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From: Tim Cross <theophilusx@gmail.com>
To: "Sébastien Gendre" <seb@k-7.ch>
Cc: emacs-orgmode@gnu.org
Subject: Re: How do you manage complex project with Org-mode
Date: Tue, 01 Mar 2022 18:12:06 +1100	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <87h78hrdf8.fsf@gmail.com> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <87tuci9zp6.fsf@k-7.ch>

Sébastien Gendre <seb@k-7.ch> writes:

> Hello,
> I don't know if it's the correct place to ask it. If not, sorry to ask in
> the wrong place.

I think it is the correct place. This is a list for general org mode
discussions. Such discussions can be technical or about how to use org mode.

> How do you manage complex project with Org-mode ?
> I used Org-mode for several periods of time in recent years. It worked
> very well for short and day to day tasks. When only a few of theme have
> deadlines and when you have plenty of time to do them.
> But, as a student, I regularly have big and important projects to do for
> the school. The kind of project who need several days to be done, with
> deadlines too soon, and if you fail one them the consequences can be
> disastrous. And generally, I have to many of these project in the same
> time and not enough time to do all the work. So, I also need to follow
> the progress of each project to choose which is sufficiently advanced to
> be stop for the benefit of another less advanced project.
> And I don't know how to manage this kind of projects with Org-mode. How
> to do it, without failing a 6 days project because I spent to much time
> on something else and I have only 3 days left with 3 half-day important
> appointment I cannot cancel. I can't risk failing a single one of these
> project by trying. So, when I am in a period with a lot of these
> projects, I stop using Org-mode and concentrate on doing these project
> as fast as I can. And because I often have this kind of project, I spend
> most of the year without being able to use Org-mode.

The first thing I would say is that org mode is NOT going to solve your
problems of too many tasks with competing priorities in too short a time
period or mitigate the impact from missed deadlines etc. In fact, no
project management software can do this.

Org mode is merely a tool which can help you manage tasks, deadlines,
schedules, priorities and project information. It can help you track
your tasks so fewer are overlooked/forgotten, it can help you manage
your deadlines and scheduling of time and it can help you manage
priorities and provide you with an overview of things that can alert you
to issues earlier, allowing for a wider range of mitigation
strategies. However, it is just a tool and how well you use that tool
will come down to experience and self discipline.

> So, if you have any suggestion on how to manage, in Org-mode, projects
> with:
> * Lot of work to do (many days)
> * Short deadline (not enough time)
> * High importance (disastrous consequences in my future in case of fail)
> * Many of them in the same time
> * Progression need to be followed to chose where to sacrifice time to
>   limit the damages

That list is almost an exact match for the job criteria on the last job
I applied for, which highlights the point these are individual skills
which need to be learned, primarily through experience and not something
which can be solved by a software tool. Such tools can help ensure
things don't fall through the gaps during busy stressful projects, can
help you assess how much work needs to be done and where corners will
need to be cut or deadlines changed, scope reduced or quality
decreased. At some point, you have to make a call as to what you will
manage in your org-mode files. Too much or too detailed and too much
time will be spent gathering and managing the data. Too little or
insufficient detail and decisions on what has to be sacrificed are
likely to be misguided or wrong. Unfortunately, there is no formula to
calculate this. It will depend on the environment, types of projects and
individual experience and preferences.

The key to using org mode to manage projects is largely about
incremental refinement. You start by defining a plan on how to use org
mode, you then implement that plan and start using it. You then review
how well it is working at some point and take the experience to that
point, both positive and negative, into a new cycle, starting with a new
plan (refined plan), implement, use review and continue this cycle
(probably indefinitely, but likely with longer cycles).

In general, I would recommend the following

- Start simple. Don't try to do everything all at once. Org is extremely
  flexible with a lot of built-in functionality. Trying to use all of it
  all at once is likely going to make it a burden rather than an aid.

- Start with a default org-mode configuration. A mistake I've seen
  people make many times is to immediately start by configuring new and
  complicated TODO states or complicated capture templates or extensive
  tag hierarchies and complex priority levels. Avoid the temptation to
  over engineer your requirements. Use the default configuration for a
  time and then evaluate things and decide where to make some small

- Don't let the tail wag the dog. Remember, org mode is there to make
  your life easier. If you find your now spending all your time trying
  to capture tasks, set priorities, clock in/out of tasks, fill in
  capture templates etc, your doing it wrong. Org mode should be saving
  you time, not consuming it.

- Be broad in your research. When trying to develop a better way to
  manage your projects/workflow/tasks, don't just look at how people do
  it in org. Look at more general solutions and then see how org can be
  used to support whatever approach you want to use. For example, many
  people like the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach, others prefer an
  approach based on Agile project management methodologies and others
  use org mode based on a PRINC2 PM model.

- Don't try to put all your projects into org at once. Pick a project
  and use org to manage it. This will be your initial test case. The
  project which will help you learn about org mode and apply your
  project management sills using org mode as your primary management

My own approach is probably best described as a hybrid or maybe
Frankenstein model. I have cherry picked bits from various approaches to
come up with something that works for me. It probably wouldn't work for
anyone else, but I find it has improved my ability to get projects done,
to track the critical information associated with a project and reduce
the number of tasks I overlook or forget. It took me a while to get to
this point and there were a fair number of mistakes made on the
way. Many of my original tweaks and configuration changes have been
removed and my setup is probably closer to a default configuration than
it ever has been before.

The main objectives for my own configuration were

- Make it easy to capture information and deal with it later. When your
  working on a task, other things will intrude and work to distract
  you. I try to minimise these by having a minimal set of capture
  templates which will allow me to capture some bit of information, some
  random, but possibly important idea, some phone call from a client, a
  task my wife wants done etc., which will be captured into a file which
  I will go through later. This allows me to get back to what I'm trying
  to focus on with minimal distraction.

- Keep active tasks to a minimum. There is no point having a task list
  with hundreds of entries to select from when your trying to decide
  what to do next. So many tasks will cause stress and make it difficult
  to decide which tasks should be worked on next. I treat my list of
  tasks in a TODO state as my backlog of tasks. Many of them will
  probably never be acted upon. Every fortnight or so, I will go through
  the list and flag some as 'NEXT' tasks. The aim is to ensure there are
  sufficient STARTED and NEXT tasks to keep me fully allocated for the
  next 'sprint'. When I start a task, its state moves from NEXT to
  STARTED. It will then transition to DONE, DELEGATED, HOLD or CANCELLED
  as necessary. Only tasks wiht a STARTED/NEXT/HOLD state appear in my
  agenda. Typically, there are never more than 10 tasks in a

- When working, I use a pmodoro approach. I work in 20 - 40 minute
  periods with a 5 minute break between periods and a 15 minute break
  after every 3 or 4 periods. During a period, I will not respond to or
  read email, will not answer the phone and will pretty much ignore
  everything except the task I'm working on.

- I always check in and check out when I'm working on a task. This is
  partially because I want to track where I'm spending time, but mainly
  to help me improve my effort estimation skills. The ability to make
  accurate effort estimations is an important skill, but one which is
  hard to develop. Comparing effort estimates with actual completion
  effort can help improve effort estimate reliability.

- I tend to only use SCHEDULED times for things which have a definite
  scheduled time (like a meeting) and only use DEADLINE when there is a
  real and definite deadline. I sometimes use priorities, but not often
  and only use the standard #A, #B and #C. I don't see the point in
  having more than 3 levels of priority.

  parent reply	other threads:[~2022-03-01 13:51 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 21+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2022-03-01  1:43 Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-01  4:03 ` Matt
2022-03-02 19:44   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-01  6:43 ` Dr. Arne Babenhauserheide
2022-03-02 20:00   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-01  7:12 ` Tim Cross [this message]
2022-03-02 20:33   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-02 21:55     ` Tim Cross
2022-03-20  5:16       ` Ihor Radchenko
2022-03-20 21:24         ` Tim Cross
2022-03-21  9:25           ` Ihor Radchenko
2022-03-20  5:06     ` Ihor Radchenko
2022-03-01 19:26 ` Antonio Carlos Padoan Junior
2022-03-02 20:53   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-01 21:06 ` Milan Zamazal
2022-03-02 20:58   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-02 16:29 ` Quiliro Ordóñez
2022-03-02 21:05   ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-01  4:38 Eric Abrahamsen
2022-03-02 21:26 ` Sébastien Gendre
2022-03-02 23:35   ` Eric Abrahamsen

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