I've been getting into org-mode over the last few weeks, and recently I've been learning more about org-mode tasks, and reflecting on what org-mode can do differently from what I do in toodledo. I'm still wrapping my head around org-mode being entirely text-based, for example.

In learning more about org-mode, I'm starting to notice features that I didn't know were missing from toodledo. I've been using toodledo for so long that I know the product well, but org-mode is introducing me to task management concepts like:

  • easy log books/updates to tasks, so you can see and track task history
  • markup in task names and descriptions
  • easy linking to other content
  • very flexible grouping of tasks (since you're just working in a text file and can create however many levels of headings you want)
  • checklists (sort of like toodledo sub-tasks but not exactly)
  • easier task intake from other systems
  • unified interface adapting to how I work, rather than me adapting to the tool

For example, I always have to go to toodledo to record a task. I pin toodledo.com in Chrome. Whenever I want to look at my tasks I go to the web site. Whenever I'm entering in tasks from email, Evernote, OneNote, or any other inbox, I'm going to toodledo. Then the interface, while flexible, is toodledo's (and to a lesser extent, Chrome's). I can't add markup or use many hotkeys. I use the mouse a lot and have to use the mouse.

With org-mode, I can be looking at any content in Emacs (such as this blog post) and add a TODO without leaving the blog post. I hit C-c c to capture the TODO, and I've programmed the TODO to record a link to the content and a task. The interface is consistent. I didn't even realize that was a possible task list feature.

There's also a virtuous cycle in Emacs where the more you use Emacs, the more value you get out of org-mode, because you can better link to everything.

Finding features

"Innovation comes from the producer–not from the customer." - Dr. W. Edwards Deming

When I first read The New Economics by Dr. Deming, I didn't understand the book. I literally could not parse many of the sentences. Deming had a very different worldview from me. For example, he was insistent in his writing that the producer/vendor needs to be the one innovating, and that customers don't know what they want.

With toodledo vs. org-mode, I'm seeing that. If, as a customer/consumer, I designed my own task system, many of my requirements would be impractical and I wouldn't know what I was missing. Tools like the Plan/Do/Check/Act cycle help you learn quickly, for example by building a simple tool to meet my requirements and realizing it wasn't actually helpful, but producers already have a lot of know-how around their product and space and can innovate in ways that customers don't understand.

This makes me think about product management input as two "channels:"

  • Evolutionary improvements: Customers see things in the product they want to improve. The product can get better by addressing this feedback. This feedback is in the vein of the "hill-climbing algorithm:" it can make your product better but only to get to the top of a local hill. This feedback misses that there could be a mountain nearby.
  • Revolutionary improvements: Finding a way to innovate/add value that was not on anyone's radar. The customers didn't know to ask for a feature, but by adding it to the product you attract new customers and "surprise and delight" existing customers.