147: Task Management & Focus

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Was surprised the Guys, when discussing Obsidian tasks, didn’t mention the Obsidian ToDo plugin. I could have missed it?

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Fun episode to listen to. I know what David means about the napkin-task days being so nice–I used to jam everything into a few tiny lines in a weekly planner someone gave me for my high school graduation and somehow managed to graduate and find a job and everything. Of course, life is more complex now and I have a lot of information I’ve chosen (or accepted) to become responsible for, that a large task database fits nicely.

Keeping the tasks close to the work is appealing, too. I don’t use Obsidian for as much as others, but I find todo/notes to self in a codebase to work well. Especially when the editor or IDE has built-in support for finding and highlighting them (IntelliJ.)

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@mikeschmitz a couple of things that might help you with building your tasks in obsidian.

  1. Use Dataview to keep a list of active projects in your daily note in addition to your tasks. That way you can jump to the checklists for an active project without embedding those as individual tasks into the daily note. It’s so easy to add an activeproject tag to the Yaml of a project template and then use dataview to put that list into the daily notes template. I actually have a separate page that lists my active projects for different areas of my life and then embed that page into my daily notes template. My code for my active projects page is at the end of this message.

  2. Creating Tasks in Kanban that feed into your daily notes dataview set is totally doable. Simply switch the Kanban view to Markdown view and then use the command pallet Task trigger (which I have mapped to a hotkey) to add all the Tasks info; then switch back to Kanban view. And those tasks will then populate into your dataview tasks lists. You should even be able to create a Quick Add Macro that would allow you to do all of these steps with a single QuickAdd Command.

Hope this is helpful and not just redundant. I love Obsidian for task management, and I think it’s a great choice.

Active Projects Page Code

Work Active Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Modified
from #activeproject and #work 
sort file.mtime desc

Home Active Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Modified
from #activeproject and #home 
sort file.mtime desc

Tech Active Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Modified
from #activeproject and #tech 
sort file.mtime desc

Waiting On

  • [ ] Order 2/28
  • [x] Asessment Data from April 3/6

Waiting On Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Modified
from #waitingon 
sort file.mtime desc

Someday/Maybe

List from #somedaymaybe  
sort file.mtime desc

Archived Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Archived
from #archivedproject 
sort file.mtime desc

All Active Projects

Table file.ctime as Created, file.mtime as Modified
from #activeproject 
sort file.mtime desc
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This may be a (really) dumb question … but I feel like I’m missing the draw of using something like Obsidian to replace a dedicated task manager.

What’s the appeal for migrating from an app like OmniFocus or Things to building your own within Obsidian? It seems like a really fiddly (and time consuming) hobby project to cobble things together to get even the most basic functionality included in basically any dedicated task manager app.

What am I missing?

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I don’t do this personally but:

I think you might have answered your own question.

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LOL. Fair point.

I was wondering if there was more to it than that.

If that really is the (main) answer, it supports my own conclusion: I really don’t need another distraction like that right now. :slight_smile:

@Justin_H ThatNerd, I was thinking the same thing while listening to this episode. Why mess with what David described as a system “held together by tape” when there are beautiful, functional, reliable, easy task managers already available?

Personally, I don’t get the obsession with trying to get one program to do everything. I’d much rather use “best in class” apps. I think there’s also a benefit for using different apps for different tasks. When I open an app, for me there’s a switch that flips in my mind that says, “now it’s time to focus on this function.” Kind of like when people talk about using different apps for work and personal tasks.

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I would agree, but I also think people have lots of different needs and workflows. For the majority of people using Obsidian as a task manager is either absurd or a fiddly side project, but there are probably some out there for which the fiddly-ness is balanced out by a genuine workflow boost.

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Mike and a whole bunch of other people are just recreating org-mode with a mush mash of plugins. I know that comes up every once in a blue moon, but what Mike was describing is exactly the org-mode workflow that has existed for over a decade.

Tasks exists within your projects’ documents. The agenda system pulls all of those tasks and based upon arbitrary metadata shows exactly what you want to see at that moment. Different agendas can show you different views of your tasks.

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I do think there is a case for unifying notes and tasks. While tasks are self-contained units for some folks, for most there is at least some degree of supporting information required to carry out a task. Often this can be accommodated in the “notes” field that has become almost ubiquitous among task managers. However, for some, more supporting info is required. We see task managers’ notes fields growing in sophistication (Things supporting markdown in their notes fields, for instance). We see link-based systems like @MacSparky’s to connect tasks to supporting documents elsewhere. We see systems to move tasks from notes to task managers like the Obsidian to Todoist workflow that Federico uses. And we see systems to integrate task management into notes apps like Noteplan, org-mode, and the Obsidian plugins @mikeschmitz is using. There’s clearly a use case out there.

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This is one of the things I like about using Apple Notes with Reminders. I can send a note to Reminders and then when I need to access the material I can click on the note that resides as a link to the Apple note in the Reminders task.

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I’ve been testing an Obsidian task system the past few weeks and I’ll be sharing the process in the labs and then more about it after the experiment on the blog/podcast once I’m done. There is something there, but I still really like the power of OmniFocus.

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It’s fun. It’s entertainment. It’s content.

It’s a bit like hunting for truffles, I imagine: there’s a lot of wandering, a lot of dead ends, and sometimes you find a valuable truffle.

I like that other folk go hunting for truffles then share them.

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And, if @MacSparky didn’t spend time exploring, nothing would change and he would need to change his name to Jurassic Parky.

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In the episode, I thought Mike stated pretty clearly he wants his tasks in the same place as his work, and he’s using Obsidian for quite a bit these days. It seems challenging, but not fiddly for its own sake at all. Org-mode is great but I wouldn’t say Obsidian is merely re-implementing it, and yes, I’ve used both.

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I think that’s exactly right. Even might take the ‘friction’ away from jumping between different apps to accomplish a workflow.

Lots of good food for thought here. Thanks for the thoughtful posts.

I’m definitely interested in the overall idea of better system integration and reducing friction. At the moment, I’ve got project support materials (notes, planning, etc.) within Obsidian and linked over to OmniFocus to manage the actual tasks.

It’s very much a work in progress though and I don’t feel like it’s come together just yet.

Current thinking is strongly biased towards building simple (and sustainable) workflows. Heavily influenced by Nick Milo’s work with “earned structures” and “fluid frameworks” from his LYT PKM Workshop.

Easier to put text in a database program (like omni) than to DIY database in a text program (like obsidian).

I know I know, I’m oversimplifying it. Obsidian is capable of it. Occasionally I see examples of what look like “complete” project and task management systems in obsidian.

But they look like spinning plates to me.

To make a clever perspective / view in Notion, omni, Airtable, etc, takes a couple minutes. “I want to see x but not y unless z… sort by… group by…” To do the same thing in dataview- … oh I shouldn’t say. I’m still in recovery.

If omnifocus developed its notes feature to be just ~30% better, I’d probably do all my project management there. It has its quirks, missing features, but the combination of quick capture and easy inbox processing, privacy, and native-ness (nativity?) are unrivaled.

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I’m 40 minutes into this episode and am wondering if the subject matter moves away from “Obsidian task management review ?”
I’m very interested in the subject and practice(s) but not so much Obsidian

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