January 10, 2013

Contexts and metadata on tasks - is it a waste of time?

Many productivity methods mention tagging tasks with metadata. I’ve been thinking about this and wondered if I have gone overboard in this regard. Having been a fan of productivity systems for many years I’ve seen systems come and go and most include this in some way. There was the Franklin letter/number system. GTD has contexts. I’ve seen recent articles advocating more expansion of tags to include energy, passion and others.

Is metadata tagging worth the time to do it? One thing I can’t stand about Omnifocus and Things is the number of taps it takes to enter metadata on iOS. I have tried to minimize this time investment by using Taskpaper with Textexpander. I have snippets that expand to sets of context tags. For example typing t1m” expand to @AAA @1 @m” which is a priority one task to be done today on the mac. Very fast tags.

I find, however, in practical experience, that I don’t end up leveraging these tags on the back end like I could. Perhaps that makes it not worth my time to do it in the first place. I most frequently use my mac-related tag @m” when I am seated at the computer. I rarely filter by priority. Why? I already know what is important with or without a quick glance at the list. I also like my @AAA” tag which is my designataion for today’s list. That allows me to see my actionable stuff for today and prevents me from feeling overwhelmed by the size of the global list.

Mark Forster’s Autofocus system advocates scanning pages of tasks to see what stands out. I have always found this to be interesting. I think I agree with what I believe to be an underlying assumtion of this method: our brains know what needs to be done and are able to consider, in real-time, any number of related elements such as our energy level, our passions, our priorities, our deadlines.

Maybe simple list apps like Clear have a good thing going in being too simple to allow tagging.

My wife writes task lists on paper, or her hand on days she needs to and just works from an inner list on the other days. She has no formal productivity system. She is as productive as anyone I know.

Perhaps I will back off of all this tagging and trust my brain more.

  • simplicity
  • productivity

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