Links » Academic Workflow | Note-taking

Table of Contents

This is the documentation to my Exocortex. It is a collection of plain-text files with which I organise my projects and take notes. The note-taking part is publicly available while the project-managing aspects remain private. This document might serve as a starting point for others to create a similar system.

Basic Workflow

My workflow encompasses three phases: planning, executing and reviewing.


I have three time intervals which are relevant in this stage. Days, Weeks and Quarters. In practice, this means that I have a long (2h+) planning session towards the end of each quarter, a shorter (1h) session each week and a brief moment (max. 15min) every morning and evening to organise my time. The aim in all this is to decide how I distribute my time across projects.

Simply put, a project is simply a collection of tasks. I also like this definition from Wikipedia:

A project consists of a concrete and organized effort motivated by a perceived opportunity when facing a problem, a need, a desire or a source of discomfort.

Projects are always tagged so that I can quickly filter out the relevant items for any given work context. For example, I have the tag fsfe on all projects that relate to my part-time work as a system hacker for the Free Software Foundation Europe.

Below the project-level are tasks. Tasks are specific (what needs to be done exactly?), measurable (what does it mean to be done with the task?), achievable (is it possible?), relevant (does it matter for the project?), time-related (when is the deadline or how many hours of what kind of work are needed?). Tasks can be infinitely nested, but sub-sub-…-tasks don’t need to fulfil all these criteria. Most of time, I use those nested levels for offloading tasks that need to be done but don’t fit within the current task that I am working on. So, I offload them into the relevant (sub)task to mitigate context-switching. Tasks can only have one of two tags: shallow or deep. This helps me filter before any given work session. For instance, I might have a two-hour block in front of me and I am well-rested so that it is possible to work with depth on a day where I work for the FSFE. I can just query my Exocortex to give me all tasks with tags fsfe and deep (obviously tag inheritance across all levels of nesting is needed here in order for this type of query to be successful).



Specific Workflows and their relationship to the Exocortex

To find out more about my Zettelkasten-inspired note-taking workflow, visit this note. There you will find details on my approach to digesting knowledge that I come across in books, podcasts and other media.

To find out about my use of the Exocortex for academic writing, visit this note.

By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers—whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids. (Engelbart 1962)



Engelbart, Douglas C. 1962. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” SRI Summary Report AFOSR-3223, Prepared for: Director of Information Sciences, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Washington DC Contract AF49 (638-1024).

Links to this note

System Administrator & Software Engineer

I am interested in all the ways technology shapes human life.