It's been twelve years since David Allen published Getting Things Done, with its geek-friendly flowcharts and processes for handling tasks in an interrupt-driven life. The way I manage my tasks is heavily influenced by GTD. I think in terms of next actions, waiting, and someday, and I have weekly reviews. I modified the TODO states a little to reflect what I need. It's time to think about those states again to see what I can tweak and what reports I could use.
I use Org Mode in Emacs to manage my tasks and my notes. I can customize it to give me different kinds of reports, such as showing me all of my unscheduled tasks, or all tasks with a specific category, or even projects that are "stuck" (no next actions defined). Thinking about my processes will help me figure out what reports I want and how I want to use them.
Here are different types of tasks and how I track them:
- Things I can work on right now (next actions):
- Things that I can work on after a different task is finished: currently
WAITING, but probably better to implement with org-depend
- Things I will revisit at a certain date, but I don't need to think about them until then:
TODO, scheduled (I used to use
- Things that would be nice to do someday, but maybe are incompletely specified or understood:
- Things I have decided not to work on:
- Things I have asked someone else to do:
- Things I can ask someone else to do:
- Things I am waiting for (usually not based on date) and that I need to follow up on:
- Things I can write about:
TOBLOG. These are pretty optional, so I don't want them in my TODO list…
- If something is a duplicate of something else - remove TODO keyword and add link?
I use the following code for an agenda view of unscheduled tasks:
(defun sacha/org-agenda-skip-scheduled ()
(org-agenda-skip-entry-if 'scheduled 'deadline 'regexp "\n]+>"))
'("u" "Unscheduled tasks" alltodo ""
(org-agenda-overriding-header "Unscheduled TODO entries: "))))
So the to-do process looks like this:
- Every week, review my evil plans and projects. Check my agenda without the routine tasks to see what new things I'm working on. Schedule a few tasks to encourage me to make regular progress.
- Every day, go through my Org agenda (
C-c a a) and do all the tasks that are scheduled.
- When I'm done or if I feel like working on something else:
- What do I feel like doing? If there's a specific activity that I feel like:
- Go to the relevant project/section of my TODO list, or check the TODOs by context (drawing, writing, etc.)
- Clock in on that task.
- If there's a specific task I feel like working on:
- Find the task, maybe with
C-u C-c C-w (
org-refile) and work on it.
- If there's a new idea I want to work on:
org-capture to create the task, file it in the appropriate project, and then clock in.
- If I have an idea for a task, use
org-capture to create the task and file it in the appropriate project.
How do I want to improve this?
- Maybe get more used to working with contexts? I have all these Org Agenda commands and I hardly ever use them. I tend to work with projects instead. Actually, working with projects makes sense too, because that minimizes the real context shift.
- Get better at reviewing existing tasks. I started tracking the number of tasks in each state (DONE, TODO, etc.), which nudged me to review the tasks and cross old tasks off. If I streamline my process for capturing tasks, filing them, and reviewing them by project/context/effort, then I can get better at choosing good tasks to work on from my existing TODO list.
- Estimate effort for more tasks, and use that more often I have some reports that can filter or sort by estimated effort. I don't use effort that much, though. Does it makes sense to get into the habit of choosing tasks by estimated time as an alternative approach? I usually have fairly large, flexible blocks of time…
- Tag things by level of energy required? I want to take advantage of high-energy times. So, when I feel alert and creative, I want to focus on coding and writing. I can save things like paperwork for low-energy times. I can tag some tasks as :lowenergy: and then filter my reports.