Unnumbered habits of a questionably effective person"

This is two part rant on planning with (and without) Emacs Org Mode, shoved together into one post in much the same way as Lennon-McCartney songs were shoved together from musical scraps they had laying around. My Frankenstein post will probably have less impact and reach than “A Day In The Life”, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

1 Rants on org mode, humanity and Bruce

1.1 Org mode and planning

These are reflections getting things done (not GTD). Or not getting things done. Or yak-shaving with Emacs and org-mode while pretending to get things done and really just enjoying the experience either way. Maybe that’s what org mode is all about anyhow.

Org mode is the best list making tool I’ve ever found. Org capture let’s you capture thoughts, links, TODO items on the fly in the middle of whatever else you’re doing and get back to them. You never miss anything.

1.2 But we’re human

But there are a couple problems. We’re human, not AI-driven lisp code knocking off all the TODO items, and we’re finite in terms of time, attention, focus, money, friends, skills, etc.

The result is that org mode enables me to grow infinite lists of TODOs. The human brain is good at focusing on maybe 3 things at a time. The path to despair (long undone lists) is obvious. Sometimes I just give up on org mode lists and do things.

1.3 Bruce

Long, Long, ago in a tech company far, far away (CompuServe, Columbus, Ohio) there were “how do we migrate off of DEC10 to compete with AOL wars”. I knew Bruce McNaughton. Bruce moved on from there to be VP of MSN at Microsoft for a while. Arguably a “Highly Successful Person” (who I’m pretty sure does not use org mode, but does have ligit geek creds). I asked him once how he plans and memories (vague) are that he did not make lists (at the time Franklin Planners and then Franklin Planner software were all the rage). That image stuck with me. Just talk to people and do stuff.

1.4 Concluding Rant

2 My work planning regime with org mode

That said, here’s more-or-less how I plan my days at work. Home/personal stuff is similar, but a little less structured.

2.1 Morning Planning

What’s in my head
capture TODOs form the top of my journal (diaty.org)
Look at “inputs”
look at calendar, email and slack in that order.
Look at existing porjects/plans
Look at weekly plans, tasks, etc

Juggle all these and figure out what I’m going to try to do that day

2.2 During the day

Capture new stuff and move on
Quickly capture new asks, TODOs (org-capture) and move.
Capture info
capture info (links to HOWTOs, etc in the same file)
Keep a calendar open
Keep a calendar window open so I don’t miss thigns
Turn off all notificatons
Turn off all email, slack, etc. notificatons and pop-iups so I can control my focus.
Check email, slack on my schedule
Check in somewhat frequently with slack, email so people can get ahold of me in a somewhat timely fashon. If it’s urgent, call or text. Voice calls seem to be a dying breed (“BR 549”, “Pensylvania 6-5000”)
Minimize yak shaving
I tend to yak-shave a lot. Like writing this post. Watch it.

2.3 Organizing Time

Do “thinking work early”
plan do do “thiking work” early in the day
Do “collaboration work mid-day”
do 1:1s, collaboration mid-day
Do “meetings late-day”
Push meetings, interrupts, etc late day

2.4 Where to store “TODOs”

one file
I increasly just store TODOs, info , etc to one file (diary.org) which is a diary-like file organized under Year/Month/Day/ENTRY items.
project files
I do have planning files for most projects with TODOs etc
I do use org-agenda to get a roll-up agenda view, but more and more I’m just going with the inverse-stack, what’s at the bottom of my diary.org and using mental prirotization.

3 Projects template

And because this post is getting too long already, I’ll make it longer.

Here is the org project template that I’ve developed over the last decade or so. I still use it, but I’m moving more and more to capturing everything in diary.org/the journal and maybe linking out to these project files.

A couple notes. “OODA” refers to the “OODA Loop”. At times, its a useful paradigm for thinking about action, think Snoopy and the Red Barron: Snoopy Observes the Red Barron, he Orients himself, he Decides to let the Red Barron live to fight another day, and the Acts by disengaging the dogfight.

“Cogita”, “Fac”, and “Dic” are Latin singular imperatives for “Think”, “Act”, “Speak”. Another paradigm for thinking about actions. Figure out what you’re doing, gather info, plan, then do stuff, then talk about it (blogs, reports, papers, meetings, sales…)

# #+options: ':nil *:t -:t ::t <:t H:3 \n:nil ^:nil arch:headline
# #+options: author:t broken-links:nil c:nil creator:nil
# #+options: d:(not "LOGBOOK") date:t e:t email:nil f:t inline:t num:2
# #+options: p:nil pri:nil prop:nil stat:t tags:t tasks:t tex:t
# #+options: timestamp:t title:t toc:t todo:t |:t
# #+title: PROJECT
# #+date: <2022-12-25 Sun 07:50:58>
# #+author: George Jones
# #+email: ME @ SOMEWHERE
# #+language: en
# #+select_tags: export
# #+exclude_tags: noexport
# #+creator: Emacs 28.0.50 (Org mode 9.3.7)

# This is a project to...(overview/intro)...

# ** PROJECT - Info                                                         :cogita:Ooda:
#    - Observe :: Gather Raw Information.
#    - Think (Cogita) :: Thoughts, Brainstorming, etc.
# *** Info about the project
# *** Links
#      - project directory :: file://~/home/private/FOO
#        + change this
#        + create directory
#        + keep project files here.
# *** HOWTOs
#     - Links of HOWTO articles relevant to the project
# ** PROJECT - Background
#    - Add any background info here (old files, plans, projects..)
# ** PROJECT - Planning                                                     :cogita:oODa:
#    - Think :: Think about observations and info gathered
#    - Orient :: "Figure out which way is up"
#    - Decide :: Decide what your doing, which way to go.
# *** Goals
# *** Plans
# ** PROJECT - Action Items                                                    :fac:oodA:
#    - Act/DO (Fac) :: Actions to take on info and plans
# ** PROJECT - Meetings and Reports                                                 :dic:
#    - "After action reports"
#    - Tell people what happened.
#    - Have meetings, write reports, etc. (as needed)

# ** PROJECT - Backlog