Taking OrgMode to the next level

This is another article about OrgMode and its again in English for the audience of the LinkedIn GTD group. Yes, I confess it. I was a bit envious on  those people that have their ToDo-Lists on paper just for the fact that they have something they can check off and get the satisfaction to see what they have achieved. OrgMode is a nice ToDo-List manager, but once you have marked a task as „DONE“ it will sooner or later get moved to the archive file. And your actual list just contains a lot of TODO entries. So I was desperately thinking about improving this in a way that I can also „check off things“ from an easy list. And then I had an idea.

Orgmode can link things. Not just the usual hyperlink to an URL, but you can also link entries to Items in your files. Remember the part about MobileOrg? When we found out, that all ToDos magically get an unique ID property when we stage them for MobileOrg. Well, that is the key to a feature I started about a month ago and that I don’t want to miss anymore.

I made a file with a date tree structure that has checklists for every day. And I have put the 3 to 5 most important task of that day on the list, just to have a reminder that those are the things I really want to focus on and work on. The one liner in the task can be just a few words for small things that need to be done. Or, I set a link to the ID of any of my tasks in the other files. Then I see a hyperlink in my checklist and if I follow this link I end up in the corresponding file where the whole task description and the logbook is. And the most impressing thing is, that those links still link to the task even if it moves to the archive files. So, if I review my list a year from now, I still can jump to the details. Sounds strange. Lets have a small look at how this looks like in real life:

screenshot-planClick on the screenshot for full size. This is my actual daily plan (weekday names in German)  and I opened the entries for 2014-09-09 just by positioning on the line and pressing the TAB key. You see 3 actions, all checked off and 2 of them link to tasks in other files. Those were the three most important things to do on this day and yes, I was able to do it. The green „[3/3]“ shows that I checked of 3 out of 3 items for this day. Other days were not so successful, there are a few days where things went not as planned. In this case I don’t check the task off, but I write a comment to it what went wrong so that I couldn’t stick to my plan. Most of the days are „green“, so I was able to do what I have planned, some are red and I can review what happened on those days. And of course evey level of this date tree structure can be collapsed, so that you just see the actual month and so on. You also see that for tomorrow, October 1st I have 4 very important items scheduled already.

This is just the „day-to-day“ list. Its nice because so you can easily review what important things you have worked on a selected day. But of course you can make a similar list that links to task you need to do when you want to achieve your personal goals.

Now, after one month of doing this method it really became a habit. Check the big files and schedule for the next day (or even for a few days in advance if you already know what is important in 3 days you can write it down for this day). And then on this day first focus on your plan. Do the things that are on the list because when you planned them you gave them enough importantce to get on this list. When one item is done (or when you deicde, that you worked enough on that special thing for today) you can easily check it off by putting the cursor on that line and hitting „Ctrl-C“ twice. That will toggle the „X“ inside the brackets.

And, as a special gift, you can even use that file for implementing the pomodoro technique. OrgMode offers a countdown timer, so if I put the cursor on one line and then press „C-u 2 5 C-c-C-x ;“  (Control-u the number 25 and Ctrl-c Ctrl-x and the semicolon) a countdown for 25 minutes will start in the emacs status bar. If this countdown is finished you will get a notification, my XFCE desktop will show this in the lower right corner of the screen. Of course you can set any countdown time you want, not just 25 minutes.