Towards simpler workflows

Posted on June 5, 2023

A wise person in the programming world once said > premature optimization is the root of all evil(in programming) and that wise person many might know is Donald Knuth.

While the quote was attributed to programming, it could very well be extrapolated to our daily life.

Recently, I have been trying to simplify my workflows which started with : back to qwerty, back_to_ubuntu . The reason is very simple, as an engineer I have the over engineering mindset ingrained. The result of which I have realized that I tend to over engineer or prematurely try to optimize things even in my day to day life.

Notable change on this path is the move away from Emacs + org mode.

I have started using the Notes app that comes preinstalled with MacOS for all my note taking needs. It gets me into the habit of taking notes in a quick and effective manner. By effective I mean taking notes with little disruption to task I am on. Notes app is simple and minimalistic yet, featureful in that it has all the necessary tools required for most of my note taking needs. And for better or worse there aren’t customization options to distract me. Options can be paralyzing. The other advantage of the Notes app is icloud, which syncs the notes to all my devices. I have come to apprecitate having apps do one thing and doing it well. And Notes nails that pretty well when it comes to note taking.

The other change is I have started to utilize the reminders app to keep track of all my reminders and track due dates, deadlines.

I now like having individual apps do the tasks they were designed for as oppose to having one thing do it all. In this system all note taking needs is met by Notes app and my reminders taken care by Reminders app. This system also helps/encourages to keep things simple. One of the biggest barriers to productivity is over complicating and/or having overly complex workflow to begin with.


Although landing on Notes seemed like a simple and obvious choice, I did spend quite a lot of time evaluating the options out there. Notion, Bear app, One note, canva, UpNote, re-evaluating Org. Each of these options on this list presented itself with the problem I described above where it could easily distract me into the over engineering. Notion while the entire web touts as the best app, to me it is again like Emacs where it can easily drain hours designing/creating templates/workflows before I can actually get it to work for you. I can easily see myself having an internal battle whether I want to create a kanban style page or todo list or bullet list or database system when I start a new page. Thinking about the structure I want to maintain, how I want to maintain links…etc. sighs (over engineering)

A difficult good bye to Org

Org mode was the reason I got into Emacs. It was/is truly powerful. But I got into the rabbit hole of over thinking and over configuring my org(note taking) workflow trying to come up with all sorts of scenarios that I might come across or might be useful. And in this process every time I wanted to take notes I spend more time trying to configure or find packages to do this other thing that I thought I might benefit from. Instead of performing the act of note taking I would end up on a journey of googling how to do “this one thing that I think would be nice to have in my org note taking workflow, leading to browsing the plethora of emacs packages that are out there to achieve it. In the process discovering more interesting and awesome packages and how I can leverage them as well…” and so the train of distraction sets me on course to time sink journey. Another reason is I haven’t been able to find a nice way to keep my notes in sync in the org ecosystem. Although not a big deal but few times that I wanted my notes on my iPhone/iPad, it was just unpleasant with the options out there.

Tight integration with Apple apps

Notes has another great thing going for it which is the tight integration with other Apple apps, I can easily highlight text and send it notes, which then creates a note with a quote block of text that along with the link to it. It would however be nice if there was an ability to add multiple highlights from the same page to the note (hopefully in a future release).

And the same is true for reminders app as well. I have now gotten into the habit of sending emails I want to respond to, to reminders. A click on the reminder and it takes me right to the email in the Mail app (another pre-installed app that I have come to appreciate).