Workflow Intro

Textmind is not complicated, but it is different. This page gives a gentle, non-technical introduction.

The Daylog

Textmind's first principle is daylogging. A log is chronological. A daylog records the day, in chronological order. It's the main text inbox. Entries are separated by timestamps like this:

Ate a sandwich
while listening to music
[2020-01-27 Mon 10:34]

surfed reddit
[2020-01-27 Mon 10:35]

Read an interesting article and want to save it? Paste it into the daylog.

Why keep everything together in one file? Because you are one person. You read that article, and it will affect what you think and do next. Only a log that keeps everything together can convey that.

The Meta-Outline

Every morning, take yesterday's daylog and process it into atomic notes. Atomic means "about one thing". Then file each note into the meta-outline.

What is the meta-outline? The directory hierarchy is an outline. Org files contain outlines. The combined outline of directories and file contents is the meta-outline.

The meta-outline holds all of one's text thoughts. It's a whole-mindmap. It can get very, very big.

The Classification System

The meta-outline needs a comprehensive filing system. For example, Dewey Decimal Classification is a filing system. But Dewey Decimal won't work for an individual. For example, it has no code for tasks.

Here are some top-level directories of Textmind:

  • 2-Time

  • 3-Names

  • 4-Object

  • 5-Location

  • 6-Action

  • 7-Background

  • 9-Codex

2-Time holds info classifiable by time or money: appointments, receipts, your journal, world history, etc. Time is money.

3-Names holds info classifiable by name: people, organizations, websites, books, etc. This includes you.

4-Object holds info classifiable by object type: the elements of the periodic table, your possessions, animals, etc. This includes your body.

5-Location holds info classifiable by place: continents, planets, other planes of existence, Narnia, etc.

6-Action holds info classifiable by task, project or plan.

7-Background holds background info that doesn't fit into the above categories. It is like a reference library. The Dewey Decimal Classification could work here.

9-Codex holds info meant for machines: computer code, paths, links to digital assets, etc.

Filing Rules

Filing matches by cascade. For example, if the info fits 2-Time and 7-Background, put it in 2-Time.

Sometimes important info doesn't fit anywhere. In that case, put it in 1-Persinter, which stands for "Personal and Interstitial". This ensures important info floats to the top.

If unimportant info is categorically ambiguous, just file it wherever. Inaccuracy doesn't matter. Your biological brain is lossy, so your digital brain can be messy.

The Head-Up Display

The meta-outline is a huge library with a lifetime's worth of notes. This makes it difficult to work inside. Sometimes you can, but usually it's more trouble than it's worth. You have to think about two things: what you're doing, and where it should be filed.

By contrast, 8-Hud is a focused Head-Up Display. It's easy to work inside. You only have to think about what you're doing.

The HUD uses two files, each with different rules.

You've already been introduced to the daylog file. Its rules are

  1. Strict chronological order

  2. Entries separated by timestamps.

You can do anything that doesn't break these rules. A little outlining helps.

You'll quickly find that working with a daylog file alone is frustrating. You can't change old entries, except to more accurately reflect the past. Past mistakes are set in stone.

That's ok, because you also have a dashboard file. This file holds an outline that reflects today's tasks. You can adapt the outline to your current task however you want. This outline supports your work in the daylog, providing the missing structure.

For example, if you're writing a thank you note, compose it in the dashboard, and then move it to the daylog once it's mailed.

Just in Time Sorting

Eventually the daylog gets too long. Then it's time to process it.

It's best to process the yesterday's daylog in the morning, because you've slept on it, but haven't forgotten it yet.

However, it's also perfectly fine to wait two days, or process twice per day.

Processing is easy. First make a copy for your journal archives. This preserves your history.

Then delete everything trivial from the daylog. Break the remaining important bits into atomic headings. File them into the meta-outline.

Don't file them to the bottom of the meta-outline. You'd never finish. Just file them one level deep.

Now you're ready to work again!

But what if you don't know what to do next?

Then it's time to sort deeper into the meta-outline. Sort only the minimum necessary to select the correct next task. Reviewing relevant thoughts will provide inspiration.

What if the disorganized piles of notes in the meta-outline are impeding your current task? Sort until you feel comfortable resuming work.

The lesson: Sorting can be infinite and infinitely ambiguous - unless it's tied to a specific purpose. Textmind works for you, not the other way around.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Because Textmind is implemented in Emacs Org-mode, it includes lots of task management and productivity features. These include TODO states, tags, links, checklists, etc.

These features add database functionality to the meta-outline. The most common database feature you'll use is the Org Agenda, which lists your tasks and appointments.

Org is great. It's just missing the Textmind workflow philosophy. A little code (e.g. Treefactor) makes the two compatible.

Summary

Textmind syncs a meta-outline to your brain, and guides your actions with a GTD database. It is suitable as a primary personal knowledge manager and productivity tool.

Unlike most competing systems, it can handle hundreds of megabytes of text without lag. Thanks to Emacs' strong community and open standards, it is future-proof. Textmind is the last productivity system you'll ever need.