Weekly Head Voices #155: Lush.

Happy place: Running on a gravel road somewhere, this time in Wilderness.


Due to being outside so often, I have not been able to make the time to sit down and write to you more regularly over the past weeks.

I did miss you!

Fortunately, I am here now (that was Tuesday, it’s now Friday…) to babble a little bit about my subjective experience of the period of time from Monday September 17 to Sunday October 7. I did bring pictures!

GOUs go camping for their first time ever ✅

BFS decided to have his birthday party at a camp site called Beaverlac, close to Porterville. Beaverlac is beautiful and offers the additional amazing perk of No Cellular Reception.

The environment looks something like this:

One of the many Beaverlac pools. That water is COLD.

To my pleasant surprise, all three GOUs had a roaring time just being outside. Disconnection from the outside world was simply accepted as a given, which contributed significantly to their experience.

Before we move on to the next bit, a word to the wise: Your front wheel drive car will probably not be able to pull a trailer of any significant mass up the mountain when you leave Beaverlac. (There is only that one torturous way out, filled with thousands upon thousands of loose little stones…)

We learned this the hard way. Fortunately, the vehicle BFS had arranged for the weekend was an all-wheel drive, and so, after half an hour of hitching-unhitching-and-hitching again various trailers, we all managed to get back up to the top of the mountain.

Spring break in Wilderness.

The week after that, we left to spend a few days of the school spring break in Wilderness.

Having grown up in the Winelands, Wilderness is a whole different kind of pretty.

Wilderness has it all (say in Stefon voice for maximum effect):

Verdant, all enveloping forests, rivers snaking everywhere, mountains and a beautiful coastline.

If they had called the place “LUSH” instead of “WILDERNESS”, that would also have been quite apt.

The top of Big Tree of the Knysna Forests. Also known as the Outeniqua Yellowood, this specific one is about 800 years old.

Productivity pro-tip: Fool yourself into doing a good daily review.

Many productivity systems, including GTD, recommend or sometimes even require that one performs a regular review of one’s task system. This always looks quite good on paper, but this activity somehow falls often and easily to the wayside.

In the latest evolution of my orgmode task management evolution, the checklist I mentioned in a WHV #126 has become much more useful.

I now have a standard day planner template which I activate in the mornings by pressing a specific Emacs keyboard shortcut (C-c c p if you must know, it’s just an orgmode capture template).

This is a long(ish) checklist that ensures I review all of the important elements of my planning:

  • Longer term goals and reminders which I update every month. This includes which books I want to finish reading, which longer term projects I need to think about, and so on.
  • My calendar for the day. Yes, I need to be reminded to double-check my calendar for any unexpected meetings.
  • The “00 ToDo” folder in my email. I sometimes move emails in there from my telephone. These need to be processed and turned into real todos.
  • The main list of orgmode tasks. These are extracted on-demand from my monthly journal and the various project files I maintain in orgmode.
  • macOS / iOS reminders. Don’t judge me. Sometimes I voice-command one of my iDevices that I should do this or that on this or that day, at which point they get added to the synchronised list of reminders. This review step ensures that I take care of those.

The check list has an additional section with a list of habits that I try to build and maintain. This includes check list items for my sleep hours the previous night, the number of pomodori I complete (and whether I’m happy with that specific number) and whether I’ve read and thought enough for the day.

As with all of these systems, this one is far from perfect, but there are two things I specifically like about it:

  1. It takes a single keypress in the morning to create and configure the checklist.
  2. Checklists are amazing. In this case, the checklist is helping me to pull reminders of various kinds from a range of different sources, which enables me to exert a just a little more control over my daily evolution.

Slippery slippery focus.

Sometimes it feels like I have to spend the majority of my time just ensuring that I focus on the important stuff.

For an example, see the previous section.

A normal part of mindfulness meditation, is recognising when your attention wanders, and then just bringing your attention back to the breath.

In spite of the fact that this is an extremely well-known aspect of mindfulness, it has taken me until fairly recently to make peace with the fact that my normal daily focus (although sometimes it somehow finds itself in flow, which is amazing when it happens) will in many cases follow the same pattern.

Like many of you, I have the feeling that there’s an extremely complicated equation describing the relationship between sleep, diet, mood, time of day, environment, and so on, on the one hand and sustained focus on the other. I have an extremely rough idea how many of these affect focus, but on many days, experience breaks all of the rules.

Long story short, until we figure out how exactly to manipulate focus, I accept that the best way to handle the slippery focus problem, is, just like in mindfulness, to accept that it will never really stop wavering, and rather to work on recognising this wavering, and then simply bringing that focus back.

Flat white at La Belle Alliance in Swellendam.

6 thoughts on “Weekly Head Voices #155: Lush.”

  1. Capture templates are one of my favourite things about Orgmode. I have a few that I use often. A journaling one, 1 for filing repeat tasks in my calendar.org, and one for filing quick things into my schedule, under a different subtree in calendar.org.

    I’d be interested in seeing the .emacs entry that you use for the capture template that you use here. I had a repeat task running for this exact same check, but unchecking all the items, and having it clutter up my agenda, was a bit annoying. So I’d love to implement something like this.

    Also what do you use for your calendar?

  2. Since Charl uttered the magic incantation “emacs”, “orgmode”, “productivity”, I feel obliged to leave a comment.

    I have a script for integrating Google calendars into org-mode, so that I can see an entire view of my day—deadlines, tasks, and appointments—in the Agenda. You can find it here: https://gist.github.com/stefanv/cfceca96a4d213d14e7329d975a89cdd It is a very simple solution, and is uni-directional: only downloads, no uploading back to Google calendar); but it works well enough.

    Check-lists are a great idea, and fit very nicely with the brain/energy arguments from David Rock’s “Your Brain at Work”, that you recommended elsewhere.

    Finally, since some org-moders are present, I would love more feedback on good archiving practices: https://www.reddit.com/r/orgmode/comments/9kunnv/archiving_practices/ I’m having a difficult time with tasks mixed with notes, that then get archived, becoming hard to reconstruct for historic perusal. What are your org-mode organizational workflows?

    1. Wow, great post. I’ll be having a look at all of this.

      The lack of a good calendar in orgmode (or maybe there is and I’m missing it?), is a major issue for me at the moment.

    1. Phew, I think I can answer this question!

      This is simply default orgmode agenda functionality. As I might have responded to one of your posts on reddit somewhere (perhaps): I have separate orgfiles for each project. I also have a single org file per month.

      All current project files and the current month file are part of org-agenda, so that when I press “C-c a n” (YES WE CAN!) I see all of my current tasks “extracted on-demand from my monthly journal and the various project files …”.

      My daily checklist only has a checkbox “Check your orgmode tasks” — I can’t check that off until I’ve done the “C-c a n” and reviewed everything. However, now that you mention it, I have linked for example my Apple reminders to one of the daily checklist items using org-link-set-parameters. When I “C-c C-o” on that item, it pulls up my reminders. I could do something similar to open org-agenda, but “C-c C-o” is not much better than “C-c a n”.

      Most importantly here is that I have a start-of-month ritual where I create the new monthly org file and then manually review all TODOs left in the previous month before deciding to copy them over to the new month, or to CANCel them. Between this, and project files being removed from org-agenda-files, my old task cruft is kept to a minimum.

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