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Workflow Assistance/Help (GTD)

hi!

I am wondering if anyone can help me build a workflow with Joplin - i have been reading the forum, documentation and testing, but could very well missing something.

(I will not go into details on why here, as it will make the post unnecessarily long, however in discussion I can certainly provide more detail. However, I have been looking at my workflow for many years to get where I am, analysing what works well and what doesn't work well - so I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the way I want to work)

what I would like to achieve is

  • virtual collections of notes, based on tags (it looks like I can do this with search, and the favorites plugin is progressing to make a saved search I can use; it would be good to have the ability to have a hierarchy of saved favourites - for example work/meetings/ work/customers etc)
    • the reason for this is that I find categorization very hard, most of what I work on is not a single topic. Meetings and work applies to multiple notebooks - and this is dynamic (yes, I know others have also requested smart notebooks / dynamic notebooks)
  • the ability to just write, without thinking about where a note should stored - the focus should be to just capture what ever I am thinking; ideally capture everything in a flat structure, and be able to view it as "virtual notebooks"
  • the ability to capture tasks, action points, todo's etc in the middle of notes
    • when working on a task, that might be "next steps" which are fixed and become tasks
    • equally this might be more abstract, thoughts and ideas, which aren't critical, but would be good to be able to easily find again AND be reminded of after some time so I can action/close/snooze
      • for example, when viewing a notebook, have a widget showing the open tasks, questions, todos for that collection; a widget that shows references and resources collected
  • some way to capture a overview of work to be done - ideally a kanban board (currently using Todoist), ok to use an external tool, but then some sync between Joplin and the tool
  • a good way of capturing the chronology of work - as I build, i have found it useful to go back and look at when i did something and the surrounding context can be important - so i generally timestamp my work.
  • have at least two notes open side-by-side; 1) what I am currently working 2) a scratch pad for quickly capturing anything not related to what im doing, but just to capture it

In the past I have found the most successful way of working is to have a single Markdown page for each day, and i just write; this has some downsides which are getting painful

  1. good ideas, todo's, tasks, APs easily get lost - i have to go back and re-read notes to find them. This is not a bad thing, in that reviewing past notes is a useful practice; but i find I come back to ideas from sometimes a year ago, and reviewing multiple years of notes to find something is not practical -> documentation is only as good as your ability to retrieve and make use of it
  2. having notes per day is great for capturing a day's work, and project chronology (which is useful for me) - however, projects that run for long periods of time require you to go backwards all the time to find where an AP was created and somehow link it to where the answer is
  3. there is no easy way to list all the work for particular topic

Todoist has shown to be very useful as a task management system - if there could be a good way to sync Joplin and Todoist, that would be great - though that is perhaps a complex / difficult task.

My thinking so far is to not use notebooks in Joplin, but just have notes in a single list. Use tags on each note, and then use search as required. Hopefully one day dynamic notebooks based on tags will come :slight_smile: - i can also potentially achieve this by extending the web application that is being developed. I can use some specific metadata with todo's and then write a plugin which can list them (or even a bash script could be a starting point) - when i have a fixed task to do, i can create a task in Todoist, with a link to where they are in Joplin (though as I understand, it is not possible to link to Joplin from external apps?)

thanks in advance - hoping and looking forward to a discussion and solving my workflow once and for all!

3 Likes

some extra info :slight_smile:

i have tried (in the past); Bear, Things3, Todoist, Jira, Plain Text / Markdown files + Git + bash scripts (home grown system!), Evernote, Notion, and most recently Drafts and have landed at Joplin as the most likely to succeed! (im sure ive tried more, but these are the ones that stick out right now)

Drafts was really promising - the ability to build workspaces based on tags, and the (really flexible) Actions functionality with integrations to Things, Todoist and many others. However, it failed as

  1. You couldn't keep Todoist in sync with Drafts - changes in one side are not reflected in the other
  2. Running the actions multiple times created duplicate Todo items (some extra inteligence in the action scripts would solve this though)
  3. Running actions is a manual thing
  4. it was not possible to paste screenshots or manage attachments easily (which is a big part of my work)

What i did like with Drafts is you could write in a single file during the day; then anything you wanted to break out you could select the block of text, then run an action to create a new note, and you would get backlinks - combined with dynamic workspaces based on tags, i would be close to my workflow; but the painful task management let me down!

i am also open to the fact that its my workflow that is not good, and that I am worrying about things that don't matter - but when i do a retrospective, the flow has saved me many times and so I have, until now, just tried to trust my memory and then search for the task (which has varying degrees of success, and more often that not, either my search query fails due to some minor spelling error, and/or i end up with lots of duplicated entries - i love the way discourse says "you have mentioned this link before" and "this is similar to...", that would be good in a note taking system as well)

1 Like

What is it for you a "virtual notebooks" ? The note overview plugin in Joplin is very powerful to filter informations you want.

Also to help with your workflow it can be a good idea to check the list of available keyboard shortcuts in the Configuration screen, and possibly change them to your needs. Also have a look at GotoAnything to easily jump between notes and notebooks or to quickly run a command.

3 Likes

I use a notebook called .Inbox for this that I go through every now and then to sort things.

I have been using Plugin: inline tags to quickly add tags as I write notes, so sometimes I just go to a top level tag i.e. <Clients:Client Name> and quickly drag the notes out of Inbox into their appropriate folder. This means I rarely start a note with categorization in mind, just jump to the Inbox, done.

(Plugin Idea: I wish there was a keyboard shortcut to create a new note in a specific folder.)

I use the Convert Text to New Note Plugin for this. As I read back through the note, I can quickly branch out notes / ideas / etc that need to be handled elsewhere, and since that plugin leaves a link, it is easy to see how they are related.

(Plugin Idea: I have wondered about a plugin that did this step by default. For example, I often write things like ??? or --> at the start of a line to remind myself to follow up on something or expand on something. A "language" around that that performed actions like branching into new notes / todos when you hit a button would be awesome. I would use it at the end of every meeting!)

With the workflow above, the Automatic backlinks (with manual insert option) helps with this at the note level (if you use the workflow I describe above).

Cannot wait for this plugin! Kanban Board Project

I often create a temp note called i.e. "Scratch Pad" that I open in an external editor (Sublime Text) at the start when I know I am about to use Joplin for writing or researching. I use the Note Tabs Plugin and the Saved Favorites Plugin, so it is pretty easy to switch between notes within Joplin. I do still wish you could have multiple notes though!

I generally create a log each day but start it by copying the day before (among other setup / automated questions / etc). This means that something I work on a lot has many backlinks to these log entries.

Saved Favorites + Note Overview plugins have gotten me really far. I now tend to use notebooks for really big categorization (different clients and projects) and have moved more and more things into flat folders with tags.


Thanks for the q, it had me really consider my own workflow. :slight_smile: Plus it made me realize how much of my Joplin experience depends on Plugins! Hope it helps.

Where's the fun in that?! :wink:

5 Likes

Hi @uxamanda

Me too !

I completely agree with you.

Yes, it's a good idea. It could be an increase of the quick links plugin capabilities.

Could you share an example ?

And beautiful day!

2 Likes

Thanks, Clubman, for starting this topic. I, too, use Joplin and Todoist as my main tools for organizing my thoughts/life. It'd be great to if those two apps could be synergized in some way and possibly maximize the power of both apps. I can't contribute much on the technical side of things, but I'll be watching this thread for good ideas.

2 Likes

Nothing too fancy here, just a top level folder called "Clients" and then a separate folder for each one. Then the same idea for Side Projects. I am still in the process of moving to this system. Before I was very granular about notes and topics with many nested folders. Now I rely on tags more and more so that a note can be more easily found without spending a lot of time moving it around folders.

cheers @bepolymathe - one of the main (mental) blockers I always have is "where should this note belong?" or "when i want to find this note again, where will i look?" - for example, imagine I have a task "write device driver for ABC-123", which is required for a specific project. Should that note go in the project notebook? should it go in my "Linux Dev" notebook? should it go in my device specific notebook "ABC-123" - it equally applies to all three of them, and I will make use of that info in all three places.

Gut instinct says to file it in the project notebook, as thats where it will immediately be used, and then link it to other projects - this could work of course, however it is overhead.

On the other hand, if I just write that note, without worrying about catgorization and instead tag it with "Linux Dev", "ABC-123", and "Project X" - and i have "dynamic notebooks" that are defined as "all notes with tag 'Linux Dev'" or "all notes with tag 'Linux Dev' AND 'ABC-123'" - any time i write a new note and tag it, it will go into the respective notebooks - I then don't have to worry about catgorization - if i use that note in the future in a completely new place, i can add a tag and just be on my way

For me "dynamic notebooks" or "smart notebooks" are like Smart Playlists is iTunes, you build them based on a collection of metadata - all my 5-star songs for example. or 5-star AND metal

this method of working increases the chances of finding the information you want/need when you need it.

I will also add that this is talking about a note as being part of a journal, and so it makes sense for it to be in the flow/timeline of multiple projects. There is a related case, where you want to reuse notes in the sense of a howto

  1. You want to link in a previous guide and use it as is - for example imagine in one project you write a guide on setting up an Ubuntu VM in a specific way, and you want to reuse it for another project
  2. you want to link to a previous guide and use it in the latest version, for example you might update the guide on building an Ubuntu VM for the latest virtual box or Ubuntu version

these two use cases are related, case #2 would be covered, but not #1 (which would require linking to a specific version of a note, or creating a fork - and you can do this by duplicating a note)

cheers @laurent - i am looking at a number of plugins that might help, added GoToAnything to the list, currently using Tabs. I am a big fan of keyboard shortcuts; for GTD, having a global keyboard shortcut to just add a quick reminder/note is super helpful.

wow! @uxamanda amazing response, and much to think about! really appreciate you taking the time - some things I had never considered.

I guess with a name like UX amanda, you have a good appreciation of workflows!

Ha ha, indeed - this has been a work in progress for many years now, reflecting on my workflow.. understanding what is core and what I can be flexible on; This isn't my first time with Joplin, previously I stopped using it as it didn't support pasting images (iirc).

I will check out everything you've suggested and see what I can do! see what hurdles I might still have :slight_smile:

once again really appreciate the detailed reply

1 Like

@skim1124 there is a discussion here Are URL links on the roadmap? on x-callbacks (which Todoist supports along with many other services)

In this case, I am talking about actual "Tasks", things that are concrete tasks - not abstract thoughts and ideas that are still being developed (and I suppose you can turn abstract thoughts into tasks with "think about ABC"). Also there are "Projects" which are big and composed of tasks, and tasks are composed of sub-tasks, the smallest unit of work for me. Tasks / sub tasks etc like Notes can belong in multiple projects; Tasks have dates (created, due, updated, changed-state etc, closed), priorities, state (ongoing, blocked, backlog - or todo/someday); they also have a status (what is the current status (summary) of this task such that when i read the status i know exactly where i was, even if its been a while since i looked at the task, such as after vacation) and then it has next steps (these can be just pointing to a sub task - if i get to the end of the day, where will I pick up in the morning).

The above, for me requires a dedicated Task Manager, and actually I don't think Todoist really handles tasks the way i describe above! Maybe Jira does - but that's a much bigger project... I have used a system called "imdone.io" which pulls out todo's from text based notes and shows them in a kanban board, the problem was it pulled out EVERYTHING! and made a very cluttered board; I really want to just see (by default) the top level tasks, and then dig down if i want to for further planning - but most of the time, looking at the top level task + status is enough to remind me what's going on for day-planning.

But I think what I would really like to do is work from the Task Manager, not from the notes - the great thing about Things 3 / Todoist is to go to the task view, select the tasks for the day and get working - inside each Task would be great to have a link to where the notes are in Joplin, so i can click, and get working

in my experience though where the task is created, is not necessarily where the work is done/logged - for example, imagine you are taking notes in a meeting, and you create an AP. The context for that AP is connected to that meeting (and the discussion that generated it), so you want to link to go there; The topic of the AP though might not be connected to the meeting itself (imagine the meeting is a general team meeting where many topics are discussed). Now some time later you actually start working, so you want a new note to capture the work, and that is a new link to capture - and possibly a backlink to link the original meeting MoM and the actual work.

The only thing that is not possible with Joplin currently is linking to the notes from an external place - though I have high hopes that could be corrected; alternatively with the tips in this thread and the ongoing Kanban Board project, I am wondering if it is possible for me to work entirely in Joplin, maybe with a custom front end using the data api to show tasks.

the big problem with having multiple tools is keeping them in sync; it is easy to have a system that picks up keywords in text, then via an API creates a task in Todoist. But then, what happens when I update the task in Todoist? Joplin needs to be updated - if i create subtasks in Todoist how does that reflect? conversely, if i update in Joplin I want it reflected in Todoist.. not easy to do generically

UPDATE: I had forgotten there was a Joplin Server now (at least in Beta): Joplin Server pre-release is now available which I am looking into

I have been thinking about this during the day, and looked at (what I would call) my Big Projects. Sadly, looking at them, they are not standalone often! For example, i am taking a course (with exercises) on power supply design; at the same time, I am documenting some systems, and as part of that, looking at the power supply design (but its not the main task) and taking all that experience to understand what I might want to do when designing a power supply for another project! - the common thread is "power supply design" but split over 5 separate "projects" :smiley: (and just to add some further spice, I will probably use the power supply for a controller for a beer brewing system i am working on... and beer brewing is several projects by itself!)

... hopefully this explains a little better how my work becomes a massive interconnected web; not atomic, standalone individual things

Hi,

This is a recurring problem. From my side, I think that we have to give different functions to the possibilities offered by the software. Example. I use the notebooks only to classify the types of sources (files, sources, notes, etc). I use tags to mark the context (home, work, etc). I use links to mark connections and backlinks.

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@bepolymathe yep, so i think the use-case/workflow is quite common, but Joplin has not quite got the functionality (yet!) - though to be fair, very few note taking systems do! Evernote has saved searches, which is close'ish - the Favorites plugin offers the same, but the search function isn't working atm (fingers crossed). On the same topic though, Evernote doesn't allow a deep notebook hierarchy either, so there's that!

ideally what I would like to see is the Notebooks tree as it is today, but Notebooks are either "smart" or "fixed/static" (of course I would love hybrid as well... but baby steps) - and this is what I mean by Virtual/Dynamic/Smart Notebooks - they look and behave as Notebooks, but are updated automatically based on specific criteria.

Someone who knows the internals better than I can answer, but would it be difficult to achieve? A plugin maybe, but it feels like something better as core integrated with Notebooks.

I am thinking Saved Favourites a temporary workaround and hope it comes sometimes in the future :slight_smile:

I get around this by linking to notes that include saved search(es) using the Note Overview plugin. Not exactly the same since its a note not a notebook, but it works for me.

How are these different than tag notebooks? Is it because you are looking for a smart notebook that is more complex than one tag? I agree – some way to save more dynamic notebooks based on search would be cool.

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Sorry, im not sure what "Tag Notebooks" are :frowning: i did some searching overnight but couldn't find anything; hoping i've missed some function!

If you remember the old days of iTunes, you had in the left panel a list of playlists, and in the layout/hierarchy iTunes didn't make a distinction between static playlists (those where you dragged and dropped a song into) and smart playlists (those that were dynamically updated based on some set of criteria) - they were distinguished by a different icon. Thus you saw ALL of your playlists listed. Now imagine that approach in Joplin - in the left panel you would see all your notebooks, some of them could be static - you add notes to them manually; others could be dynamic/smart where they update based on your criteria (for example a combination of tags), and yes saving a search as a notebook could accomplish this as well.

For my own use case, I would save all my notes into root folder, and I would apply tags. I like to have an overview of the work I did for a day - so I could have a folder structure YYYY/MM/DD - and dynamically collect the notes that were created or modified on that day - its quick to build a journal (right now I have to choose between project chronology and ease-of reading). I could save the same set of meeting notes into the multiple projects that meeting covered. A single piece of research that applies to multiple projects can be saved into each of them quickly and easily.

with all that said - and I realise that I am just rambling about more features I'd love to see - but it would be really cool (for me) to see a folder of notes as one long note, rather than individual notes. This would allow Joplin in the background to store each note individually (which is helpful for reuse, etc), but when working you can just keep scrolling back through the project, rather than swapping notes all the time.

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had to post this!

every day with my productivity project I ask myself if my pedantic nature of documenting things is really needed, if its really worthwhile - sometimes people wonder if I'm OCD or something... and yeah, those thoughts creep in - but that ALL goes away when your documentation log gets you out of serious trouble, where you can go back into the logs work out what happened, how it happened... a life time spent working in tech support has taught me how important logs can be... and just this minute, my log book came to the rescue. Quick search in Joplin... solved the problem... makes me all the more determined to build a workflow now.

I remember actually searching the Joplin forum for people using GIt as a version control system for their notes - as I was writing notes in Atom (Github text editor) and then periodically comiting them to git. One day I went searching for a note that I knew i had taken and it wasn't there - something had gone wrong and my notes were all messed up; but two minutes with Git I was able to find where the problem started, then use the git history to recover all my notes - and where i had conflicts git diff was able to help me merge back the missing content from the conflicts... I felt justified in my workflow that day! so whilst im throwing features into the ether - fine grained version control with Git (yes I know it's hard as Joplin uses an SQLite DB instead of files... but one can dream! i think the solution as i recall was periodic export and comit)

Sorry, I made that term up :slight_smile: I meant the list of Tags that are underneath the Notebook list. I consider these "Notebooks" since clicking brings up a list of notes, but they aren't as fancy as what you want.

I agree that "Smart Notebooks" that are 'just' saved searches would be really useful, and I would also likely abandon traditional notebooks and use a flat catchall notebook + tags if they existed. (In fact, I've been lazy about sorting my "inbox" notebook lately and it is becoming that already!)

I am wondering if the Favorites saved search would help you? joplin-favorites/README.md at master · benji300/joplin-favorites · GitHub (note you have to copy from clipboard, but fairly automatic)

this has come up a few times, most recently I saw this comment:

It seems like it would be a lot of work, but in my mind it is theoretically possible to do via plugin. Since I am not a plugin dev, easy for me to say!

Not exactly what you want, but I wonder if this in-progress plugin will help (or could be molded to help). Conflict Resolution Plugin


In general you might like this thread if you haven't seen it. https://discourse.joplinapp.org/t/any-suggestions-on-what-plugins-could-be-created/

There are a lot of ideas there. Also it seems like if you write out a detailed description of a plugin you can sometimes get a developer excited to work on it. :slight_smile:

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I moved away from Drafts for a couple of reasons - one being the difficulty of initiating actions from outside the product. There was supposed to be a way of doing it, but the documentation in that area was particularly opaque.

However, the dynamic notebooks idea built from a combination of tags I really, really liked. For me it's the big thing missing from Joplin.

Workflows with Joplin is on my ever-growing todo list, so I'm interested to learn how you go.