miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2018

3 basic org agenda tips for the fundamentally forgetful

I've been trying to use org mode for the last 5 years, and the system always fails in one way or another.

  • When I have too many types of templates, I doubt which template should I use.
  • When I set for too many tags, I forget about them (and I dont' know how to search for them anyway), so I don't use them.
  • When I use datetree for org-capture definitions, I never know where to find the things and end up using c-s. Multiple reasons here:
    • There's some missbehaving on the change of a month. Not sure how to fix it but it messes up my trees.
    • If  entries are supposed to be refiled anyway to their "final" topic, no need to keep a structural context when capturing.
  • Having 2 different capture one beginning with TODO and the other not.

Any of these mean total failure unless you're already a very well organized person and can hold the system.  And they lead to not using org consistently, which leads to not using it efficiently, which means it's useless.

But lately I seem to have found something that kinda works.

#1. Use 1 template

So, only 1 capture template.

   ("t" "Todo" entry (file+headline "~/org/tasks.org" "Tasks")
    "* %^{title} \n  SCHEDULED:%t\n  %?\n %i\n  %a\nAdded: %U")

This creates a plain entry sequentially under "* Tasks".  You know that "up" means before, and "down" means after. If you ever start using refile or tags properly, then I guess you'll add them to the mesh, but for now, leave it like this.

#2. Schedule everything to not miss it

Schedule everything. Get used to use scheduling.  Although being incapable of using org mode in a decent way, I've read its whole manual (more than once). And I know there's a bunch of different timestamps that mean different things. DEADLINE, SCHEDULED, <active timestamps> and [inactive timestamps].  

Usual advice is to use active timestamps for things that will happen anyway, no matter what (birthdays?, new years,..). Inactive is for "meta" logging of when you created the entry, or a date you want to be clickable, but not visible in the agenda.  DEADLINE and SCHEDULE also have their own subtle meanings.

I just want something that appears in front of me when I press 'c-c a a' (for a given date), and if I think it's not relevant anymore, I'd have to have a way to say "ok, do not bother me anymore with that".

So with SCHEDULED, it works, and if the day passes and you haven't done anything about it, it carries over to next day, so you will end up doing something about it (or having a huge overdue list).

So yeah. 'c-c c-s' all (most) of your entries.

#3. ] == reflog

So I created a couple of items in a trance, and after 10 minutes I'm like: "ok, let's review those items"....  And I realize I forgot to add a schedule date (usually I schedule for the same day if I want to review later).

Old me would blame himself for not being organized enough, and go through the huge tasks.org, trying to grep for the year-month (if we had the datetree), or was it month-year? who knows.  Going over many different datetrees for supposed different topics. most of them half forgotten.

The trick here is a magic unknown keybinding on your agenda view: ']'.  What it does is it displays the inactive timestamps in your agenda, as if they were active.

And as we added the '%U' pattern in the single org-capture template, we know all our items will have an inactive timestamp of its creation. So you can see it as a reflog you can use to see your activity in "diary mode".