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Zettelkasten tools

Since I started back on GTD I've been looking for a way to organize my notes, and zettelkasten seems like it might be a good fit. Zettelkasten is a method of taking and organizing notes in a linked way. zettelkasten.de has a great overview of the system and how it works (and can explain it far better than I can).

There are a lot of different tools available for implementing the system, and all are slightly different in their approach. Before I get too far into things I'd like to try out a couple of different ones to see what feels right.

Ideally I'd like it to use text files and integrate into Emacs, but during this research phase I'm happy to try other setups.

These are the tools that are currently on my list to try:

Emacs tools

A fairly recent tool that is still under development.
I currently use (and enjoy) deft for taking notes, so this might be the easiest upgrade path.
"An opinionated setup for managing large collections of interlinked org files."
"Org-mode wiki + concept-mapping"
A cross between deft and the notmuch email client.

Other tools

Looks really slick, but is Mac/iPhone only. If I used Things for GTD I would probably love this.
Open source and uses Markdown to store notes.
The Archive
Mac only, but uses plaintext for storing notes.
Roam Research
An online app that is currently in beta.
Open source and can be set up either as a web app or desktop app.
A work-in-progress system built for use on the command line.

I could probably list a dozen different wiki's as well. I've used MediaWiki and LionWiki with some success, but I'd prefer to use a dedicated system if I go the online route.

Groundhog Day Resolutions - March 2020

Even with the extra day, February still felt far too short. Here's how my primary goals went:

February's Primary Goals

1. Create a system to track my bodyweight workouts

I'm sticking with text-based + Emacs for this one. It's not glamorous or exciting, but it works. I wrote a couple of small scripts to extract data so I can (eventually) make graphs to track my progress.

2. Get blitzmax-mode on Melpa

blitzmax-mode was submitted to Melpa on February 11th. There's a fairly hefty backlog of packages, but aside from some minor fixes it looks good to go.

Update: It was accepted into Melpa on March 8th.

3. Create a project plan for bee button

I've split the remaining tasks into a bunch of smaller milestones. I'd estimate it will take maybe 20 hours to finish.

4. Create detail pages for all my major goals

All major goals for 2020 now have detail pages.

Primary goals for March

1. Run a marathon

Training for this started back in November. I'm currently tapering before the actual race which is a nice change of pace. Right now I'm feeling a mix of nerves and excitement, although I'm looking forward to not having to run so much.

I've also been feeling unmotivated for my other goals, so I'm hoping that getting my first win of the year will give me a boost.

2. Research Zettelkasten products

So far I've found a few Emacs packages but haven't really used them properly. I'd like to try out a few different solutions before settling on anything.

3. Set up detail pages for my minor goals

I'd like to have detail pages set up for the most important ones.

4. Start a bodyweight exercise routine

Once the marathon is done and I've had some time to recover, I'd like to start working out every week.

I'm expecting a week of recovery time after the marathon, so I'm keeping things a little lighter this month.

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


tomato.es 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.