Staying on task
I've been slightly obsessed with Obsidian lately. I used it off and on for a while and, like many tools, it didn't immediately stick. I had a bad habit of just taking random notes in Visual Studio Code in whatever project I had open invariably leading me to say to myself "where is that note I took" and then trying to recall which "Untitled" note held the information I'd been looking for.
Not very organized.
I tried Mem for a heartbeat. Thought that would be the one, too. Before that I used Roam. However, thanks to an active internal Slack channel dedicated to Obsidian, I opened it again about 5 months ago and over a weekend and began transforming how I'd find myself working today.
Originally I found myself overwhelmed by Obsidian.
- How should I organize things?
- What's the best way to tag something?
- What plugins should I use (see below)?
- What's the effort to learn how to use a plugin?
- Should I have separate files or maintain one big file with separate entries (by date)?
- What's the best theme (for me)?
On and on.
My apprehension grew out of not understanding so naturally I began researching how others organize. I'd decided to center things around a Daily Note for several reasons. First, everything I do, for work, is centered around what needs to get done today. It makes sense, for me, to put things in a single location however link the notes that I've created during that day. Second, I can use this single note to track my overall health and feelings.
In the Daily Note, I provide myself with:
- necessary information for the day
- a few questions to answer
- general feelings/health
- what's on my mind
- what I'm grateful for
- a few initial tasks to help stay on top of "all the things"
- start of the day
- check email/team/schedule
- end of the day
- check email/schedule
- clean the Daily Note
- some things do not get used
- summary, if needed
- something that happened during that day in particular that may need to be surfaced
- start of the day
I find that by sticking to the tasks and answering the questions every day, I have a better attitude and mental model for starting my day. I give myself 15-20 minutes to complete these simple tasks and when done I feel great about starting my day knowing what it is I have accomplished from the day before (recap!) as well as what other tasks I have in front of me.
I know who is OOO, I know who has emailed and what, if any, communication I need to do and when. My inbox is clear starting the day (and ending the day) and I don't feel overwhelmed by it. I never miss an email now.
Five months ago, I had a very simple Daily Note. Over time it has grown to, again, provide me with what I need to be efficient throughout the day.
Knowing is half the battle
Knowing that I have two checkins and an interview as well as two client meetings on a particular day I don't feel overwhelmed. Because I have the space dedicated to capture everything right in front of me.
My Daily Note has space dedicated to each of the above "actions" so that when the time comes for that client meeting, I can quickly generate a new note from a template for that particular client. The same goes for a checkin with a colleague, or an internal meeting, or even an interview.
And all of this is captured in the Daily Note. While the notes are created, each dedicated space lists the "action" that was taken. I see that I had two client meetings and two checkins (with a link to the note) and can hover over to see the note at a glance (and even scroll through in the modal window.)
Thank you, Dataview!
The Tasks plugin is essential for me. It captures anything I need to do with or without a due date as well as a recurring task.
I have a dedicated file for all my tasks organized by urgency:
- active project(s)
- due today
- due this week
- past due
- no due date
I also have the more urgent tasks (past due, due today) in the Daily Note for visibility when I start the day (need to know what's pressing!) but moreover now that we have tabs (yay!) I just have the Tasks note open all day to refer to.
Seeing as each Daily Note is a single file the directory that contains these notes started to feel unorganized. Luckily, reorganizing around YYYY/MM was easily accomplished with the Periodic Notes plugin.
I also switched from "YYYY-MM-DD" for the title to add the day of the week: "YYYY-MM-DD d" which results in "2022-09-24 Sat". This also gives more context when perusing the directory or when you know you had that meeting last Wednesday and you want to quickly find it.
I have several that I use, each dedicated to a specific purpose. By using Templater, one can create a template file, create a keyboard shortcut which asks a few relevant questions and then -- boom -- creates the file in the correct location filled out with whatever you've provided for the template.
For example, when creating a client meeting, it asks which client based on the directory structure where I keep client information. Another example is for a checkin with a colleague where the workflow asks for the name of the colleague based on where I keep information for my direct reports.
Over time, I've come to use the frontmatter very heavily. I can then make queries from DataView blocks to display what I need (or don't need!)
Often a note will start off completely blank with the exception of frontmatter. Eventually, though, they will start to have content as information about the particular note becomes available however sometimes just having the note is enough so that it can be linked.
- Advanced Tables
- Advanced URI
- Metadata Extractor
- Natural Language Dates
- Periodic Notes
There's a lot more with Obsidian that I could go into and as with a lot of things we do, my workflow in a constant state of flux. We want to be more efficient and when there are seemingly 1000 things to do in a given day/week, having the information available and keeping track of the information becomes more important.
Obsidian has become the task management tool that I've always wanted, the data stays with me, and the software is malleable enough for me to setup workflows that work for me. The community is wonderful and smart.
And one thing I noticed this past week was that I probably I spent more time with Obsidian than Visual Studio Code.