Weekly Whaaa…?

Week of Sidequests

In many ways, this week has felt like a bundle of sidequests, with little obvious at the end. But hey, some weeks are like that. I ended up spending a lot of time doing spring cleaning of my task notes.

FOSS and Crafts Podcasts

For the first time in weeks—possibly months?—I found the urge to listen to podcasts. I used to listen to lots of podcasts while commuting, but now I mostly do so only while doing chores or riding my stationary bike. I skimmed through the episodes I’d noted as ones I wanted to hear, and quickly chose to listen to an episode of FOSS and Crafts… and I’m very glad I did!

Episode 23: “Get Organized!” really spoke to me in terms of recounting the many ways that neurotypical planning practices utterly fail ADHD minds. I also appreciate the reminder about using a HipsterPDA1, as well as the enthusiasm about Org-mode in Emacs.

This led to me listening to Episode 41: “Learning Emacs” just a day or two later. I’m very happy using VS Code, as my VS Code notes should make clear. However, I’ve often hear Org-mode spoken of as the ultimate final form of outlining and task management in plain text files—a sentiment decidedly reinforced by this episode!

So I ended up spending a few hours on Saturday afternoon thinking through the irritations I find with my current note setup—the main one being that I don’t have the fully automagical agenda I’ve heard Org-mode can offer. But after doing more digging, and considering how much yak shaving might go into fully switching from Dendron, I’m instead just going to try to lean harder into practicing the task management strategies I have, and see if they’ll suffice when done more consistently.

A Question of Tasks

I’m not going to take the time right now to fully write up my current task-wrangling practices in another note. But in brief, I’m using Todo Tree and Dendron’s Task Notes with a particular hierarchy.

The main “innovation” here is that I’ve made placeholder task-viewing notes with wildcards in the paths. When I use Dendron’s preview on one of these, I can see all notes whose path matches specific patterns. I’m using tp as a hierarchy for any open tasks in a project, and ta for task archive in a project.

Provided I’m following those patterns in making notes, this means I can have a note whose body text consists entirely of !<span title='There is no note that matches this link.' class='invalid-link'> <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>[[</span> diss.**.tp.** <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>]]</span></span>. Then, when I use Dendron’s preview on this, I’ll see links to any notes in my dissertation (“diss”) set of notes that have a parent note named tp.

I can do the same for other hierarchies of notes, too: a !<span title='There is no note that matches this link.' class='invalid-link'> <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>[[</span> work.**.tp.** <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>]]</span></span> and !<span title='There is no note that matches this link.' class='invalid-link'> <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>[[</span> home.**.tp.** <span class='invalid-link-brackets'>]]</span></span> file would let me see matching notes for those domains.

So I’m currently using that set up to track and differentiate tasks, to keep from being overwhelmed. The main question still is how to tag things for urgency and findability, without being dispirited by how many things I also could be doing. This trap of overwhelming Future Me is what has driven me away from my past approaches, like OmniFocus, Tasks, Taskpaper, etc.

Here’s hoping that by using Todo Tree’s tags for just my most important and rewarding tasks, then tracking the rest with those wildcard-viewing notes, I’ll get the balance right.2 I’ll be sure to write more extensive notes on the process, if this experiment pans out well.

  1. It’s just a bunch of notecards held together with a binderclip. That’s it, that’s the thing. 

  2. I guess I could have woven only a single Depeche Mode allusion in here, but I just can’t get enough.