3 minute read

At some point in the last couple of weeks, a link passed through my hcommons.social feed pointing me to Ben Newton’s post on task-tracking in Obsidian. I loooooooove Obsidian. Love it. I keep all of my research notes in it, as well as a wide range of personal notes (e.g., the list of Christmas shopping I have not yet completed). But I’m super-aware that I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what it can do. And so with tasks. I’ve had a long-standing morning routine of looking at my to-dos, which I’ve captured and tracked in Things 3 (which I also love!), and transferring my top priorities to a daily note that helps me think through how the day will be structured. It had honestly never occurred to me to track my to-dos in Obsidian, much less that doing so might help me automate some of my day-planning, not to mention help me prevent random action items emerging from meetings from getting forgotten as I jump to the next Zoom call. But the combination of Newton’s post and Ellane W’s article on creating daily and weekly notes that feed into one another convinced me to start tinkering.

The first thing I did, after installing the Obsidian Tasks plugin, was to create a Tasks list using the gist that Ben provides at the bottom of his post. And then I experimented a lot, changing the parameters that each of the subcategories in the list uses to gather and filter tasks, the ways that they’re displayed, and so on. (The Obsidian Tasks documentation is awesome.)

Then I used the Obsidian Columns plugin to create two callouts at the top of my daily notes template (which relies on the Periodic Notes plugin), one for daily calendar events and one for the priority tasks for the day. It wound up looking like this:

Today's daily note
Today’s daily note

Each morning I now create the day’s note, which uses the following code in the template to generate the callouts:

an ugly mess of code that I cannot get to render in markdown
An ugly mess of code that I cannot get to render as a codeblock in markdown; guess why.

The first column is for the day’s events; I haven’t (*yet*) found a way to pull my schedule from Outlook, so for now I’m manually creating a list of scheduled meetings and such each morning. The second column, however, automatically pulls exactly the tasks I want to see each morning: the routine items I do each day, plus the tasks I’ve created that are due soon (or are overdue) and that have been marked as priority items. It’s not the prettiest piece of logic but it works.

One of the routine tasks that’s included in the list is “change block to done.” At the end of the day today, I’ll open up that code block and change the logic for the list of tasks from not done and that knot of parentheticals to instead read done date 2022-12-16, which will show me a nice checklist of what I managed to accomplish.

I do this for two reasons: it prevents the day’s note from updating if I open it on subsequent days (as it will always be “today”), and that allows me then to aggregate each day’s note, using Ellane W’s method, into a weekly record of what got done.

Plus, each day’s notes, down below the events and tasks callouts, can include action items (such as those from today’s grant planning call) that then get aggregated to the task list.

So far, I love it, and it’s making me love Obsidian even more to see the power of what it can do. If you’ve used Obsidian for this kind of thing, I’d love to hear more about it.

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