New tools I'm trying out

Although I'm pretty comfortable with my current Emacs-centric setup, I think it's useful to try out new tools to see if there is functionality I find useful. Over the last month I've been trying out a couple of different products:


Notion is a little hard to describe. It's a great way to take notes and organize ideas, but it can also be used to organize tasks into projects or store bookmarks.

If you've ever used a wiki, Notion works in a similar way but is much more user friendly. Definitely worth trying out, especially if you prefer taking and organizing notes in a visual way.

Notion for storing notes

FocusBooster is my usual go-to for pomodoro tracking, but for the last few weeks I've been trying FocusBooster. It has a desktop app which is handy, and it sends weekly emails with productivity stats. Unfortunately it does not have an API, but otherwise it's extremely polished and stays out of the way.

It also has a bunch of reports and stats which are always fun to look through.

FocusBooster for pomodoro


Taskade is great for creating and organizing task-lists. I've used it for a couple of recurring checklists, but overall I prefer org-mode for anything more complex.

Taskade for weekly tasks

Groundhog Day Resolutions - February 2020

January absolutely flew by this year. Here's how my goals went:

January's Primary Goals

1. Finalize my 2020 major goals

My five major goals for 2020 are now listed. I feel like the list is a little short, although I only completed 2/3rds of my major goals last year so perhaps it's for the best.

2. Finalize my 2020 secondary goals

2020 secondary goals page has been added.

I think I'll end up adding more goals as the year goes on, but for now I'm happy with what's on the list.

3. Set up the 2020 hub page

The 2020 hub page is online. I still need to create individual goal pages.

4. Create (and follow) a release plan for The Book

The wheels are in motion here. So far it's been far, far harder to get things ready for release than the initial writing process.

January's Secondary Goals

1. Create a game for FFSJam

Complete failure here. Didn't even make a start on it.

Primary goals for February

1. Create a system to track my bodyweight workouts

I currently use Emacs + org-mode to track my workouts. I may stick with this, or more to something else. Either way, I need a way to track what I'm doing and what progress I'm making. And I'll probably want to hook it up to Beeminder.

2. Get blitzmax-mode on Melpa

I released the first version of blitzmax-mode back in 2017, but it still needs installing manually. I'd like to get it on Melpa to make installation and updating easier.

3. Create a project plan for bee button

It's been a couple of months since I worked on the project, but I have some lists hanging around of what's left.

4. Create detail pages for all my major goals

Having some form of tracking for major goals was a big help last year.

Groundhog Day Resolutions 2020 - Secondary Goals

I have a pretty good idea of my 2020 major goals, so now it's on to my secondary goals. This year I'm trying to create a mix of large and small goals to try and avoid having to rush through huge chunks of work late in the year.

A couple of my current ideas:

Create some art
I don't know the medium yet, but I'd like to create something that isn't made of 1s and 0s.
Read more books
This is something else that I enjoy doing once I'm doing it, but I find it difficult to get started.
Contribute to more online communities
I miss the days of writing forum posts to help out other people. I'd like to do it again.
Release Bee Button
This is a really small project I started last year and never fully finished. It's super simple (you push a button on a website and it submits data to Beeminder), but it's something that I find useful.
Try zero waste living for 30 days
I try to limit the amount of stuff I throw away, but there's always room for improvement.
Try blogging every day for 30 days
This fits in with my "write more" goal. I really struggle with my writing and I have a feeling this would help me.
Try Zettelkasten for organizing my notes
I've seen the name "Zettelkasten" crop up in a couple of places, but I only recently started looking into it. I write a lot of notes, and I'd like to see if it helps me keep things more organized.
Set up a budget
I started using ledger last year to manage my accounts. This year I'd like to properly budget things.

I have about a dozen more I'm going over, and I'll probably add more as the year goes on.

Trying to finish things

I write jokes for a living, I sit at my hotel at night, I think of something that's funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen is too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain't funny.

Mitch Hedberg

I spent a couple of months last year working on a small book. Now that the initial version is pretty much ready to go, I'm starting to struggle on getting it launched. I hate it and think it should just be deleted.

This follows on with a chat I had yesterday about game jams and maniac weeks - why do I find building games during jams easier than creating them over a longer period of time? I've written half a dozen games during jams, but haven't completed any other game projects outside of that.

A few different theories came up:

  1. Game jams force me to focus and cut out distractions. When time is limited to 48 hours there isn't really time to mindlessly browse the web or watch Just One More EpisodeTM.
  2. Jams force me to focus on one project for duration. I'm a project butterfly and often skip between them during the week. This gets worse as things get closer to completion and the inevitable "why did I ever think this was good?" thoughts start cropping up.
  3. Entering a jam forces me to stick with an idea and release it rather than squishing it because I think it's bad.

They're all valid theories, but #3 definitely hit close to home.

I'm not sure if I actually think these are bad ideas, or if I'm afraid to release something into the big, scary world. When you publish anything, there's always the risk that nobody will like it.

But if you never release it, you can guarantee nobody will like it. After all, how can someone like something they don't even know about?

As an aside, the initial idea for this post came in the shower about an our ago. In the time it took me to finish showering and dry my hair, I went from "that's something interesting to write about" to "what a terrible idea".

Groundhog Day Resolutions 2020 - Major Goals

Although I'm over a week into 2020, I'm still trying to decide on the major goals I want to achieve this year.

Current candidates are:

Run a marathon
Running a half marathon was a challenge for me. I'd like to take part in another one for 2020, but I feel like running a full 26.2 miles will be a much greater challenge. This goal also fits in with my "don't make all goals revolve around writing software" rule for 2020.
Release a game
I completely bailed on writing games in 2019. I keep telling myself it's something I enjoy doing - at least I think I enjoy it - but I never seem to make the time to create anything. For 2020 I'd like to release something.
Learn some physical skills

I've done bodyweight exercises on and off for a couple of years, but haven't done enough to really improve in any significant way.

I'd like to actually put some effort in this year and learn a few of the more advanced skills. I don't expect I'll be able to master a handstand, but I'd like to be able to manage a frog stand.

Write more frequently
Every year I say I should write more and I rarely do. Last year was my best year for writing, and I wrote more posts for this site than any other year. Although I already have a "blog more" goal set up on beeminder, I think I'll need to narrow this goal down to achieve it.
Complete a maniac week
I love the idea of a setting aside one week a year to run a maniac week. I've taken part in a couple of game jams and they're always extremely productive. Focusing some of that energy on my goals would be highly beneficial.
Increase my earnings

Last year my freelance earnings were down about 25%. This was partly because work was slower, but more likely because I got lazy towards the end of the year and didn't take on as much as I could. I feel a bit icky about publicly committing to this one. I'm not really sure why.

I'd also like a portion of my earnings to come from "passive" income sources rather than direct work.

I also have a list of around 40 minor goals for 2020 that I need to figure out. I'm trying not to get too hung up on having things 100% decided by January.