Org Mode shenanigans for task management, notes, etc

I’ve been around the world, and find myself back at org-mode and Doom Emacs. While in May ‘19 I thought it was a bit much it now feels very natural.

I’m doing time blocking using generic Fantastical. Just block off some time with a category (Admin, Computer, Research, etc.).

Org comes in for creating tasks and notes in plain text files, which can be as simple or feature-rich as one needs. Some tasks are tagged with a category. When that time block comes up, I filter tasks in org to only that category and I know what to work on. Notes can be mingled with tasks (or vice-versa) in the same files.

I’ve also begun tracking habits in org-mode - with just a simple addition to the syntax and one of the included packages.

After all that gushing, org isn’t for everyone, it can be technical and fiddly.

So, just curious if anyone else is using it, and for what.

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I was using it to track my daily tasks as software engineer. The stack was Doom Emacs with EVIL on desktop, and Beorg for iOS.

I like that Org-mode allows modification of task states, in which I add INPROGRESS, INTEST, FEEDBACK and HOLD for the TODO part, also MERGED and CANCELLED for the DONE part. I cannot find this feature in any other Task Management app. Tasks has this feature implemented in kanban style, but the macOS app needs Big Sur.

I also like the Org Agenda functionality, lets me backtrack of what I did on a specific day. I only need to click a date tag [2020-06-22 Mon] and will be redirected to that day’s tasks/notes/status changes list. Useful for weekly planning or daily stand-up meeting.

The fact that it is a plain text and Vi keybindings support make it easy to record past activities (which I cannot do with Things 3) for backtracking purpose.

Example of my Org-mode file below. I redacted the project and people names. I only include 1 epic-task per area.

Org-mode file example, <company>-tasks.org
* Active
** HOLD Upgrade <internal project> to vX :WWW:refactor:
:LOGBOOK:
- State "HOLD"       from "INPROGRESS" [2020-06-22 Mon] \\
  Helped by @ColleagueName to debug the componentName bug
- Note taken on [2020-06-15 Mon] \\
  Reworked =componentName= component.
- State "INPROGRESS"                   [2020-05-20 Wed]
:END:

* Merged
** MERGED Headline Component tweak :APP:refactor:
:PROPERTIES:
:SLACK: [[<Slack https link>][thread by @ColleagueName]]
:END:
:LOGBOOK:
- State "MERGED"     from "INTEST"     [2020-10-01 Thu 11:50]
- State "INTEST"     from "INPROGRESS" [2020-09-30 Wed]
- State "INPROGRESS" from "TODO"       [2020-09-30 Wed]
- State "TODO"                         [2020-09-30 Wed]
:END:

* Deployed
** DONE Replace Deprecated Queries :WWW:refactor:
CLOSED: [2020-09-30 Wed 02:18]
:PROPERTIES:
:JIRA: [[<Jira https link>][BAN-<CODE>]]
:SLACK: [[<Slack https link>][Slack Message]]
:END:
:LOGBOOK:
- State "DONE"       from "MERGED"     [2020-09-30 Wed 15:48] \\
  WWW [[<Slack https link for the merge link>][vX.X.XXX]]
- State "MERGED"     from "INPROGRESS" [2020-09-30 Wed 02:18]
- State "INTEST"     from "INPROGRESS" [2020-09-29 Tue]
- State "INPROGRESS" from "HOLD"       [2020-09-28 Mon]
- State "HOLD"       from "INPROGRESS" [2020-09-24 Thu]
- State "INPROGRESS" from "TODO"       [2020-09-24 Thu]
- State "TODO"                         [2020-09-24 Thu] \\
  Task from @ColleagueName's report on the thread, and I proposed to do it from FE side
:END:

* Canceled
** CANCELLED <Outlier Task Name> :APP:hotfix:
CLOSED: [2020-09-22 Tue]
:LOGBOOK:
- State "CANCELLED"  from "INPROGRESS" [2020-09-22 Tue] \\
  @ColleagueName found a better way than mine. [[file:<date-format>.org][2020-09-22]]
- State "INPROGRESS" from "TODO"       [2020-09-18 Fri] \\
  @ColleagueName found this bug while testing [[id:<ID>][§Another TaskName]]
:END:

* Permit
- Sick leave on [[file:<date-format>.org][<Date>]].

I ditched the workflow for good about 3 months ago and now I use 2Do with Obsidian and Hook.

3 Likes

I’m curious why you changed systems?

Some reasons:

  • No good mobile companion app
    • the format/layout I’ve been using for the desktop Emacs is not compatible with Beorg.
    • AFAIK, Beorg has no log the time of status change feature. I need that

  • Cannot use Hook for deep-linking org headline. Can only hook the file <company>-tasks.org.

  • I don’t follow the Emacs vs Vim meme, but somehow opening Emacs to manage tasks feels weird.
    • I tried Org-mode plugin for NeoVim, but the features leave something to be desired.
    • Opening 2Do or Obsidian for occasional task management or note taking doesn’t feel weird
      • For context: when I am working, the active applications in macOS app switcher most of the time only a web browser and a terminal (and finder, of course)

  • I tend to dig deep into configurations, neglecting my tasks. I’ve been digging too deep with NeoVim's. I want to avoid digging too deep into Doom Emacs’ configurations.
    • or at least until I am not too busy
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If you only use desktop Emacs, I think Org-mode is a very good system with lots of jaw-dropping features (or “plug-ins”).

I am interested in your method, and maybe anyone else’s experience with Org-mode

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Are you still using Obsidian?

Looks like this was added about a year ago. The beorg time stamps were how I found out that org-mode could do time stamps.

Yes, I still have lots of notes in Obsidian. I’m thinking through my process though. I find when making notes in Obsidian (or other backlink-centric apps), that the linking becomes the focus, rather than the thinking. That is, my thinking becomes fragmented by interruptions to curate links. This may be one reason making notes in DEVONthink seems to have lower friction. (The notes in DT are stored in the folder that is an Obsidian vault, so they are essentially in both places.)
Obsidian’s graph view isn’t so useful anymore either. It seems like chrome. (Chrome won’t get you home, as bikers say.)

All that said, it could be my process, rather than the tools.

I dunno. Trying to focus more on progressing, rather than doing. As @Kourosh said:

More than one [Roam or DEVONthink] having a feature the other does not, it is the actions and paths they inspire in the sum of their parts over time that truly affect one’s workflow.

I don’t know if org-mode will become my knowledge manager at some point. Right now it’s for planning and tasks and occasional thoughts and project- and task-related notes.

Related:

2 Likes

Very interesting, indeed. I‘ve thought about using org several times but refrained from doing so because it looks like a deep, deep rabbit hole… in other words a massive time sink. However, how do org and Obsidian compare? Are they comparable at all in your opinion? I‘m just wondering if one potentially could achieve the same goals with either one or if they are designed for different use cases.

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Thanks for the info. I am planning to rethink my task management system after my current project. It’s my kind of ‘taking-a-rest’ anyway

In my opinion, all essential Obsidian features that I use can also be done on Org-mode with Org-roam.
By default Org-roam use [[file:./file-title.org][File Title]] for wikilink. IIRC, you can configure it to the generally used wikilink format [[wiki link]], so DEVONthink can recognize the link.

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I’m using emacs (spacemacs) and org mode, but not for task management (I’m fully analog with a Hobonichi Techo Cousin Avec for it).

I’m using org files as “knowledge” files, where I collect bits of information on a certain topic: tech (where I store how to do things in emacs, for instance), photography, books and so on.

Everything is stored in an iCloud Drive folder (which is also a nb folder/notebook, because it’s the new plain text toy I’m playing with), alongside with smaller text files (drafts and so on).

I also use .org files to keep a log on active work projects.

Emacs is used as a plain text editor and sometimes I tinker with some new (for me) function.

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I just remember one of the main problem of Emacs with Org-mode for me. It lacks native notifications if I set a reminder to do something.

Beorg can handle notification for reminders, but previously I thought Emacs couldn’t. Then I remembered “Emacs can do anything, you just need to write some lines of lisp”. I search internet and found this:

I don’t know whether I have the time to try the implementation or not, but thought some of you will be glad knowing about this.

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Me either, and it would be a killer feature IMO.

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