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Re: [Emacs-orgmode] Use case of TIMESTAMP, SCHEDULED and DEADLINE

From: Austin Frank
Subject: Re: [Emacs-orgmode] Use case of TIMESTAMP, SCHEDULED and DEADLINE
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 14:28:50 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird 1.5 (Macintosh/20051201)

Christian Egli wrote:

>      1. What is the use case of TIMESTAMP? I seem to only have a use
>         for SCHEDULED, so marking them as "Scheduled:" in the
>         Org-Agenda Week mode is superfluous for me. What do other
>         people use it for?

Hello! In my previous thread I noted that I want to use org to manage notes and tasks. This left out an important aspect of the way I have used org and intend to, one of things that actually pushed me toward the system in the first place. I also need to track how I'm spending time on my tasks.

I recently lost ~20 lbs, and the most important tool for affecting that change was writing down my weight every day and kept a running average (I used the system described in the Hacker's Diet). Just seeing the trend was enough to keep me motivated to eat a little bit less each day, or find a small extra opportunity to be active.

As a graduate student I'm not required to do much in the way of accounting for how I use my time, as long as certain long-term milestones are met. This can make it difficult to stay on task during shorter stretches. Even breaking large tasks into small ones and documenting my progress on them can sometimes lead to a lot of small tasks being put off just as long as the large one would have been.

So, just like for weight loss, I want to start keeping a record of my daily time use. Hopefully, once I have enough data to aggregate and look at the trends, I'll be able to pinpoint areas where I can improve and will be able to motivate myself to stay on task longer or return to my tasks more quickly after distractions.

A guide for beginning grad students in the computer science department at my university suggests keeping a log file where you record your accomplishments at 15 minute intervals on days when you're having trouble being productive. I've tried this, using an external timer and marking an org file with a time stamp for each entry. I found the method to be both too frequent and too removed from my current task to be especially useful.

My intention is to keep an org file (per day? per week? per month?) where I track my work using timestamp ranges and links. When I start on a task I'll make a time stamp and link to a resource relevant to the task (the file I'm editing, the article I'm reading, notes from the class I'm going to). When I finish a task or change tasks, I'll mark the end of the time range I spent on that task (and begin a new one if necessary). In some cases I'll record notes with the entry about what happened while I worked, to try to pin down things that are especially effective or especially distracting.

I do think there's something to the notion of making regular progress reports while you work during stretches where it's hard to stay on task. In a case where I was following this strategy, I would still start an entry with a time range and a link to my current work, but I might include sub-entries marked with timestamps to allow me to keep finer-grained records of my progress. I intend to write a nag-me elisp function that prompts for a new entry after a certain amount of time has elapsed-- hopefully with programmable prompt intervals. I have a hunch that an exponential function describing the interval between prompts might be effective: record often early in the task to get myself honed in, but record less often as time passes and I become more involved with the work.

I believe that tagging these progress entries with a series of categorical tags will allow me to aggregate across similar tasks and do some analysis of how much time I'm spending on different tasks. I'd like to be able to ask questions like "How much time did I spend last week on project X?", "How much time did I spend last week on all research projects?", and "How much time did I spend last week working productively?". I'm hopeful that the org/tables/calc combination will serve me well in pursuing this.

Hope that gives you some ideas about some potential uses of timestamps and time ranges. I'd welcome any comments about the ideas I've described here, whether people are using similar systems or have different approaches to the same kind of issue.


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