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Org-mode and GTD

gayanhewa profile image Gayan Hewa Originally published at Medium on ・4 min read

I first came across Org-mode when I initially started giving a go at emacs. I didn’t really get it at that time. This was over 6 months ago. And I couldn’t understand the hype around it in the community. And on top of that switching to emacs had some bottlenecks because I couldn’t exactly configure it properly to work with PHP for some reason. Although the experience was fine for other languages I worked with like Go and Python.

Recently when I came across GTD (Getting Things Done) it struck me. Why is this even a thing? When I looked into it more, there I came across some really good resources on the internet including the Talks and interviews by Dave Allen. Being that lazy person I went and watched this video which summarises Dave’s book into a few minutes.

By now I had my self hooked on to this, and I wanted to know more, so I went on youtube and searched. I came across this video.

Basically, it explained how I can use GTD with emacs. The attractive bit I found was everything in Org-mode was text files. So its not fancy tools, apps its just plain bullet lists. I use Dropbox to sync them. Purely because I just need to view them from time to time from my mobile.

After, all this I started creating the flow that would work for me. I borrowed from here and there. Especially from Rainer König ( He has an excellent series free on youtube for Org-mode)

My workflow looks like this for now ( it’s evolving ):

  1. daily-plan.org
  2. inbox.org
  3. work.org
  4. home.org
  5. private.org
  6. projects.org
  7. journal.org
  8. gcal.org
  9. gcal-work.org

The daily-plan basically. Has references to existing TODO’s and I use Rainer’s capture template.

I also use Rainer’s code snippet that allows me to copy over links from other org files. The daily plan ideally gets created every day and has the tasks that I plan to do for the day.

Then comes inbox.org this is more or less like a dumping ground for anything that comes my way. Basically, if anything comes up during the day or if I suddenly remember something I would basically shove it in here. I have a quick capture template that does this with a hotkey combination.

I would review the inbox on a daily basis. Ideally, the first thing when I make the daily plan and, also sometime before the day end. During this time I would refile the items to appropriate org files then add any schedules/deadlines and notes needed. I also have two sections of Someday and Goals. I just keep them here for now, because most of them aren’t actioned on a daily basis. And I am still figuring out the best place for them.

work.org and home.org as the name depict it’s basically where I have the everything that is happening around either work or at home. From work projects, meetings notes, shopping lists, and planning vacations for the family. The items in this list would have the status NEXT when they are ready to be picked up. This would basically allow me to have a list of NEXT tasks that are not in priority. The priority is given when I make the daily plan. This is purely a list of things I can act on.

private.org is where I have personal tasks and notes. Anything from things I have to do to improve on my self, like a course I have to take or maybe time I allocate to do code kata and which code kata to choose, etc I also have a section for a Dump in this file. Just because I can sometimes have these random thoughts about what I need to do to improve my self or my life situation in a few months time.

As you can see, there is a section for Someday, and this is because experimenting if I should move Someday and Goals over here.

The next file is the project.org, this is where I have all my side projects and personal software projects. It’s basically my personal trello board.

journal.org serves as a diary for daily notes. This just captures everything. From rants to self notes etc I use a quick capture template with date and timestamps

The next two files gcal.org and gcal-work.org are files that sync my personal and work calendars to Orgmode. I use this because when I goto my agenda view ( C-c a ) I can easily see any meetings/events that are coming up that was directly added to the Google Cal. For this, I use a 3rd party fork from GitHub for org-gcal.

So, in summary, this is the current setup I have. This isn’t necessarily permanent because I am still looking for better ways to improve. For instance, now I am looking into Drawers.

Good resources if you are starting out with Org-mode:

  1. Orgmode series by Rainer
  2. https://emacscast.org
  3. https://sachachua.com/blog is a goto for anything emacs.
  4. Rainer König Blog

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