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Lead your future with Org


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The world is full of possibilities. A person life is rather short though, and one can easily end up carry on without focus.

In this short talk I want to share how Org mode empowers me into organizing and monitoring my tasks to make sure I am working towards achieving my vision.

The emphasis of the talk is on defining a direction, monitoring the progress towards your planned destination, and keeping a trail of your actions to review and set up a healthy feedback loop.

Tools for the job that I will (at least) mention: Org files, Org agenda, Org archive, org-ql, and Org-roam.

  • Actual start and end time (EST): Start 2020-11-28T13.17.07; End: 2020-11-28T13.25.25


For how many years have you used Org?

7ish. I started during my PhD because it was the easiest to fit in. And programming in OCaml was so nice in there :)



Welcome to my talk, Lead Your Future with Org. Who am I? I'm Andrea. I work as a Scala software engineer somewhere in the Netherlands, and I inherited my passion for Emacs from my PhD supervisor. From that moment on, I got in synergy with it. You can find more about me and my interests at That is the place where I keep my blog and I blog on a weekly basis. Let's get into the bulk of the talk.

Why I needed a vision. The main, main problem is that I have too many interests. I like a lot of things, and these things take time. Then I have too little time to do other things that are very important as well. And so I need priority. And the vision in my mind is both an ambition, something that I want to do with my life, and at the same time, it's a way to focus my efforts and get rid of some stuff that fundamentally is not something I really care so much about. Even if you come up with a vision and so with a smaller scope of things that you want to do, even then, you have to take this ambition of yours, this vision, and disassemble it in very small steps. Org Mode is very good at taking care of this because you can keep track of TODOs in Org Mode.

So let me show you how I keep an agenda that also keeps track of my vision. For this talk, I have a running example. Vision will be "I want to bring joy to people." and "I want to live in synergy with the planet." Okay, so, given these two visions, let's open the agenda. You will see on the right that now I have some tasks, both on Tuesday and on Friday. Things to notice is that we said one of our visions is synergy with the planet, so some tasks are annotated on the left with this category and some with "Bring joy to people." In this way, you can distinguish where are my... In this day, where my effort is going in this day.

The other thing is the specification of these tasks, and then at the end, you can notice a tag on the right that is essentially a guess of how long this task will have an effect over the future. So, for example, installing solar panel onto my roof is going to have an effect of 10 years over my life, if I manage to achieve that. That is my rough guess. You will notice that the ones that have a bigger amount, so 10 years over the 5 year one, because I order my day so that the tasks that are more important or that I believe are more effective over my future, I sort them so that they appear at the top. In this way, I can basically decide, okay, today, what should I... Find a video on Youtube, but I should take into consideration when I look at my agenda that I've traded that small fun for today with something that could have had an effect over a longer period of time.

Let me show you how I also exploit the facilities that Org Mode comes with. I will... I have two templates available to me. I will choose one. The first thing that it asks to me is "How long will this affect your life?" So I like ... It will affect a long time, if I manage to produce only for myself. So I choose 10 years. And then I specify the task. So, "Learn how to keep bees." I collect this task. It will now appear in the middle because 10 years is between 20 years and 5 years. So I know that if I put some effort in learning how to keep bees, I should be quite happy for today. Okay. So, say that I do it, say that that's it... Once I've done this task, how can I be...

How do I know how much progress I am doing? The way I can do that is by retrospecting weekly or monthly about the successes or the progress that I am doing. How I do it is simply by running this kind of snippet that shows me that for this month, I have done three tasks for bringing joy to people and three tasks for synergy with planet. This is useful because you can repeat it and it will be appended, so every time you run it again, you can compare if you are... how you are working towards your goal and if you're focusing more on bringing joy to people or if you're focusing more on synergy. Balance the effort.

A thing that I want to share that I think will be useful to you is this function I use that I made for myself to create these statistics. It's a wrapper around the very enjoyable library org-ql, which allows you to query and group headings, do analysis on headings, or restructuring and view headings in a SQL fashion. The syntax is very similar to SQL. You can manipulate your headings and visualize them or just get statistics as I have done here.

Finally, for this talk, say that you are doing progress, that progress most likely will generate some useful knowledge for yourself. My way to store this knowledge is through org-roam, another interesting mode that is very... that is becoming very relevant and known today. The idea is that I simply... If I learn how to make, how to install solar panels, that can be useful knowledge. I can link to some other knowledge that I have and so create my own knowledgebase, and save it for later use. My later use is typically, in this case, my blog. In here, I have a few notes that are basically a synthesis of knowledge that I have collected doing my tasks towards my vision.

With this, this is all I wanted to show you for this talk. You can follow me on my blog at . That is also where I am going to share a version of this Org Mode file that allows you basically to create the same kind of configuration I have here, and you can create an instance by running this snippet of Emacs in which you can just run this example. An extended example I will also add, to just play around safely with this kind of configuration. So enjoy the rest of the conference. Catch you later! Nice to meet you!

Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 1:16 PM - 1:26 PM EST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~10:16 AM - 10:26 AM PST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 6:16 PM - 6:26 PM UTC
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 7:16 PM - 7:26 PM CET
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 2:16 AM - 2:26 AM +08

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