Workflow Assistance/Help (GTD)

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.

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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

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@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.

from now on then I shall call them "Tag Notebooks" and everyone else will just have to catchup :smiley:

Favourites plugin i have installed; it has two limitations so far, not deal breakers, but hoping they will be resolved

  1. Saved searches don't open - however the search query is copied and you can paste to clipboard, so not too bad
  2. doesn't support hierarchies

with those two solved, it would be a perfectly workable solution (the hierarchies are generally because I have a lot ways to view my notes - and having a single list ends up taking a lot of space, and makes things difficult to navigate)

@benji300 - would hierarchies be possible in the plugin?
i.e.:
Meetings/
customer1 (tag:meetings tag: customer1)

also @benji300 is it possible to style the favourites panel to reduce the vertical space taken? reduce the line height, remove the horizontal lines? (i haven't looked into the CSS sorry :frowning: )

regarding Note Overview plugin; I spent the night playing with it, I had hoped that if I had a checkbox in a note it could find it, but it seems to only work with Todo notes... my idea was I could use
[ ] #future_blog_idea lorum ipsum
or
[ ] #reference http://www.google.com
and then use the plugin to grab them all into a table, along with the note title - that way i could have dynamic notes that were collections of open thoughts, reference material etc;

But yes, using it to dynamically combine notes (in reverse) could be helpful; might get messy when you add new content though... but i can think of a workaround...

thanks for the tip! I saw some people picked your plugin ideas - im actually a software developer by trade, so i think i need to just sit down over the summer holidays, learn to write some plugins and see if i can bend joplin to my will! Most of what I want to achieve should be fairly straight forward I think - and would be a variant on the TOC sample plugin (but of course i wouldn't be sad if someone with experience could guide me in the process and save some heartache!)

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@pw6163 seems like we had the same experience with Drafts.

I made a decision last night that I would just go full in with Joplin + Todoist; when i started working today, I abandoned Todoist and went back to Things 3 (if anyone is interested - I liked the hierarchy that Todoist gives me; along with card views, more notes in tasks, however the workflow in Things is better, with Today, Upcoming, Someday - also it pulls in my calendar so I can see those tasks like "pick up kids", "Dentist" which has an impact on planning - i just wish it didn't limit me to Area/Project/Heading - for the most part its ok; but i have a list of some 30 blog ideas which i just collect info on and prepare - and its a pain to navigate)

anyhoo, so I sat down and started to work... and 15 hours later, I am still trying to get a workflow that works - my big pain points currently

  1. capturing work is just... hard! the best method I have ever had is to have a single file for a single day; everything i did for the day goes in that file, and tomorrow I start a new one; this is great as I don't have to think, i just capture. It falls down with large tasks - if I work on something big all day yesterday and I want to continue today, what do I do? If i need to update yesterday's work with new information what do i do? if i change yesterday's note, the flow is maintained and the information makes sense, but I have lost the project chronology - and with how I work, the chronology can play a big part in the context - also, having an overview of what was completed each day, makes it really easy later on to just get the big picture or to know how much time was spent on a task; but putting the work in todays note breaks the flow completely; so still thinking about this ... maybe i need to compromise somewhere.

  2. syncing Things and Joplin doesn't work - if im working in Joplin (say in a meeting taking MoM) and i create a task (like an AP) - i capture that quickly with [ ] AP: John to do XYZ; then an some point (after the meeting perhaps) i then move that AP to Things, but because Joplin doesn't support external URLs, I can't link to where I create the task; and when I come tomorrow to work on that AP, I can't just click a link to Joplin where I capture the work done... I think I have a workaround, but if Joplin could expose a URL to an anchor in a note (which was global, so if i moved the task to a new note it still worked) and if Joplin could open a Things URL that would just be super!

i suspect Backlinks is my saviour for now though

  1. work in a single file for the day, at the end of the day break out each section to their own notes (if appropriate) and link internally - Convert Text to New Note might be helpful here
    1.1 Meetings is one Notebook; Each task in Things might be a notebook (as that was where the work was created, and tags will allow it to be seen in multiple task contexts)
  2. apply tags to notes to achieve Dynamic Notebooks (using Favourites plugin)
  3. APs, tasks etc captured in Joplin are manually created in Things, then I grab the Things task ID and add it to the Joplin note; this way I can search for the ID and find the original task; I then use an internal link to where the work for that task is done (it's a little manual work, but ... it works!)

and eventually
4. write a plugin that will sync joplin to Things
5. write a plugin that finds specially formatted [ ] lines and collect them into single note

I found this yesterday but haven't played with the yet, might be useful to you Embed any search - with content!

Regarding your style questions... you have the following options, which are all selectable in the plugin's (advanced) settings:

  • You can change the Font size and the Line height (px) to decrease the height of the single favorite entries
  • You can hide the horizontal lines after each favorite by setting Divider color to the same value as Background color

Regarding your feature request... I've created a feature request on GitHub:

Because it would be a bigger change, I would wait for more votes on it before implementing it.

Maybe the alternative solution (see issue description) would be a solution for you? This would be way more easy to implement.

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now that looks interesting! need to explore some more;

i've been working most of the day, and might have found a flow that works - give it a few more days to tweak and become habit :slight_smile:

Hi @benji300 - thanks to the quick reply, consideration and feature request!

Looking at the alternative, for me personally, it likely wouldn't help; when I use favourites its mostly for saved searches - my use case here is to be able to replicate the "dynamic notebook" features; the hierarchy (again, for me) is because the number of combinations I have as saved searches is just too big to be practical in a flat list.

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