Rubber-ducking / asking for ideas re: an email/task workflow

I’m currently using Obsidian as my task/note manager. Most of my challenges with it aren’t related to the software at all. It tracks everything I’ve asked it to track; I just have an overwhelming amount of stuff.

One of the things that’s falling through the cracks though is follow-up on various things that come in via email and are delegated via email. In other words, I’m not in “task mode” - I’m in “replying to email mode”, and it doesn’t take much for these things to fall through the cracks if I get sidetracked.

The “end result” I’m going for is something in Obsidian where I can grab a “people” tag like “Jane Smith” combined with tag “Waiting For”, and it gives me a quick list of everything I’m still waiting for from Jane Smith.

I know I could transcribe summaries into Obsidian, but I frequently have to wind up re-sending emails, quoting previous messages, etc. So I’d ideally like to either have the original email linked up, or a copy/paste of the text.

When I used to use OmniFocus, I remember that Omni’s service included an email address to send to, and there were a collection of scripts from Joe Buhlig that would magically convert various incantations into task descriptions, due dates, etc.

It would be awesome if there were a way I could do something like that (schedule a follow-up for a configurable future date at send time, with message thread attached) without having to jump around and find message IDs, manually copy/paste, etc.

Thinking through this, I could probably theoretically automate this with Keyboard Maestro and a send-time interactive screen that prompted me for names, dates, etc.

Is there a better way?

This is one of the key reasons why I use Airmail. I have a one-mouseclick “send to Obsidian” automation that ships [the subject line of the email](link to email thread) to a task on my daily note.

It’d be easy to add certain tags to such a thing. Harder but doable would be retrieving the name and such. You could probably even do some date math to set up automatic follow-ups or reminders. Or, as you’ve suggested, you could just throw it all to an Ask For Input for quick confirmation and the like.

I’m sure you could do a lot of this with Mail or Mailmate and macro-automation instead of using Airmail’s Send To Workflow (yes, it is still called that, not Shortcuts).

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In Mailmate it looks like I can get the message URL of any given message, but I couldn’t get the URL of the message that I just sent without some serious finagling. I’d get the URL of the message I replied to.

I don’t really use conversation view, so that doesn’t help me nearly as much.

I have an email in to the MailMate people. :slight_smile:

I use a simple, partly automated approach to do the same thing with Noteplan – pretty sure it’s 100% transferable to Obsidian.

I use two keyboard shortcuts in KM; both take a line of text input and both work through NotePlan’s x-callback URLs (including some plugins):

The first adds a new task to an “unsorted” subheading in today’s daily note.

The second adds a new bulleted item to a “log” subheading in today’s daily note.

From there, I can schedule them, move them, sync them to a project note, add detail, link to other notes, tag them, etc. – all manually.

I know I could automate more of it – in fact, I have written many, gloriously complete automations to do all that kind of thing. Then they broke, or I didn’t remember the many keyboard shortcuts, or I didn’t use them because they were too slow (too many options to click or tab through) and I figured I’d get to it later…

For me, simply getting it down – follow up on Project X email to Bob by Oct. 5, replied to so and so at institution Y – is the most important part. I’ve trained myself (pretty well) to check the unsorted-tasks heading periodically, and to fill in missing details in log items by the end of the day (most days).

So it isn’t fully automated, but I actually use it.


Playing around with Obsidian, I can’t seem to figure out a way to put the task in the middle of an existing note. I can append, and I can create new - but “in the middle” is a challenge. @ryanjamurphy, are you just appending?

That said, I can always just make a whole new note with the task and surface it in a different way.

Interesting. In NP there’s a plug-in that will add beneath a specified header (among other options), and plugins can be run via the URL scheme. There’s got to be something similar for Obsidian

My usual design pattern for this is to:

  1. Read the text file
  2. Find the “middle” heading do you want to insert this into
  3. Split the text file around that heading
  4. Append the text you want to add to the first or the last split item above or below the target heading, depending on what you’re trying for
  5. Reattach the split text with the newly appointed piece onto it.

Implementing this depends on the automation tool, of course. @webwalrus I imagine you’re using keyboard maestro?

KM is what I have. No objection to using something else, of course. :slight_smile:

An even easier design pattern: search and replace a heading plus lines above or below it, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

A demo:

That macro is available here.