Emacs

Org-mode at Work

If I haven’t made this clear yet, my job doesn’t let me sit down in
front of a computer for long periods of time. Even if I do, there are
constant interruptions that make long streaks of productivity rare.

Outside of the office, my mind is often wondering in different
directions. I think I have ADD. I’ve been thinking of having myself
tested several times. I can’t sit still in one place for more than 10
minutes unless I’m highly engaged in something. If I force it, the
mental exhaustion is powerful enough to knock me asleep where I
sit. The hyper focus is there too: I can work on Emacs hours at a
time, learning how to debug, then actually debug, then write about it in my
Wiki. There are other signs too: I forget or confuse dates and days
often. All are perfect reason to continue and working on my Org life.

The classic Org-mode scenario of working with one computer, one init file,
and a few org files just doesn’t cut it in my case. As a matter of
fact, the “gateway drug” that led me to Org and Emacs was Orgzly, an
Org-mode app I got for my phone. At the time, Orgzly seemed like a decent
bullet-point / task list app and nothing more.

Now, things are more complex. I have 3 main org files spread over 4
different devices: WorkMac (main work computer), DerHedwig (my home
desktop), Pigwidgeon (my pixel 2), and a nameless (for now) MacBook
Air in case I need to work for long periods away from WorkMac at work.

Sync is crucial. But so is the security of our files at work and my
own privacy. Dropbox, for example, is out of the question. Without
it, I can’t use my work iPhone for org stuff. I never liked it anyway.

Fortunately, there’s Syncthing and TRAMP. I use both. When I’m at work
and need to check my personal projects, I SSH back home with TRAMP. I
do this because I don’t want my personal stuff synced to WorkMac. Both
WorkMac and DerHedwig are connected to Pigwidgeon. Syncthing is
lightning-fast for the small, simple org files, as long as I take care of
it. I can save a file on WorkMac and grab my phone in the other room
for the details I just entered, and they’re there. Still, there’s a
lot of complexity with Syncthing that can cause a mess (partially my
fault due to VPN usage and forgetting Emacs open with my files at
home). I’m still monitoring Syncthing and its shenanigans closely.

My setup is as follows:

I have an org file called OhSnap (tradition dating back to the days of
Evernote), which is what it sounds like. Throughout my day, I dump any
thoughts I have in this little org file, easily accessible through
Orgzly. I have a widget on Pigwidgeon’s home screen that takes me
directly to to this file. I often use my phone’s dictation ability to
record what I have to say. Dictating notes on the phone alone is worth
the hassle: because of Syncthing, any thoughts can get captured as
fast as I can say them.

Then on my computers, WorkMac or DerHedwig, I open OhSnap up and
refile what needs to be refiled. I use Capture on both of these
computers, but I find that the feature is nearly useless to me at this point, since I capture almost everything on the phone where I can’t use a complicated template anyway. If I need to take a picture, which is often enough (for a picture of an error message or a note) there’s another go around.

For work, I use Office Lens  on my phone: Microsoft’s OneDrive is the only cloud service that is approved by my workplace. For personal usage, I use
Google Photos, which is somewhat more convenient. In both cases, I
create a link and share it to a note I create in OhSnap. I gave up on
attachments a while back, realizing that by the time I download and
attach an image, I might as well just quickly link to it online,
where it’s easier to share in case I need to anway. If I ever lose an
image, the file names are all basically timestamps which I can match
up with the entries I take with Orgzly, which records the time I enter
a note. This is a simple, yet pretty affective system.

OhSnap items get sorted to both my personal and work org files. On the
personal file, which is more organized, I have the following headers: quick
tasks, projects, should do, routines, and life of others. Most are
pretty self explanatory. Life of others is a place to keep events
happening in the life of, well, others, that I want to see on my
agenda. For work, which is still work in progress, I have “tickets”
header for the tickets I need to resolve, and projects. I am still
figuring out the difference since with work, almost every ticket can
quickly become a project anyway. The sheer load of the tickets make
it impossible to schedule anything because I will get overwhlemed
within an hour. As a matter of fact, I gave up on trying to capture
everything in Org, and instead decided I’m capturing only what I’m
actively working on. I can have 5 new urgent emails, 30 tickets to look at, and constant walk-ins – but only a fraction of those get into Org. These are the ones I’m really taking care of at the moment. This is a somewhat new experience, and so far, I like it.

Another key trivial feature I recently came up with is to use the same
keywords for my three main org files. This is mostly so Orgzly can
“understand” them no matter which org file I open. These keywords are
Todo, Active, Waiting, Done, and Cancelled. On my personal org file,
only Quick Tasks or broken down tasks in projects (third level
headings) get keywords. If I want to work on something from Should Do,
I refile it to Quick Tasks or Projects. If something from the life of
others requires my attention and I get involved, again, it gets
refiled as a project or a task. My routines get keywords (OK I lied)
only if they are habits. Routines are never big projects.

I try to sort through my OhSnap file at least twice a day, in the
morning and after work. I’m still working out on keeping things
simple, which is not always easy. Sometimes I forget I already opened
an item in projects, and capture it again in OhSnap, for
example. Lately, I started using categories with my personal log,
which helps when I view my agenda. This opens a new world of
organization when it comes to kind of activities I want to do, and
filter through them (for example, I have a family category to see when
it’s time to text my sister, or when my mother is planning to come
over, etc.) I just recently learned to filter my agenda and search for
these categories specifically. At work, for example, this allows me to
quickly hide personal categories while I’m still connected to my
personal files (which is crucial because of OhSnap).

My biggest challange at this point is to figure out a workflow at work
that would enabaled me to keep my head above the water and remain
oranized. This is hardly only an Org-mode task though.

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