Sharing more of my discretionary time

Posted: - Modified: | writing

Depending on what time A- finally goes to bed, I might have around 1-2 hours of discretionary time that I can use to focus on a small task and complete it. If I pick something that's too big, I get tempted to stay up late, which often makes me grumpy the next day. So a good approach might be to have a number of reasonably small tasks that give me as quick a payoff as possible, especially if those tasks can result in compounding improvements.

Now that I can post Org Mode headings to my journal from Emacs, it's easier to log finished tasks as journal entries that will get picked up during my weekly and monthly review. The next step might be to figure out how to flesh out those lines into more useful posts. That way, I can find things again by searching my blog. Also, if other people can pick up ideas from my posts, I might be able to benefit from their improvements.

There's a lot of room for growth in terms of my workflow for doing stuff, learning stuff, and sharing stuff. Here's what a possible learning path might be like:


  • Planning: I've just started excavating the Org files that I've been tossing ideas into over the last 5+ years of limited discretionary time. Now things are mostly refiled, and I've got quite a few projects on my priority list. I might spend a bit of non-computer time mulling over 1-3 possibilities throughout the day, and then work on the most interesting one after processing my inbox. I find that in the course of a week, I tend to focus on one or two projects in order to take advantage of momentum. It's also good to set aside planning/improvement/review time instead of getting tempted to prioritize coding all the time, as fun as it is to write stuff.

    I don't have to optimize this. Most tasks are good to work on and move me forward, so I don't have to spend a lot of time trying to analyze the best effort/reward ratio. I can usually just go with whatever I feel like working on.

  • Coding: I usually work with Emacs Lisp or Javascript, with a little bit of Python. I have some technical debt in Ruby that I don't have the brainspace to dig into at the moment. It may have to wait until A- goes to in-person school. For Emacs Lisp, my next workflow improvement might be to get the hang of Lispy. For my personal projects, infrastructure is the main thing tripping me up. I need to spend some time setting up a proper development environment and learning more about workflows so that I can reduce risk when I'm working on stop-and-go things.
  • Writing: Dictation is out for now, since I don't feel much like talking at night. It's nice to be quiet after a whole day of talking with a kiddo. When I get the Georgi keyboard I ordered, stenography might be an interesting long-term skill investment. The bottleneck is probably still my thinking speed, though. That means I could probably:
    • embrace lists and outlines as a way of getting fragmented thoughts down (possibly over several sessions) and then shuffling them around into some form of coherence (yay Org Mode)
    • lower my threshold for posting; it's better to think out loud
  • Screenshots: I recently tweaked my shortcuts for inserting screenshots. Now I just need to make them part of muscle memory.
  • Drawings: I can sketch things out on my Lenovo X220 tablet PC, although flipping the screen is a little annoying. One option might be to leave my screen rotated and then use a Bluetooth keyboard to type and use shortcuts. The keyboard isn't as comfortable to type on as my laptop is, though. Hmm… org-krita doesn't quite fit my workflow, so I need to write my own. I want to be able to quickly sketch something. If I like it, I want to convert it, rename it with a caption, and add it to my sketches.

(defun my/org-insert-drawing-as-link ()
  (let ((file (make-temp-file "/tmp/image" nil ".psd")))
    (copy-file my/index-card-template-file file t)
    (insert (org-link-make-string (format "file:%s" file)))
    (my/open-images-in-krita (list file))))

(defun my/preview-in-other-buffer (file)
  (with-current-buffer (find-file-noselect file)
    (display-buffer (current-buffer))))

(defun my/org-convert-sketch-at-point (&optional two-col)
  (interactive "p")
  (let* ((link (org-element-context))
         (file (org-element-property :path link))
         (intermediate (concat (file-name-sans-extension file) ".png"))
         new-file new-link)
    (unless (eq (org-element-type link) 'link)
      (error "Not at a link"))
    ;; (call-process "krita" nil nil nil file "--export" "--export-filename" intermediate)
    (call-process "convert" nil nil nil (concat file "[0]") intermediate)
    (my/preview-in-other-buffer intermediate)
     date (org-read-date)
     caption (read-string "Caption: ")
     new-file (expand-file-name (format "%s %s.png" date caption) my/sketches-directory)
     new-link (concat "#+CAPTION: " date " " caption "\n"
                      (org-link-make-string (concat "sketch:" (file-name-base new-file)))))
    (rename-file intermediate new-file t)
    (delete-region (org-element-property :begin link)
                   (org-element-property :end link))
    (if two-col
        (progn (insert
                (format  "#+begin_columns
               (save-excursion (insert "
      (insert new-link "\n"))))

(defun my/reload-sketches ()
  (url-retrieve "" (lambda (&rest args) (message "Updated sketches."))))

What are drawings useful for? Nonlinear thinking, sharing, flipping through, building up, visual shorthand, fun. Text is nicer for searching, linking, and dealing with stop-and-go thoughts.

W-‘s offered to let me use his iPad. Concepts and Procreate are both pretty cool, and I have a reasonable workflow for sending files back to my computer and getting them into my Org file. My X220 is still the fastest for quickly switching between text and drawing. I guess either will do.

Also, graphviz is pretty handy for quick diagrams, and it will probably be even more useful as I dig into it and other text-based diagram tools. The diagram at the beginning of this post was generated with:

#+begin_src dot :file "sharing-path.png" :cmdline -Kdot -Tpng -Nfontname=sachacHand -Nfontsize=30
digraph {
  node [shape=box];
  "Planning" -> "Coding" -> "Writing" -> "Screenshots" -> "Drawings" -> "GIFs?" -> "Video" -> "Streaming";
  "Planning" -> "Reading" -> "Writing";
  "Planning" -> "Writing";

Animated GIFs, videos, and streaming may have to wait until I have more brainspace. Plenty to tweak even now!

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