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Orgmode - your life in plain text

Rainer König

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In this talk I'll give you a quick overview of my Orgmode GTD system. We start with capturing a small project, scheduling the tasks, doing all and then archiving the finished tasks.

To stay on focus, every morning I build a plan for the day with the 3 most important tasks first and then some other stuff that should be done. In this way I avoid getting pulled down by an endless agenda view that I can't finish on that day anyway.

Background info: I'm using Orgmode for many years now, and I'm not exaggerating if I tell you that it saved me from a nervous breakdown when my wife got diagonosed with severe illness and I was suddenly in charge of everything. Orgmode was there and reminded me of the important things so nothing was forgotten and I could focus on what really matters.

In 2016 I recorded a set of tutorial videos which are available on my YouTube channel which gained more than 3600 subcribers because of those tutorials.

In Summer 2020 I recorded the tutorials again for a course at Udemy which went online in October 2020 and is supplemented by a 100+ pages course book.

For the Emacs Conference 2020 I created a coupon code EMACSCONF which is valid until December 2, 2020 11:58 AM PST, so you can get the course for the price of €9.99. You can use this code with this link.

  • Actual start and end time (EST): End: 2020-11-28T13.16.44


What's the advantage of copying tasks from the agenda to a separate daily plan, rather than just managing them directly within the agenda?

  • [Karl Voit]: I asked Rainer the very same question and his answer was that his agenda is full with tasks. Copying them (via keyboard shortcuts) to a manually curated daily list provides a condensed daily agenda showing only the tasks he is going to do (when the day goes as planned).
  • I feel it can reduce some mental stress.
  • Yes, this is it, I want to decide in the morning (I can never do all what is in the agenda) and then I'm no longer overwhelmed by that long agenda.
  • OK thanks - but then why not just create custom agenda views for a) building the daily list and then b) just viewing the daily list without distractions? e.g. via org-super-agenda or org-ql?
    • Sometimes I also want to review my previous tasks I've done.
      • There is build-in org-agenda-log-mode (v l) to do this. One just need to make sure that the task state changes are actually logged (see (apropos "org-log-*")).
      • I suspect that could also be achieved via org-ql or similar but admit it's probably a more complex solution. Just naturally averse to anything which duplicates data and could lead to inconsistencies :)
        • Exactly. It is just very easy to do it in such a format, but it can definitely be achieved by super-agenda/org-ql

How long does it usually take you to manage/maintain your agenda on a daily basis?

  • Five minutes a day.
  • Extensively uses org-capture to get thoughts down and schedule things for later — gets things out of head and saves the task for later.
  • Weekly review to go through checklists — usually takes about half an hour.

What version of Emacs and of Org do you currently use?

  • Emacs: 25.3.1
  • Orgmode version: 9.1.5

Do you keep Emacs open with you all day, or just when you need to add tasks or reference todos?

It's open all the day. Two monitor setup, Emacs is always opened on one (usually the non-main one, apparently, but moved back to the main one if necessary).

Where do your notes/tasks end up after you complete them (lurst asked that first on IRC)?

In archives (missed some details here, sorry).

Do you use Org mode on a mobile device as well? If so how do you do it?

On the road I have a real old fashioned paper notebook with a ballpoint pen ;-)

How did you add the super fast typing?

  • A) I learned touch typing at school around 45 years ago.
  • B) Kdenlive can accelerate video material. You need to mark it (cut it left and right) and then press Shift-Ctrl and the mouse to drag it, that adds the time lapse effect.

Do you export your Org files or Agenda files for others?

I once tried it at work, but it didn't work out. For me Org is a personal prodcutivity system and not a sort of groupware. Nevertheless, I have a ToDo keyword "DELEGATED" to monitor e.g. errands that I give to my kids.

Do you use Emacs for everything or just a few things like time management, programming, etc.?

Emacs is my primary editor for shell scripts, LaTeX files, even LilyPond (remember that talk in the morning). I wrote all the LaTeX files for the book I prepared for my course in Emacs.

Do you keep your project notes and backup information with the to do items in your agenda or in separate files?

The notes are all in the :LOGBOOK: drawer of each task. So I have a sort of "micro blog" there that clearly shows what happened with that task so far. I even see all the "RESCHEDULED on…" timestamps which helps me to identify the tasks I procrastinate. ;-)

Not a question but thank you so much for your videos Rainer

  • You're welcome. What started as a "I need to show Org to a few people" turned out helpful to a lot more than I ever expected. ;-)
    • These videos helped me so much! Thank you!



00:00:02.480 --> 00:00:22.560 Hi there, this is Rainer. I have a 10-minute time slot at the EmacsConf and I will show you a quick walk through my GTD system in Org mode, so let's start with capturing. We want to capture what we do here.

00:00:22.560 --> 00:01:03.600 So the idea is I press F6 and I say: "I want to make a small project because this video will be a small project," so the thing is: "Record a video for Emacs Conf 2020." Video is recorded, edited, and uploaded. We can also set the timeline because we want to upload it. The time, the deadline for uploads is--we know it already--the 14th of November. so let me put this in here. See, this is done.

00:01:03.600 --> 00:01:40.400 Now, because it's a project... I mean, I could say just one task to record a video, but it's too much, so let's split it down in a few small tasks. The next one...

00:01:40.400 --> 00:02:18.560 So you see, I've just typed a few quick tasks. We can see them if we look in the capture file. You see, there's my project entry and there are all my tasks. Since it's a project, I can now make it easy. I just indent every task by one and then, so...

00:02:18.560 --> 00:02:45.599 Okay, so you see we have one project here, and this one we refile now to our backlog. So if we look in our backlog, you see my project with all the tasks.

00:02:45.599 --> 00:03:30.879 So now, next one. I pretend now I'm doing a weekly review. C-c x b. And I already did some things, and now the point where I am is scheduled tasks with no date. Those are all those tasks. So I have a weekly review helper that says, okay, show me everything that I need to schedule, plan. So schedule this class. We do everything.

00:03:30.879 --> 00:04:03.200 So everything is scheduled now, and we can check off that and so on. We can... I have a plan for every day. That's my free plan. I press F6, and I say p p plan. Private things. You see there is the first day, 12th of November, German. And now I can look at what I have to do today.

00:04:04.239 --> 00:04:37.680 My agenda view is very long, and I just want to focus on a few tasks, so I copied them to my daily plan. I just want to show you. So I have a daily plan for every day, and that means this one is what I see, and this one is gone.

00:04:37.680 --> 00:05:15.605 So now, let's pretend we are working on the first: we find the requirements for the video. We had a look. Okay, I can mark this task as done here because I knew the requirements. C-c t. Done. Format is 720p, webm codec. So this one is done and I can mark it off here as well. So now I have marked it off everywhere.

00:05:15.605 --> 00:05:24.639 The good thing of my daily plan is that I can really see it all the day. I stick to this, what I decided in the morning what I want to do.

00:05:24.639 --> 00:05:58.319 So let's go to the next one. Make a quick test. Yeah, I did the test already. I will do a small trick. I say, okay, I record the video here. Video recorded. Then let me do what to show. Now I'm recording the video.

00:05:58.319 --> 00:07:02.560 Let's see. What we do: we had capture, we had weekly review, we had daily planning. How are we processing this? Very nice. So let's pretend the video is recorded C-c t done. Let me put this to NEXT again. Start kdenlive to time lapse. After recording it, I pretend this is done now. C-c t done. Then I have a video ready. Let's pretend I did the upload as well. Done. Video uploaded. So I can say everything now is done. Save it, so tomorrow I see what I did yesterday. Here I'm completely done.

00:07:02.560 --> 00:07:40.455 We have the weekly review. We put another buffer here because I want to show you the final step of my weekly review. If you see, there's a final step that says: select finished tasks and make a bulk archive action. So if you look at my EmacsConf thing, okay, the project is done as well. Project C-c t done. And then, what I can do is now see a weekly review helper. Finished tasks.

00:07:40.455 --> 00:08:00.320 I could make a bulk operation that says archive everything, but at the moment I don't need to do that because we have a tree structure, so it's C-c x a I have this task away, and the task is done. So that's it.

00:08:00.320 --> 00:08:21.959 That's my system you see: from capturing tasks, to scheduling tasks, to putting it on the daily plan, performing it, and at the end, when everything is done, the next weekly review they will go to the archive file, because it's finished. Thank you for watching. That's it.

Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 1:03 PM - 1:13 PM EST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~10:03 AM - 10:13 AM PST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 6:03 PM - 6:13 PM UTC
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 7:03 PM - 7:13 PM CET
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 2:03 AM - 2:13 AM +08

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