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the org-gtd package: opinions about Getting Things Done

Aldric

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Come see how org-gtd leverages org-mode to automate the GTD inbox management. Stick around to see how the various org-mode tools get connected by the package and how you can leverage them for yourself. Bonus: there's even a few tests written for the package! We'll go over those too.

  • Actual start and end time (EST): Start 2020-11-28T13.26.16; End: 2020-11-28T13.41.53

Questions

For how many years have you used Org?

At least five years, I don't know exactly how long.

What about delegated actions of a project? Do they get moved to the delegated heading and moved back to the project when finished?

They stay where they are, because they belong to the project. Org-edna will automatically mark it as NEXT when its time comes. The user can mark it as WAIT easily through the agenda. I would like an org-gtd command to queue up "mark as WAIT", "add the DELEGATED_TO property", and "schedule a check-in time", but I haven't yet done the research to figure out a clean integration of such a custom action with the agenda view.

Are you only using linear next-task-method or do you use org-edna to mark tasks even in other projects as NEXT?

Currently I only use linear next-task-method, for two reasons. One is a technical reason, another one is part of my current approach to GTD:

  • I haven't yet had a reason to consider that, say, a project might block another project, or that an action might block a project - possibly I haven't tried to do complex enough things in my life yet, and so I've always been able to simplify what I had to do into linear projects, even if it was a simple linear project with a last task of "create a new project based on what I've learned".
  • I have zero idea of how I would intelligently display this, yet, so I've stayed away from this. Contrary to most personal projects I've worked on, this one has "ease of use" front and center, so before implementing something like this, I'd need to know how to properly represent this: if possible, in the agenda view, and if not, I guess it would be in a HUD I would create for the package.

How do you make use of incubated items? Do they show up in the agenda for the whole day? That would be distracting, I guess.

I have a block of time, every morning, dedicated to processing the inbox and seeing what's on my plate for the day. I would use this time to decide what to do with the incubated item: incubate it again, make it into a project, discard it, etc. My "incubate" file has a bunch of top-level headlines like "To Read", "To Watch", "To Eat", "To Visit", etc.

  • That sounds similar to SOMEDAY-list, but processed on per-item basis. If you decide to re-incubate an item, how to you chose the new time?

Notes

Transcript

00:00:01.680 --> 00:00:29.199 Hello, and welcome to my Org GTD talk. I wrote this package because I was overwhelmed with all the stuff I had to manage working at home. I'd heard about GTD. I saw someone using it with just a small notebook. I wanted to do it in Emacs because, well, Emacs can do everything, right?

00:00:29.199 --> 00:01:12.640 I'm going to jump in quickly. Just so you know, here's kind of a list of the resources. Obviously, org-gtd, which you can find there. You can open an issue, ask me questions there about it. I use org-edna, a package for state triggers. I'm going to show this briefly when I finish item in a project. org-agenda-property, you will see in the agenda. It's going to show to whom an action has been delegated to. You will see org-roam briefly as a reference because that is what I have chosen for my knowledge archival tool. You can choose whatever you prefer.

00:01:12.640 --> 00:01:57.520 This is a quick, quick reminder on what GTD is and how it works. This is not a lesson on--a presentation on gtd because that would be... Well, other people have done it better than me. In short, everything goes into the inbox. Then you process the inbox, and you decide what to do, if it could be actionable or not. If it's actionable, it could be a project or it could be a single action, which you could delegate or schedule or just do it. If it's not actionable, you could just throw it away, incubate it for later, or move it into your files, reference.

00:01:57.520 --> 00:02:27.200 Over here, you can see the global bindings for org-gtd. Those are the actions, the functions I have made available. This is in progress. There's more to come. Some stuff is probably missing. It's grown mostly from my own personal use so far, so it doesn't have things. In the bottom right, you can see the agenda.

00:02:27.200 --> 00:02:54.319 One thing I wanted to do with this package was leverage Org Mode as much as possible. So I tried to not reinvent the wheel as much as I could. That meant reusing the agenda. You can see here a couple of the things that are made available or kind of customized or configured for you, some of the opinions that org-gtd has.

00:02:54.319 --> 00:03:49.280 Up here, for instance, you can see a delegated action. So a delegated action has someone to whom it's delegated. It's my parents in this case. It has the name of the action: ask parents what gift they want. It's marked as the state of WAIT because I'm waiting. It is scheduled because you should ping people or check on the status status of a task when you're waiting for it, so you don't forget about it or it gets lost forever. I have a scheduled action to give a talk. That's what I'm doing right now. I have an incubated action which is also scheduled: to make money through the lottery. This is a thing to take a look at for later, decide later what I want to do. It might be actionable, it might not be. I don't know right now, or I didn't know when I processed it, so I incubated it.

00:03:49.280 --> 00:03:59.360 Underneath, we have all the things that are direct actions for me to take.

00:03:59.360 --> 00:04:33.384 All right. You see a little bit of the preparation seeps through the actual talk. I have here two... I have a single action of "Steal Andrea's GTD configuration" and an action to read the GTD book. It's part of a project. So most of the day-to-day operation with with this package should come through just having the agenda open and having it be your source for the information you need to know, so that you can do the right thing.

00:04:33.384 --> 00:05:18.960 So let's take a look at what's underneath all of this really quickly. We have--There's three primary files. We have the inbox. I'm gonna process it in a second because there's two things here. One thing to cancel, like an action to not take. It's nothing. And then something I will just put into org-roam, just so you can see that there is the incubate file. You can see here: make money through the lottery, captured, refiled here, and scheduled so it would show up in the agenda right at a given time. On the right, you have the actionable file. This is the one that has the most information, where most things should go.

00:05:18.960 --> 00:05:37.919 So I have the single actions. They all go underneath here. This is marked as next because it's an action for me to take. Delegated is marked as WAIT. It is not an action for me to take. It's an action for somebody else to take, but it is scheduled because I may wanna... I can check in at some point.

00:05:38.400 --> 00:05:53.840 Things that are scheduled, like "give a talk," do not have a TODO or NEXT or WAIT state because they are not bound that way. They are time-bound, so they will show up in the agenda when the time comes. I shouldn't act on them or I can't act on them beforehand.

00:05:53.840 --> 00:06:07.520 You can see here, I have two projects: a test project (and I will do something with this in a second) and then there's this package "Make a GTD package." There's a project here for me to create this. It's made of a bunch of actions.

00:06:07.520 --> 00:07:03.840 I'm going to show you two things here. One is: since I was trying to leverage Org Mode as much as possible, I didn't try to create very clever operations, because Org Mode has a lot of very powerful tools already. There's automations I can add, but I thought it might be better to leave more things in the hands of the user. So here, in this case, this test project we can just archive. Right. That's just C-c C-x C-a is the org-archive action. Save this. So now if we go to... This will create an archive file which will have this information for later perusal if you're interested.

00:07:03.840 --> 00:07:27.680 That's one thing. If we go back to the agenda for a second, you can see these things here. Org. So by the way, this "parents" here was the org agenda property. This is what shows here, right? And here, if I finish "Read the GTD book," I mark it as done. Now refresh.

00:07:27.680 --> 00:07:57.280 You'll see that another item shows up, and that is where org-edna comes in. When an action is marked as done in a project, the next to do action is automatically marked as next, so your agenda is automatically updated. This was one of the nice things for me because I didn't want to have to open my file, go find the action, mark it as done, find the next one, mark it as next, and so forth. I didn't want to bother with it.

00:07:57.280 --> 00:08:20.720 Oh, actually, you know what, let me show you something else. This simple project... I don't need this timestamp to be here but I like having a capture timestamp here, so I'm gonna make one up. So this is the most convenient thing that I think... This is one of the most convenient things that I get out of this binding.

00:08:20.720 --> 00:09:00.080 The next really convenient thing is the way this gets processed. Let me show you this. When you process the entire inbox, what you see is the items one at a time, so you can work with them. You can see at the bottom... You can work with them without being distracted. You can see at the bottom the list of things you can do, which are all the decisions you can take from GTD, right? In this case, this is one to throw out, so press t. You have the option to make modifications to this if you want to. If you have any reason to store it, then you finish editing. You can add a tag if you want to, because this might still be interesting,

00:09:00.080 --> 00:09:37.457 and then enter and it's done. Important knowledge, I'm going to hit a for archive it. I'm gonna start looking at org-roam. So this is important knowledge. I have to capture this. That's it. I've captured it. It is done. I go back to buffer, and I can mark it with C-c. There's no archiving because this is just knowledge. There's no tagging. It's just knowledge.

00:09:37.457 --> 00:10:15.440 But then the simple project... I want to show you this because there's some automation that's pretty helpful. In the simple project, I have my first action, second action, third action. and you see, this is all I'm writing. I'm not adding any of the states, any of the tags. They're going to be added by... Here, I can add a tag if I want to this project. I don't care right now, but you know... I leave the tags to the user, so they're not super relevant to me as a package provider.

00:10:15.440 --> 00:11:04.880 This is where we are. This is the whole thing. So now if we go back to the agenda, I have a first action, right. And if I go to the actionable file, and now see, I have a simple project that has my first action as NEXT, second option TODO, third action as TODO. So what I've... You know, as you can see... I hope what I've tried to do is take all of the tedium out of working with with Emacs and Org Mode when working with your actions so you could focus on what you want to do, what you need to do, what you care about, and the package would take care of the rest.

00:11:04.880 --> 00:12:32.000 So the last thing I wanted to take a quick look at was some of the the tests. The code is available here. You can see the code on... the code on Github if you want. I've had some trouble writing good tests for this because Org Mode was written at a time before testing was quite as important, I think, or valued quite the same way, let's put it this way. And as a result, a number of things actually... It might also be a feature of Emacs at the time, I don't know. But a lot of things in Org Mode aren't very testable, and so what I ended up doing was just having an actual directory in which I actually... with files, right? So I don't have much mocking I can do. I can't just do a bunch of fake files, fake directories. So I actually go through the process, actually create files, and then actually have Emacs pointing at this directory to process and get the information. So I have to define the key to test that it gets bound properly. I have to set the capture templates. The capture templates are how things get added. I have a wrapper control... org-gtd-capture essentially is a wrapper around the capture that makes sure the inbox is there and then captures to the inbox.

00:12:36.240 --> 00:13:45.360 Making sure the items show in the agenda when I'm done with the processing was a little bit tricky. I had a bug and I had to to fix it, so I just wrote this test, but it's it's pretty convenient now to have that, because it gives me a bunch of sanity. So again, I have a capture, and this is... I wanted to be able to do this automatically but org-capture itself is not super testable right now, so the way it's... the way you test it is just by programmatically calling it, which is not exactly what I wanted, because I wanted something more like the user action, but I'll... You know, what I can get. And then I can... I'll just insert these words into the buffer and then I'll finalize the capture. Then I have another... I have a test package here called with simulated input which basically calls this and then enters these user actions. Right, so like the letter s, C-c c and then RET. And that is, you know, choosing a single action, then finishing the edit, and then adding zero and not adding tags.

00:13:46.480 --> 00:14:05.040 As you can tell, there's a strong layer of disconnect between the tests and what they represent. That's a work in progress. I have four tests. It's not a lot, but I want to... I intend to add more as I keep on adding more behavior.

00:14:05.040 --> 00:14:34.880 I would like this to be eventually a sane starting point for GTD. There's a lot of people like like Andrea, like Rainer, like... I mean, if you search for Org Mode and GTD, you'll find a lot of blog entries, a lot of entries, a lot of articles that explain how to connect it together, how to think that way, how to use all the tools that Org Mode makes available.

00:14:34.880 --> 00:15:20.560 Hopefully, this package is a way to get started without having to write too much of your own code. Then eventually, you can move away from the package if you want, if you realize that you are developing different opinions and you don't want to... If GTD doesn't work this way for you, if you have a different way, it is a better fit for the way you want to organize your life, then move away from the package. In the meanwhile, I welcome all thoughts. I welcome contributions. I welcome questions, bug reports, everything So, you know, come say hi. Try the package. And yeah, see you. I'll see you online!

Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 1:29 PM - 1:49 PM EST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~10:29 AM - 10:49 AM PST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 6:29 PM - 6:49 PM UTC
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 7:29 PM - 7:49 PM CET
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 2:29 AM - 2:49 AM +08

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