- “We don’t remember anything anymore.”
- “We’re increasingly outsourcing our personal memory banks to Google and other search engines, effectively wiping our own brains of easily accessible information.” a.k.a. the Google effect
- “We waste time preserving optionality.”
- “We’re refusing to finalize our plans until critical moments. The ability to make reservations, check opening hours, look up driving directions, and review ratings on our mobile devices means that we’re increasingly iterating our schedules and keeping our options open until the very last moment before that meeting, lunch, or coffee catchup is set to begin.”
- “We get stuck in the infinite notification loop.”
- “As we endlessly loop between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other app notifications, our attention fragments, and it becomes difficult to focus on larger, more important tasks.”
Till this month, I was obsessed with syncing everything across my desktop and mobile. The problem was that I became obsessed with the mobile phone unnecessarily and once you’re using the phone, Point no. 3 kicks in – the infinite notification loop swallows a lot of time and attention.
Once I shifted my system to laptop-only, I don’t have all my tasks and calendar at hand, I’m forced to remember things (see point 1 above), and strangely, I’m more likely to remember things to pick up from the grocery store now than I was likely to remember to check my mobile phone app for things to buy when I was near a grocery store!
The most important thing is that notes and todos are in the same place, for example, if I’m on a call, I can take notes and then I can keep referring back to those notes while creating todos and working on tasks. The tasks come out of notes, they’re not separate! It really helps to have one system that can handle and encourage the normal flow instead of being forced to use separate notes and tasks apps.
Today, I’m all OrgMode. Again.
Here’s my transformation:
- Tasks were moved from Things.app to a file called
- Notes were moved from Evernote to a
reference.orgfile for “I may need someday” kinda info and
background.orgfor things that “I want to keep in mind”.
- I still use Evernote as an inbox (i.e. as a temporary space) to jot down stuff when I’m not near my laptop.
- Calendar events were moved from Calendar app to a
- Habits were moved from Daily Deeds iPhone app to a
reminders.orgfile with the habits org module enabled
- Files were moved from Dropbox to a
- Diary entries (although rare) were moved from Evernote to a
journal.orgfile with file+datetree configuration
- Pomodoros and time tracking have moved from Focus Time iPhone app to simple clocking commands:
C-c C-x eto set a time estimate,
C-c C-x C-iclocks in for the current task, and
C-c C-x C-oclocks out of the current task and it’ll show me how much time I spent on a task and it’ll even aggregate subtasks and show how much total time I took on a higher-order project/task. And all this in plain text!
- Blog drafts have moved from WordPress to a
blog_draftsfolder full of
.orgfiles, including this post.
- Archiving (
C-c C-x C-a) is one of the greatest OrgMode features, where it’ll take the current task and save it in an archive file for long-term storage, this is great when you want to just file a completed project’s notes and tasks and move it out of your current files.
- Backups : Instead of Dropbox or any auto syncing system, I use a combination of Git, a local folder and an external hard disk.
filesfolder is not added to the Git repository (by adding it to the
.gitignorefile) because the list of files are potentially huge and I want my git history and diffs to be only about the
.orgfiles. Maybe someday, I’ll use git-annex for those files.
- I have an alias in my bash profile, so a few times a day, I type
gcbin my terminal and all the
.orgfiles get checkpointed.
alias gcb='git add . && git commit -m "$(date +"%a, %d %b %Y")"'
- Once in a few weeks, I zip the entire folder including the
filessubfolder and store it in an external hard disk. I have an alias for that as well.
alias b#="cd && zip -rq org.$(date +%Y%m%d.%H%M).zip pimfolder && ls -lh *.zip"
- Maybe once a year, I can push the org files to a private repository on BitBucket, and zip the
filesfolder and put it in a private Amazon S3 bucket. Or something like that.
Notice how many apps have been merged and subsumed by OrgMode!
Best of all, I’m no longer constantly looking up my mobile phone. When I’m away from my laptop, I’m free to focus on the situation at hand.
Everyday morning, a simple agenda command
C-c a a gets me started, all my info is in one place, no more looking at separate apps! Getting started with the day is simple and fun again.
1 If you are an Emacs user in Pune, you can learn about OrgMode from @vedang on Jan 18, 2013 at the Pune Emacs Users Group meetup.