Tasks + Journal in TextMate

A couple of years ago (whoa now, three and a half years ago?!) I commented on using the TextMate Journal Bundle to keep a snippets log. I still use that same snippets file for some references and a handful of things that don’t quite fit in 1password.

When 2010 rolled around, I started up a new journal file to use for a little bit more writing, and quickly found that I wanted to mix content within that file — specifically, I wanted to add tasks and treat them more functionally than straight markdown list items. Henrik Nyh’s TextMate Tasks bundle handles to-do lists quite well, so I cobbled together a combination of the two bundles. A screenshot of some of these integrated journal+tasks lists is below:

JournalTasks bundle screenshot

Combined, I get the nice markdown-compatible writing of the journal bundle, plus its keywords, search, and folding capability, along with the nested list feature of Tasks.

Use the journal bundle’s dts and dtsp tab triggers to start new entries complete with date stamps (and clipboard contents in the case of dtsp). You can write text into any entry, and intersperse lists at any point by starting a line with - (indent with one or more spaces to create sub-lists; Tasks will love it). Toggle list items to complete with cmd-D, and cmd-E will remove expired items.

I like just being able to put lists into markdown-enabled writing, but there’s a nice Getting Things Done application here, as well: Since the folding in the journal bundle is so easy, you can make @context entries, fill them with actions, and fold them to get out-of-scope contexts out of the way. Drop the name of the scope into a keyword, and the Find in Bundle command will produce a nice list of the first entry in a given context that matches a search. It’s simple but workable for GTD, if you’re into that sort of thing.

A variation that’s even more direct GTD-style tasking is to use @context tags anywhere in your entries and then employing the “find tasks” command to display only the desired matches. Use either or both find commands to fit your style and workflow!

Note that the Tasks bundle is inspired by the very good TaskPaper app. If you’re interesting in something a bit more full-on for lists (and GTD) that also has a bunch of extensions and related projects, do check it out. (Since TaskPaper works with text, you can even load files from Tasks+Journal or Tasks right into it and maintain some (but not all) functionality. I’ve done a little bit of further tweaking to maintain that compatibility in my bundle, like change Henrik’s check-mark back to the “@done” syntax that TaskPaper users (and update the bundle’s commands accordingly), which lets me switch back and forth pretty smoothly.

The JournalTasks bundle is available at github.

Getting Things Done: Task Writer

I got a nice email this morning from Katy at Task Writer, asking me to take a look at their web app for getting things done.

It’s been a while since I considered myself an active devotee of the GTD methodology, so I’m a bit out of touch with the state of the art, but Task Writer looks to me like an app that is both a) pretty highly usable, and b) built with GTD in mind — that is, it’s not like a broader list-making web app like Remember the Milk or gubb, or an all-purpose tool like stikkit (rest in peace) that can be turned into a list-making app that can do GTD; rather, all the organizational elements of GTD are built right in.

Actions are organized by lists (inbox, waiting, someday, etc) and @contexts (@car, @computer, @email …) and can be further associated with specific projects and given due dates. A set of checkboxes along the left-hand panel of the app turns on filters that display only the selected tasks.

Task Writer tinkering

Adding tasks is really straightforward (I’d like to see the option to not put new tasks into a project – after all, that’s what the #inbox is usually for), and projects are easy to add/edit. There are a few interface quirks — Safari-specific, perhaps? Text doesn’t always seem to wrap neatly in column headers, for example, and the overall interface is a little wide on my screen.

For the most part, Task Writer seems to achieve a couple of things that are noteworthy: It’s specifically built for GTD, so there’s no obstacle to experienced users jumping in and immediately using it. But it’s also approachable enough, and starts with enough pre-built structure (a few lists, contexts, and projects) that one could use it without being a full-bore Next Action Acolyte.

I can see Task Writer really taking off. There’s nice room for some improvement, too: More keyboard shortcuts, a review mode (“what did I get done this week? last week?“), and being able to email/twitter tasks straight into it are features that could really give it a big boost.

If you’re looking for a new Getting Things Done-focused app or in the market for a capable list-making tool, I’d give Task Writer a good look.

TextMate GTD

2010 update: Ever ready to tinker with organization schemes, I’ve done some adaptation of the Journal and Tasks bundles for TextMate to produce another, very very lightweight way to implement a Getting Things Done routine in Textmate. Check out the JournalTasks bundle if you’re so inclined.


Haris Skiadas, who has made massive contributions to writing in LaTeX with TextMate (see for example his screencasts of good use of the LaTeX bundle), has put together a super TextMate GTD bundle. Haris has been hacking on it nearly-continously for several days — I confess to having harassed him significantly throughout development so far — and the bundle is a fully-capable GTD system: You can work with a single document, or as many as you want, can easily move projects around, add tasks, and add and modify contexts. The bundle has a number of commands to generate Next Actions lists, and it will archive completed tasks/projects to a separate log file.

Up until now, I’ve been using the Kinkless GTD system. Lately, however, that software began to feel a little cumbersome, a little too cognitively heavy and opaque. Since it lives in TextMate, Haris’s GTD bundle works with pure text, making highly extensible, and it works great (it even knows how to convert your Kinkless document to its own format). Today Haris capped it off with a script that filters an inbox (fed via Quicksilver) into your GTD documents. Seriously cool. I highly recommend giving it a try if you’re using either TextMate or GTD (or need an excuse to give either one a test drive).

Inbox Zero

My method was considerably simpler than Merlin’s process: Accidentally delete four years of your inbox. Poof, and cognitive overhead simply disappears.

As does everything you thought you wanted to save.

Extreme unproductivity

The Sloth Ethic is a truly great new blog, one that is “dedicated—in a lackadaisical, slipshod sort of way—to the idea that many of us don’t spend enough quality time not getting things done.” Definitely worth spending a lot of time reading (or not reading? I’m not sure which way the sloth ethic would point on that one), The Sloth Ethic’s first two entries highlight the great potential of Moleskine notebooks for efforts at unproductivity.

In How to Take Notes in Meetings, hoffman notes that Moleskines are perfect for meetings: “stylish, practical, and with a pocket to hide very thin biscuits in.” The Marvelous moleskine entry notes the great variety of fine notebooks:

There are many varieties of moleskine for you to buy, arrange on a shelf, fondle and think about maybe, one day, using, secure in the knowledge that you will never give in to temptation and ruin them forever with your inane and inky ramblings. You can buy lined moleskines to not write notes in, squared moleskines to not draw graphs in, and moleskine diaries to not keep your appointments in.

But be aware of the price to be paid:

There is a down side though, to the notebook obsession. A dark side. It is terribly distressing when there’s an occasional quality control failure and you unwrap your moleskine only to find the snout still attached, or a sad little webbed digger paw hanging still and cold beside your handy ribbon bookmark. Do please offer up a thought for the small ones that made your lovely, strokable cover possible.

Yet more planning

Douglas Johnston has put together an index card-based version of his neat DIY planner template, and he posted some commentary on it over at 43 Folders. I’m currently using a combination of a paper planner written up in a moleskine and emacs’ planner mode to do this sort of work, and have found it to be a pretty nice system.

About, the short version

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