I'd like to tag or else mark a subtree as on the "backburner" and exclude the subtree (and its children) from all agenda views, e.g. agenda, to do, match list, etc.

Basically this would replicate the functionality of the :ARCHIVE: tag, except I already use that tag for archiving, and it appears that org-archive-tag does not accept multiple strings.

I've also tried the following:


This allows me to exclude a single subtree, but not its children, so it's not particularly useful for sending a whole project to the backburner.

Any ideas or alternate workflows I might try for putting projects on the backburner?

  • Here is a variable that applies to todo items: org-agenda-todo-list-sublevels. Here is a variable that applies when using the org-tags-view function: org-tags-match-list-sublevels -- Non-nil means list also sublevels of headlines matching a search. This variable applies to tags/property searches, and also to stuck projects because this search is based on a tags match as well. . . . [The default setting is t.] As you may already be aware, there are three main search functions -- org-agenda-list, org-tags-view and org-search-view.
    – lawlist
    Jan 26, 2015 at 4:28
  • @lawlist unfortunately this achieves the opposite of what I'm after, i.e. with org-agenda-todo-list-sublevels nil marking a subtree as BURN will exclude that subtree, but then include all its child TODO entries. Ideally I'd like to mark/tag a subtree and exclude it and all child entries (regardless of TODO status).
    – rnkn
    Jan 26, 2015 at 4:44
  • Since the question invites ideas/alternate workflows: My headings match Toodledo and I synchronize my computers (desktop and laptop) and mobile devices: github.com/christopherjwhite/org-toodledo I use (setq org-todo-keywords '((sequence "Active(a)" "Next Action(n)" "Canceled(c)" "Hold(h)" "Reference(r)" "Delegated(d)" "Waiting(w)" "Postponed(P)" "Someday(s)" "Planning(p)" "|" "None(N)"))) I use Active for tasks due today. I use Reference for my attendance at special events. I use Delegated for my attendance at meetings, or things like the house-keeper coming over . . . .
    – lawlist
    Jan 26, 2015 at 5:12

1 Answer 1


You can achieve what you want by adding the COMMENT keyword to any subtree you don't want to see in the agenda:

* TODO I will show up in the agenda    
* COMMENT TODO I won't show up in the agenda

Use C-c ; (org-toggle-comment) from anywhere inside a subtree to add (or remove) the COMMENT keyword.

Note that this works for more complex outlines as well, i.e., if a subtree has the COMMENT keyword set, its children will also be excluded from the agenda. There is no need to comment out subtrees whose parents carry the COMMENT keyword.

  • 2
    Perfect thanks. Extra points because org-comment-string can be set to e.g. BACKBURNER
    – rnkn
    Jan 27, 2015 at 14:16
  • Hi, is there a way to apply COMMENT to the entire file? I specify directories in my org-agenda-files because I don't want to list down all the file manually. However, the downside is that this picks up all the files in the directory and I'd like to exclude just 1 file.
    – kshenoy
    Apr 7, 2017 at 17:35
  • @kshenoy Some options: 1) place all items in file under a COMMENT parent, 2) glob your agenda directory for org files, use something like seq-filter to remove the specific files you want to ignore, and set that to your org-agenda-files; this works best if you only want to filter a few files. Jan 2, 2018 at 6:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.