Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

What I Use to Organize Myself, 2017 Edition

A pen, a calendar, and a todo list

A major theme in my life in 2017 is simplify. That means eliminating as much of the physical and digital cruft from my life as I can. That, in turn, means getting rid of possessions that are taking up space. It also means dropping apps and software and services that I don’t use much or don’t use to their full potential.

It’s been an interesting exercise that I’ve been carrying out bit by bit, as time and energy allow. Luckily, it’s turned out that I’m not attached to much of what I’m dumping. That’s made the process easier than I expected.

The process started in January, 2017. I kicked off the cleanup by changing the tools I use to organize myself. In makeing that change, my goals were to:

  • Switch to simpler, text-based tools
  • Use as much open source software as possible
  • Take my information into my own hands

The tools I’ve been using to organize myself these last few months are:

The Emacs text editor, with org-mode. I use this combo for I use Emacs and org-mode for planning and outlining my blog posts and articles. It syncs with an app on my phone called Orgzly.

Todo.txt. As you’ve probably guessed, this for managing my task lists. I use it on my phone with the Todo.txt app and in the Chromium web browser on my Chromebook with a handy extension.

Nextcloud calendar. Nextcloud is an open source alternative to Dropbox, and it has a number of built-in tools. One of those is a calendar, which I csync with the calendar on my phone. If you’re wondering, I don’t use the stock calendar app on my phone, instead opting for one called Etar.

Laverna. This is an open source application for taking notes. It has a web and desktop version, but no mobile app — that’s in the works. Two great things about Laverna are that it’s simple and uses Markdown to format notes.

It took a little while to adapt to using this mix of tools. Mainly, that involved not instinctively reaching for the tools that I previously used. But I was able to adjust my workflow without too much pain, so now using them is pretty seamless.

So far, organizing myself with those four tools (and their supporting apps) is working for me. I can see opportunities to tweak and streamline even more — for example, using Emacs and org-mode for my task lists. Someone I know suggested using that combo for my notes, too, but I like having my notes in a separate app and always have. That’s not to say, however, I won’t give that a try one day. Maybe in 2018 …

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