org mode for Managering

November 21st, 2014  |  Published in etc

A few things I picked up about org mode this week, or figured out how to start using better, anyhow:

1:1 Agendas with MobileOrg

I thought I wasn’t a big fan of MobileOrg, but I’m less of a fan of having a laptop in my 1:1s. With OmniFocus, I solved that by using the mobile version and making sure that things I had to bring to a 1:1 were in the right context (e.g. “@bill”). Org mode doesn’t have contexts, but it does have tags, which look like this:

:bill:workflow_proj:

MobileOrg offers search by tag, so it’s easy enough to do a quick search on bill and get all the relevant entries. That’s better, in some ways, than contexts, because sometimes you need to talk to Bill about something that concerns him, but doesn’t belong to him.

Weekly Status

I was keeping my weekly status reports in a rolling Evernote note. Org mode is nice because it offers a way to provide some structure and automate small things (like cycling through the state of a given progress item).

Since org mode lets you use modelines to define how it behaves in a given buffer, I customized my progress.org file with this modeline:

#+TODO: [New] [Unchanged] [Update]  [Stuck]  | [Completed] [Dropped]
#+DRAWERS: PREVIOUS
#+OPTIONS: H:1

The “TODO” line sets the possible states of a project I’m reporting on. shift-left and shift-right cycle through the possible states of a todo, which I customized for progress reports from the default TODO and DONE states.

The “DRAWERS” line defines special folding text buckets that you can fold shut most of the time. I have a “PREVIOUS” drawer where I move timestamped entries from past reports, so they’re out of the way but available for references.

The “OPTIONS” line sets how org mode behaves when I export my progress buffer to an ASCII file. I don’t feel like scrubbing a progress report for public consumption, so we’ll just say something like this:

* [Update] [#B] Some project I'm working on
:PROPERTIES:
:ID:       F01E1131-EC1D-412F-90BB-460753F88F23
:END:

** Did some stuff
** Did some more stuff  
** Decided to do another thing

   :PREVIOUS:
   :NOTE: <2014-11-13 Thu> Did something last week
   :END:

comes out the other end of an export to ASCII as this, ready for pasting into an email:

[Update] Some project I'm working on
====================================
    * Did some stuff
    * Did some more stuff  
    * Decided to do another thing

   :NOTE: <2014-11-13 Thu> Did something last week

The [#B] is a priority tag, and the :PROPERTIES stanza is a drawer MobileOrg leaves behind to make sure it’s syncing the right things. You don’t ordinarily see that. In a normal entry it looks like this in the buffer:

Progress org

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