deprecated, and is supposed to be replaced by the Windiws 10 "tavblet" version of OneNote. I hope that by the time desktop OneNote 2016 is killed there will be better tag support in the other versions. But... I am quite worried about becoming dependent on using OneNote tags in a way that may not be supported in the future.

    If I could figure out a flow that allowed me to use only the "To Do" tag, with its empty and checked states, I would be happiest.

    But, since that seems excessively limiting, I am reluctantly willing to create a very small number of special tags for my GTD flows.

    Asking advice as to what that very limited set of tags should be is the reason that I am writing this thread.
     
  3. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    I don't want to use "the full power" (hah!) of OneNote desktop's tags... but let me summarize what they have.

    Various forms of checkboxes.

    Checkboxes have two states: Empty, or checked off. (LACK: no way to put an X in a state, indicating failure.)

    The checkboxes come in 3 colors (green, amber, blue) X 9 ornaments (plain, star, !, right arrow (but no left, up, down), priority 1, 2, 3, with a person's head and shoulders icon, and flagged).

    AFAICT the other tag symbols are static. There's no text state, except the tag name/flyover. The tag name/flyover text can be changed on the fly by a macro, but there's no UI to do so.

    There's a disabled/dimmed state - I think for use when you extract a To Do lis, to leave oned of the replicaes dimmed. But it applies to all.

    As an alternative to tag symbols, you can set font or highlighting. But AFAICT that affects the appearance of the entire paragraph, not just a specific word or phrase.

    The non-completion bix tag symbols are a grab-bag.

    Various filled/shaded boxes red/amber/blue/green/orange/another red./

    Various envolopes. Phones,

    Stars, triangles, circles filled, whote dotted, whote banded. Numbered 1-3.

    Check marks in the three colors.

    Paperclips, pushpins, homes.

    Arrows left/right/up/diown.

    Umbrellas, sun. X, X filled.

    Orange frowny and yellow smiley face. (But no green and red?)

    ... Blah, blah, blah... The usual sort of ad-hoc mess of icons you might have seen on a feature phone circa 1999.

    Not really enough regularity to be useful. Not even the unicode emoji standards


    Just saying. I don't really want to depend on them except in small ways, since they may be going away.
     
  4. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    Oh, yeah - I tried using UNIcode symbols as a DIY tag.

    Unfortunately, the various OneNote apps are inconsistent in their handling of UNIcode glyphs, undoubtedly reflecting platform differences.

    Meaningful glyphs on one platform may be black boxes, unimplemented, on another.
     
  5. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    Man, all of that crap that I just wrote may boiled down to:

    I am looking for a name for a tag that says "Yep, I have looked at this item/page that I may have captured in a rather ad-hoc way, I have reviewed it, and I have put it into the proper place in my GTD system."

    And I still haven't found a word or phrase that I like.

    I think that I want it to have "GTD" in the name. Although... I wouldn't mind a generic name.


    GTD processed

    GTD captured (no, I can't tag at time of capture - it's the lack of a tag that I search for)

    GTD incorporated

    GTD reviewd

    GTD reviewed and filed away properly

    GTD input

    GTD imported

    GTD import ok

    GTD assimilated

    GTD clarified

    GTD admitted

    GTD ingress

    GTD onboarded


    ...


    Looking back at the GTD book, this seems to correspond to the 2nd and/or 3rd of the 5 steps:

    1) capture
    2) clarify
    3) organize
    4) reflect
    5) engage

    But

    "GTD Clarified" just plain doesn't sound right. Especially since some of my items/actions may read "clarify what we plan to do about XXX"



    GTD assimilated


    GTD touched


    My wife likes "GTD tagged", since I will be applying one, and possibly the only one, tag.

    But that's too generic - I have, elsewhen, tried used tags for the GTD lists, like "GTD Someday".
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2018
  6. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    OK, so my flow is:

    1) Capture - using a multiplicity of tools. Items are not tagged at that time.

    At some later time - weekly review, if not daily

    2) I clarify what the item is/means/should be

    3) I figure out where ti placed it in my GTD organizing system

    I tag it [GTD touched] - which I have decided to give the symbol of a blue filled circle.

    (Filled circle - pretty generic. Color choices were blue/amber/green. Amber/green have connotations of warning/okay; I think that blue has fewest connotations. I would have given it a gray circle, if that were an option. The best other alternative in the OneNote tag symbol set seems to be the outline of a cloud - "I have thought about it" - but that could connote Ï need to think about it". (I wish there was a "mind like water"icon))

    No text highlight or formatting.


    As part of emptying my Inbox, I search for pages that have not been tagged [GTD touched] - or possibly any other tag whose name begins [GTD...]. (Usually I place such pages in an actual Inbox - but sometimes they get away.

    In the past I have played around with tags like GTD contexts - [GTD Project], [GTD Someday], ... - although I am not using tags for that at the moment. Instead, I am creating link pages, and moving either the link page or the original to various OneNote notebooks and sections - trying to follow the recommendations to use page names as the lists.

    However, I consider pages that have other, non-GTD tags, like [To Do] (or related [To Read], [To Learn], [To Study], [To File]) not to have been clarified and organized unless they have the [GTD touched] or other [GTD*] tag applied.

    Explanation: [To Read], etc is the type of action required. But tags like [To Do] and [To Read] do not say that you have considered where the item should be placed in your overall system - what context, what next action, incubate/someday. I'll use the [GTD*] tags for that.



    ---


    I know, I know - I am thinking about this too much.

    But now, having thought, I have coded the search.

    (I think that I wanted to think about it upfront because Onetastic macros are so painful - the IDE is so primitive - that it is a pain to change names once chosen. Also because tag names are not automatically updated.)
     
  7. AFG

    AFG Registered

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    Status after a week:

    Tagging "GTD touched" after I have assimilated OneNote items into my GTD system is working a=okay.

    Basically, I capture willy nilly - in my LOGs, Inboxes, etc.

    I often create link pages - if a page is called Something in my LOG or other capture place like an Inbox, I may create a link page titled <Something that links to it. I have a macro "Create Link Page" that creates <Something, usually with a link to the target page in the new page title. The macro also creates other metadata, like a link from the old page Something to the new page <Something.

    I then typically move the link page into my GTD lists. Or vice versa.

    Having done this, I tag the old page Something and the new page <Something "GTD touched" so that I don't see them in my "search for pages that I need to assimilate into GTD".

    I said most of this earlier. Only change is

    I wanted to avoid "text tags". But, OneNote displays the page names but not the tags in its normal view. Since I wanted to see which pages I needed to link clone and assimilate easily, I tweaked the macro to add a prefix + to the original target page.

    I.e. original page Something gets a new link page <Something, and the original page is renamed +Something to make it easily visible that some such linking has been done.

    (If OneNote's view of pages in a section could display tags applied to page titles, I would not have needed this.)

    I could probably eliminate the special OneNote tag "GTD touched" and just use text, but ... as I said, past experience shows that text tags in object names can become clumsy.
     

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