Organizing Your Life

It just so happens that the middle of the night is the perfect time for thoughts and inspiration to storm my mind. Naturally, I have to post.

So, what I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks/months is devising or finding out my own way of organizing the stuff that’s going on in my life. Recently I started my journey into The Expanse series of books, being up to date with the show since it started (yay for Amazon picking it up, nay for Amazon in general). But before this, I finished the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. I’m really not a personal development junkie, I kind of abhor this genre in general but this one was well written. It’s short enough to avoid becoming preachy, but long enough to make a point. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you work in exact sciences (Cal is a professor so he explains the life hacks that work for him, but they are easily adaptable to other lines of work). Basically the book introduces the term of deep work, which refers to the concentrated type of thinking, hard to get into, easy to become distracted but extremely rewarding if done right.

Without dragging on, I’ve combined knowledge from this book with knowledge from the Learning How to Learn course and I can say that I’m more productive than before.

Right now I’m learning about different ways to organize your life, more exactly about the Getting Things Done (gtd) way. People who know me are aware that my go-to software for development is emacs. I’ve begun my Linux journey with vim, but since I discovered that I can use the same keybindings inside emacs which is a more full-fledged editor, I’ve never looked back.

Apart from programming, emacs also comes with a package called org-mode, which, to quote Wikipedia, is a document editing, formatting, and organizing mode, designed for notes, planning, and authoring. Basically it’s a markup language based on hierarchy. It looks pretty in emacs as it benefits from syntax highlighting, but in the end it’s just plain text and org files can be viewed on any device.

Besides note taking, it also comes with an agenda in which you can schedule your tasks or provide them with deadlines, emacs makes sure to remind you when they are due. I haven’t quite caught the gist of it yet so I’m not using it extensively but I believe that learning it can prove rewarding.

So my workflow as of now is to jot down in an org file my current work tasks, what I’ve accomplished in them and what I still need to do, but also life tasks which I keep separately. I found out that it’s much easier for me to be organized like this, since I don’t have to constantly think about whether I’ve forgot to do something or how I’ve done a thing in the past. Now I have it all in my org archive.

I have everything under an ~/org folder which I automatically sync between devices with Dropbox (git-like version control can be used too, but I found Dropbox easier to use for this particular task).

I’m still getting the hang of it and I feel that I have much more to learn, but I believe this is proving really useful to me.

Some material that guided me into using emacs and org-mode:

Evil Mode: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Emacs - my starting point for emacs

Emacs Org-mode - a system for note-taking and project planning - an org-mode presentation right from its creator, Carsten Dominik

Enhancing your focus with OrgMode - a quick guide on using org-mode for organizing your life

Literate Devops with Emacs - a presentation on how org-mode and Tramp can be used to document and do your work tasks

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World - the book from Cal Newport

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects - a course which teaches you… how to learn, I’m glad I didn’t take this like 15 years from now as it is a gold mine

To sum up, emacs really is life. And for die-hard vim fans, you can start up a terminal session from inside emacs, in which you can fire up vim. Checkmate!