# Organising Life in Plain Text

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• Hi @analogue_man,
As of now, I have my ZK in Bear, and task files/notes in NotePlan. Bear is slick, fast, and a real pleasure to work in. It also easily syncs between desktop and IOS. But, it doesn’t save files as plain text (you can export though).
I’m in the process of updating my notes and moving them from Bear into both The Archive and NotePlan
If the ZK folder is within NotePlan’s, that might be a way to sync Zettels across devices. I haven’t tried this yet, but I want to.
NotePlan has nested tags so separating the ZK from daily tasks shouldn’t be too messy.

• edited January 28

@WoodruffCoates said:
@Jon Try NotePlan 3 by @EduardMe. It’s a Markdown task manager that syncs across Mac and IOS and calendar. Saves everything as text files. Works great if you like Bullet Journalling, GTD, and taking smart notes!

I am really enjoying NotePlan 3 -- thank you so much for this suggestion. I have been using it for almost a week know--based on this post--and I could not be happier. I use it as my "ToDo.txt" combined with Cal Newport's time blocking with pen and paper, and it is the solution I have been looking for.

While there are still some things that need to be worked out (like accessing folders outside the app, and adding the weekly view on iOS) the developer -- (@EduardMe) was very responsive on Twitter and says many things are on their list for development.

Maybe someday I will venture down the emacs route but until then, this app is helping me offload my cognitive load with my tasks where my "mind feels safe", and I am getting things done.

• On a somewhat related topic, I have a number of notes that relate to both specific and recurring dates. For example, little-known holidays and so forth. I also have things I want to remember on specific days of the month.

Recently, I've been trying to come up with a system that helps me both identify those connections, and search for them easily. So far, this is what I've come up with.

Things that are related to specific dates look like this:

#2021.02.03

This way, it's clickable, and I can find it by searching for #2021, #2021.02, #2021.02.03 and so on, scoping as appropriate. So far, so good. But what about things that aren't connected to a particular year, but to a particular month-and-day? Here's what I've started doing:

#.02.03

This leaves out the year, while establishing a syntactic indicator that the year has been left out. I can still scope searches to either to month (#.02) or month and date (#.02.03).

What about dates that occur every month? Again, I leave out the irrelevant signifier, while still indicating that it has been left out:

#..03

As far as I can tell, this syntax works great for attaching notes to different kinds of location in time. What gets a little hairy is searching for something that relates to a specific date, either because it relates to that specific date, or because that specific date falls on a recurring day. This requires a more complex search syntax:

[[#2021.02.03 OR #.02.03 OR #..03]]

To help facilitate this, I've started creating calendar structure notes, that look like this:

#.02 #february
#2021.02.01 #.02.01 #..01 [[#2021.02.01 OR #.02.01 OR #..01]]
#2021.02.02 #.02.02 #..02 [[#2021.02.02 OR #.02.02 OR #..02]]
#2021.02.03 #.02.03 #..03 [[#2021.02.03 OR #.02.03 OR #..03]]
#2021.02.04 #.02.04 #..04 [[#2021.02.04 OR #.02.04 OR #..04]]
#2021.02.05 #.02.05 #..05 [[#2021.02.05 OR #.02.05 OR #..05]]
#2021.02.06 #.02.06 #..06 [[#2021.02.06 OR #.02.06 OR #..06]]
...


This may start to feel like overkill at this point. However, it is aiming at something that seems fairly difficult: a durable syntax for things located in recurring time, that co-exists with things located in specific time. Arguably, this is better handled in specific apps, but if I want to keep this in plain text documents, what are my options?

Perhaps there are syntactic choices that would streamline this in some way that I haven't thought of. Or perhaps there's a different approach. Thoughts?

• @micahredding said:
On a somewhat related topic, I have a number of notes that relate to both specific and recurring dates. For example, little-known holidays and so forth. I also have things I want to remember on specific days of the month.

Perhaps there are syntactic choices that would streamline this in some way that I haven't thought of. Or perhaps there's a different approach. Thoughts?

For the existing tagging approach, you could use reflexes for a bit more searchability -- e.g.
\#[\d]*\.02.* for all February tags (0 or more numbers, a single dot, 02, then whatever). Using periods as the separator makes it harder because it makes it more difficult to differentiate between 02. as in #2020.02.04 vs an 02 at the end of a sentence. So perhaps that's an option.

I will be honest though, the idea of up to 365+31+12+some arbitrary number of exact-date-specific tags -- it makes me queasy! What app do you use that provides a sensible tag management UX for that?

Were I looking to associate notes to dates in this way, I would investigate 2 approaches:

1. Make the tags modular -- so rather than a tag per year, per month, per day-of-month, per date, I'd have 1 for each year of interest, one for each month, one for each date. So the search for all fifths of February is #M02 AND #D05. Add AND #Y2021 for this year, subtract a tag for just the fifths-of-months. Seems much less fiddly.
2. Rather than depending on search, instead use index/structure notes.

How should one structure the notes? Structure the lists to your tasks. Naively, I propose a "monthlies" note containing everything that happens on a particular day of the month, and then a note (or section of a single note, whatever) per month describing recurring annual things.

From there only you could figure out your needs. What is it you're trying to do? Ask questions and make conjectures about why uprisings happened in March and not in September? All you mention apart from recurring-task-management is "identifying connections" based on date but I'm not clear on your intent with those connections. I propose that a living, curated note is more valuable than search results that contain, e.g., a mixture of historical events, personal journals, and annual recurring tasks that happen(ed) in July.

• edited February 7

Thanks for the thoughtful response, @jim .

One clarification here. It's not terribly important to me that all of this work within one app. Generally, I've believed I need to keep todo lists and such out of my regular (zettelkasten) notes, because I don't want to be switching cognitive modes as I'm exploring and elaborating on connections. However, I am finding some exceptions, notably around cases where the task management actually involves the notes in some way. At this point, the idea of separating these things seems to break down.

That said, I try to create universal systems across all of my files. I adopted the Zettel ID format a while back (eg, 202102071153), replacing an earlier system I had used, and I implemented that everywhere. All of my notes are filed like this, in their respective places.

Similarly, I'm looking for a universal date tagging system, to match a number of different use cases across files.

@jim said:
What is it you're trying to do? Ask questions and make conjectures about why uprisings happened in March and not in September? All you mention apart from recurring-task-management is "identifying connections" based on date but I'm not clear on your intent with those connections. I propose that a living, curated note is more valuable than search results that contain, e.g., a mixture of historical events, personal journals, and annual recurring tasks that happen(ed) in July.

One thing I do is collect information about holidays, feast days, and so forth. For example, December 20 is "Filter Day" among a subset of the rationalist community. I like to be able to pull up and look at such things side-by-side, so that I can see, for example, that this is also around the time of the Solstice, Christmas Eve, and so on. (This case is obvious, others are not)

Another thing I do is collect information about certain historical events. Francis Bacon published the "Novum Organum" in 1620, and I'd like to know what else was going on that year. It's quite likely that I'll have recorded something about a totally different series of events that were happening at this time, and perhaps I'll discover a meaningful resonance.

And if I discovered that the Novum Organum was published on July 19, 1620, then it would be interesting that July 19 happens to be the Feast Day of Saint Macrina the Younger, who discussed science and automatons at length.

It's possible to pre-fetch many of the possible connections, by filing every note both individually, and in the related yearly note (in this case, a 1620 note, for example.) But a note for every year seems more overwhelming than a tagging notation. So too with a note for every day.

There's also a semantic argument here. This hypothetical connection between Novum Organum and St Macrina would seem meaningful, by the nature of their respective content. However, everything else that was happening on that day might be irrelevant. So I wouldn't want this connection to end up on the "19th of July" note. Rather, I would want the connection to become a note in and of itself. All I need is for the system to help me discover that connection, and for me to be able to evaluate it as meaningful or not.

Other than these efforts, on a day-to-day basis I generally just want to know what happened on this day in history, and what relevant holidays there are. So that suggests a fairly simple search. The search index I described is just an amped-up version of this.

@jim said:
1. Make the tags modular -- so rather than a tag per year, per month, per day-of-month, per date, I'd have 1 for each year of interest, one for each month, one for each date. So the search for all fifths of February is #M02 AND #D05. Add AND #Y2021 for this year, subtract a tag for just the fifths-of-months. Seems much less fiddly.

Yes, this is a good consideration. It's less compact (#2021.02.05 vs #Y2021 #M02 #D05), but is perhaps less ambiguous and more composable. On the other hand, the information content is not quite the same. For example, #.07.19 is identified as a yearly recurring date, while #M07 #D19 doesn't tell us whether it's recurring or not.

It also seems to represent a different strategy when it comes to searches.

To search for "everything that falls on this day" we need:

[[#2021.07.19 OR #.07.19 OR #..19]]

;; vs

[[(#M07 #D19) OR (#D19 !#M)]] ;; excludes dates scoped to months other than July


To search for 'everything annually falling on this day', we need:

[[#.07.19]]

;; vs

[[(#M07 #D19) !#Y]] ;; excludes dates scoped to specific years


To search for 'everything that happened on this day in history', we need:

[[.07.19]]

;; vs

[[#M07 #D19]]