Complete Joplin with a task management application

I'm curious about usage here and info management theory (PIM)...

What value do you find in making the distinction between 'information' and 'tasks/to-dos'? Isn't a to-do just another kind of information?

I don't make a hard distinction and avoid using the 'to-do' item type: My typical to-do is embedded in a 'note' item type containing other 'reference' information. I mark the to-do with a checkbox.

I manage any (note that contains a) to-do as follows:

I make heavy use of reminders and I have a set of 'action tags' that I apply to (notes that contain) to-dos. I apply these tags in addition to my normal information organization schema. In this way, the idea that 'something needs to be done' is integrated with (at least some of) the information needed to complete the task.

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That's what Evernote tried to achieve with their relaunch, but they didn't quite succeed, leaving many users disgruntled. I use Joplin's Note Overview Plugin to assemble my to-do items, but as yet plugins don't work on mobile.

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I'm using Joplin for task management, based on checklists (or "inline todos") instead of to-do notes.

For years I had context notes with lists of (GTD inspired) next-actions for that context (e.g., home, work, shopping). Many of these tasks referenced other notes with additional information required for the task.

I'm currently in a tranistion phase into tag-based checklists using a plugin that I'm developing, where tasks are scattered across notes (that contain their additional information) and tags mark actions that are due #next, associated with some #context, and possibly additional #priorities, #dates, #projects and #people.


I picked up a lot from the way of doing things where there is some separation of "routines" and "projects/tasks." I don't feel the need to even create tasks for things that already routine for me.

The main value for me having any kind of task/memo in my calendar (e.g. a reminder to make a bank transfer on a particular day of the month) is that those particular tasks (and only those) are set to send email notifications, which just serve to make sure I don't forget important things that are less regular. But I set those as All Day tasks, not something that needs to be done at a particular time.

Otherwise, although I refer to my calendar constantly, it is only blocked out with appointments/calls/events, etc, so I know what is coming up and when I can schedule other things. And I do keep annual things like birthdays on there.

I mostly use Joplin for GTD, so I am only using the classification of "information" and "todo" notes as a visual cue (by virtue of having a checkbox or not) which distinguishes things that are more continuous/rolling, vs things that have a completion. The latter may include my weekly task list (but yes, that's just a note with headers and checkboxes in it) and also if I pulled a specific project out to it's own note because it was getting too detailed, or would span a very long period of time.

But I don't actually check off the to-dos, instead I move them out of my main folder to a "completed" folder. I don't actually need to refer to them again.

So I mainly only ever look at one folder which is kept rather trim with:

  1. Note with current week's tasks
  2. Note with current month's project list (with subtasks)
  3. A few rolling notes (e.g. tickler file, list of future projects)
  4. A few notes for individual, current ongoing projects
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IMO, Evernote never succeeded in describing any particular 'killer problem' or how their tool could be used to solve one. That 'use it however you want' ethos has allowed them to wander from any strategic development path with predictable results.

(I looked at the Overivew plugin. It appears to solve a problem that I just don't have. Thanks for the info.)

I think the creation of a separate task-specific item type is unnecessary. In my system, information is stored in a note. If that information happens to be actionable, I note that in the metadata, usually involving a checkbox (simply for easy identification of the specific action), and one of six 'action' tags. In this sense, the task stays associated with its contextual information.

Once the task is completed, I simply check the checkbox and remove the 'action' tag. Then all of that metadata becomes part of the 'reference' information set. So I can always refer back to it for methodology, tools, dates, and other useful historical data.

Note: using this 'basic' functionality also circumvents any problems with where and how Plugins or other 'special features' might work.

Just my $0.02 on what I find to be a fascinating and valuable use case.

I agree that task management is quite doable in Joplin without the use of the to-do item type. I'll follow your plugin development - good luck.

+1 for emphasis on tags. I follow a tag-only organization scheme. IMO tags will do everything notebooks will do, but not vice-versa*. ~17K notes in a single notebook, but approaching 2K different tags.

Re: 'action' tags - I have found success with using more than a single #next tag, each denoting some level of priority.

*The use of tags allows notes to appear to be in more than one list at the same time. This is one of the primary benefits of the way Joplin (and EN, sigh) have implemented tags. While counter to received (SQL-theory-based data storage) wisdom, notes living in more than one 'place' has immense value in maintaining good organization as nothing ever has to be 'put back where it came from', because it never left.

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Danger: unsolicited advice follows :slight_smile:

You might explore replacing your 'note with current week's tasks' with a tag. Keep that tag in your 'favorites' list. This allows very fluid management of your current task list: add the tag to a note and it appears in the list; remove it and it's gone.

Hehe, thanks.

TL;DR: I've considered it :wink: and the main reasons for me to not use tags are (1) I don't use individual notes per task (nor even for each project), and (2) I'm all about finding ways to decrease the mental clutter that would reduce my focus on just getting the thing done, so there's no need to add organisational layers where I don't need them. Two main folders - one I look at, and one I don't - are really all I need.

Why am I insisting on using one note for everything (that week)?

  1. First, because it is easier/faster to traverse and copy/paste/move lines in a single note with keyboard shortcuts rather than jumping in and out of multiple notes (requiring both a physical shift and a mental shift - made worse if notes are homed in other folders). Although a 'favourites' tag may essentially be the same to view, you're having to into folders to
  2. Second, because my weekly note is sectioned by day. If a task can be popped under another day's heading, I can trust myself that I'll see it again later in the week and don't need to think about it till then. I am just focusing on today, checking things off, adding new things, moving things to another day if I want to. Then at the end of the day I can move my 'day' marker (header) down and all the completed tasks are nicely hidden with the help of the Folding in Code Mirror Editor plugin, and some custom CSS. I'm left with a satisfyingly fresh list, visible near the top of the note, ready for the next day. A note like this could span a longer period, of course, like a month, but as I'm not needing to carry anything completed forward to the next week, so why not work from a clean slate each new week?
  3. Third, while I understand your keeping context/meta data altogether with your task, very few of my GTD tasks "collect" info that is ever needed again. My tasks are small "next actions" that are one and done, or that prompt me to go and actually work somewhere else (another system, maybe even another way I use a Joplin note, where the context lives). Sure, I might draft a message to send later and so that draft gets added to my checklist, or I might paste in the URL of a site I plan to read, but once those tasks are completed, that context/supporting info gets collapsed and later archived along with the list at the end of the week
  4. Fourth, interestingly, moving a weekly note "away" to the archive/completed folder is also more therapeutic to me than removing a tag - it's like taking out the bins/trash, which I find ever-so-satisfying - you've served your purpose, thanks and bye. I'm not a minimalist by any means - I know it is all there and can be searched if I need - but 99.9% of the time I am never going to need it again.

Your suggested approach is of course great in other scenarios - I use tags and favourites heavily in Asana for sprawling work projects :slight_smile: where everything is linked and referred back to, etc, and absolutely love that kind of organisation there.

I do also like your point about tags in Joplin essentially allowing you to multi-home notes, that could be useful. Just not for how I'm GTD :slight_smile:


Agree with everything @LarryTribble.

Regarding the 1-to-many approach, I'd like to add that tagging a note, a paragraph, or a task in a checklist with multiple tags allows one to narrow down the search via tag intersection. For example, to get all the next actions of the highest priority, to do at home, for my garden renovation project, and that include my wife, I could search for #next AND #high AND ~home AND @wife AND +garden to get a list of all relevant tasks in my notebooks. Or I could remove #next from the query to review all the pending related tasks and select the next ones to add #next to. (To reduce organizational clutter, one can work with a single or double layer of tags. This is just an example for how specific intersections can get, even with a limited tag vocabulary.) BTW, this kind of information organization is not limited to tasks.

Interesting on multiple tag search. I tried that for a while and found remembering the combinations no easier than remembering a specific tag.

How do you keep track of the multiple syntax statements that you must be using?


Wow. Thanks for the thorough explanation. Have you ever considered a quick video on your usage? I'd be interested.

"multi-home": I was surprised to find how much it helped. If we rely on the file cabinet metaphor, we have to remember to put things back when we're done with them. In my case, I don't have to do that because it never really left its original location. Keeps me from having a pile of stuff I'm too lazy to 'put away' :slight_smile:

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@LarryTribble I'll consider it, and if I do a video, I'll send it to you :wink:

Multi-home - yes, this is how everything is in Asana. Each task can be in multiple projects, or multiple tags. Even in multiple teams. Excellent for linking together details :slight_smile:

@shikuz Yes, on that related note of intersections, that is exactly how I make use of labels (and the inbox: or unread: 'status' itself) to work with emails in gmail. E.g. if I am wanting to go through what is still unread in my inbox, but only those tagged (via automatic filters, for the most part) with a certain tag. I use that also for the 'Multiple Inboxes' settings, meaning those emails can get auto-archived and not fill up my main view, because I know that I'll see my tag combo, that is also unread and not starred, in one of those inboxes.

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One advantage, at least in theory, of tag combinations over single specific tags is that it's easy to zoom in and out, from a very specific search in a particular situation (many tags intersected) to a broader search (anything coming #next, or anything planned for the +project).

I'm still experimenting with tag systems, but I think that the following can help:

  1. Saved search queries: (video) No need to remember tag combinations for regular information retrieval. For example, a project note may automatically load the search query for all related tasks (e.g., from various meeting notes). Tag auto-completion helps when building queries.

  2. Limited tag vocabulary: Even a small and consistent number of tags (that is easy to memorize, still working on that...) can generate a lot of possible tag combinations. Tag auto-completion also helps to recall tags while tagging (see the Inline Tags plugin).

  1. Avoiding overload: Perhaps the example above demonstrated extreme granularity. However, my queries usually include 1-3 tags, and at the moment my text is usually tagged by no more than 3 tags (although perhaps I should get used to elaborate tagging).

That's just how I used to work with Evernote: theme-specific tags instead of notebooks (i.e. folders) in combination with actionable tags. As I rely heavily on smartphone access for tasks, I found Joplin unsatisfactory, and now I use a separate tool for task management: plain CalDAV on a Nextcloud server and the iOS reminders app as a client.

Maybe keeping everything in one place (which used to be Evernote's claim) is the better option in the long run, but I found out that I'm used to managing notes and tasks in a different fashion.

Good to hear though that many of us use Joplin for their daily task management!