Juggling projects with org-mode

It has taken me an embarrassingly long time to realise that I am bad at juggling multiple projects. And when I say ‘bad’, I mean, really bad. My natural mode of working is to focus intensely on a single project at a time. This is unfortunate, because academic life mostly consists of juggling a large number of different projects simultaneously. I love (almost) everything else about academia, and I’m generally good at my job (I think), but I struggle constantly when having to switch between projects. Last year, I read about Shawn Blanc’s 8-week work cycles and was jealous. His ‘monk mode’ sounds like heaven to me. I do what I can with the wiggle room I have to carve out blocks of focused time on particular projects, but I still needed some way to — if you’ll forgive me for extending the juggling metaphor — avoid dropping any balls in the process. Since I’ve been using Emac’s org-mode a lot recently, I decided to see if I could help me.

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Getting comfy with Emacs

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Emacs since I last wrote about it. I’m gradually starting to get comfortable with it, by doing as much as possible of my text editing (as well as other kinds of tasks) in Emacs. For example, I had to write some new lectures this Semester, and used Org mode to write them, using the built-in converter to make a Beamer PDF. I used the ability to include another file in the header to set up all the stuff needed to use the Metropolis Beamer theme, which I could then easily include in each lecture file. It was a delightful way to work. I split my frame into the org file for the lecture, a dired buffer showing the image files I wanted to include so that I could easily copy the filename into my lecture file (just move the cursor to the line in dired and hit w to copy the filename so you can yank it in your file), and a docview window showing the generated PDF file.

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Emacs from a clean slate

I feel like this post could be subtitled “For real this time”. Let’s just say that it’s certainly not my first time down an Emacs rabbit hole. I’ve used Spacemacs, then given up because I found it hard to maintain and fix small issues that arose. Then I moved to Doom Emacs, and liked it a lot. It was more compact and less monolithic than Spacemacs, but it still required more Emacs knowledge than I had at the time to understand how all the working parts fitted together. Then I went back to Neovim, and so the bouncing between Vim and Emacs cycle began again. This time, something struck me: what if I was approaching Emacs in the wrong way, trying to make it into something it isn’t, namely Vim? What if I actually took the time to learn how to do things the Emacs Way, and built up my configuration from scratch, adding only what I needed and understood? It was a crazy idea, but it might just work…

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One Level At A Time

I’m writing a theoretical paper for work at the moment with some colleagues, and am having a terrible time with it. The deadline is looming up as we speak, but because I’ve been busy with other things, and the topic is huge and difficult to get to grips with, I have been making very slow progress on it. One of the colleagues I am writing it with suggested that I try tackling it using a particular technique.

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