For the last year and a half, I’ve used a program called org-mode to manage my life. It’s a little difficult to explain what org-mode is (and even harder to do it succinctly), but I’ll try.

  • Org-mode is basically a software program within a larger program called Emacs.
  • Org-mode allows you to organize and run your life using nothing but plain text files. You can track to-dos/next actions, take notes, manage projects, create beautiful documents, and do about a bajillion other things---all in future-proof plain text.
  • Org-mode is endlessly flexible and infinitely customizable. You can make it look and behave however you want. And that's kind of the problem.

Optimizing our professional tools (whatever they may be) can feel like a good use of our work time. And it is, to a point—it’s worth making sure our workflow is efficient. But big wins tend to come quickly, and soon we’re scrounging for little increases in efficiency when we’d be better off simply getting to work. Our goal is to produce something valuable, not to create a frictionless productivity system.

Perfection is expensive. Build a workflow that works reasonably well and put it to work.