Inbox Zero, and Organizing My Digital Life

Posted on January 07, 2015 in personal • 3 min read

For a large chunk of time over the last year, I haven't been nearly as diligent keeping up with emails, not to mention neglecting my blog for quite a while. Part of it was due to being preoccupied with my latest co-op position at a local startup, Tasktop Technologies, but most of it was due to, well, general laziness I suppose. Well, there's no better time to fix that than right after New Year's, and the start of a new school semester. It's been years since I've last made a New Year's resolution that I took seriously, but this year, it's something quite simple: retain control over my email inbox again by embracing the concept of Inbox Zero, and find a way to keep notes and reminders in a sane manner - "sane" being something other than a mish-mash of strategies that I'm currently using, including a multi-thousand-line text file of "notes", post-it notes scattered around my room, and a paper agenda that I infrequently use.

It's a New Year's resolution that's long overdue, for sure!

Clearing my inbox was fairly easy to accomplish once I decided to dive straight into the mess that was my inbox. Most of the time that I spent here was mostly related to Debian, given that Debian mailing list subscriptions account for the majority of emails I receive. I ended up replying to a bunch of old bug reports that I forgot existed, and also cleared my sponsorship backlog.

As for the other chunk of my resolution, I ended up being inspired by some suggestions in a particular Hacker News thread around this time, specifically by applying "Getting Things Done" concepts (using The Secret Weapon as a practical example). I ended up discovering TagSpaces through the same HN thread, which met all the requirements I was looking for from a note-taking tool (it's cross-platform, it has markdown support, it doesn't rely on an external service, and it's FOSS (AGPL 3)), and more that I hadn't considered, i.e. tags persist in the name of each file, which on second thought is actually a definite plus for me. I like the idea of having metadata stored in the files themselves rather than somewhere in the application; among other things, there's no vendor lock-in and I can interact with my markdown notes almost as effectively with vim and grep if I wanted to. TagSpaces doesn't currently support searching through file contents, which is a letdown, but the fact that I can just grep through my directory of notes is sufficient for me.

Anyways, now I'm mostly caught up and have adapted to my new workflow; time will tell whether I end up sticking with it or not, I suppose, but having small todo notes prioritized and ordered by tags definitely beats a large, unorganized free form text file. Now I just gotta find some time to type out some old blog post ideas I've had; I still intend on writing a review for CPSC 304, 310, 313, and 317 (along with CPSC 314, 320, and 404 after this term), and perhaps other blog-worthy thoughts that come to mind.