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I'm still trying to wrap my head around how the agenda can work, and I'd like to get a few other people's approaches to it. What I'd like is to be able to take a task, say writing a paper. I know that will take about 6-8 hours, and I'm not going to write it in one sitting. So, I need to set aside three or four 2 hour blocks to work on it.

According to the manual, Deadlines are for the time something must be done by.

DEADLINE: <2016-03-16 Wed>

Simple enough. Scheduling allows you to set a time to start, so I can schedule the paper two weeks before it's due to start it.

SCHEDULED: <2016-03-02>

So far so good, but it hasn't actually given me specific times to work on the task. This question suggests scheduling an item, and letting it appear on the agenda until it's done, but that still leaves the problem that a large task can only be scheduled once.

I could assign several timestamps to it, one for every day I want to work on it.

<2016-03-04
<2016-03-06 7pm>
<2016-03-08>

This seems to be a popular solution, but the agenda and todo views don't seem to have an easy way to manipulate timestamps, as they do for deadlines and scheduled dates, with C-c C-d and C-c C-s.

The other option is to break up the task into a number of subtasks (e.g., research paper, write body, write conclusion, write intro), and schedule those individually. But, there seem to be many tasks that breaking it up just wouldn't make sense, or where the smallest subtask will still take several hours.

So, have I misunderstood how to schedule things? Is there a simple way to manipulate timestamps in agenda view, or do I just need to plan my projects out to the point every scheduled item can be done in a few hours? What approaches are have worked for you?

  • I have grown so accustomed to having time-stamps in my *Org Agenda* buffer that I forgot that it is not a built-in feature -- it's something that I created in my custom setup. For me, I just use Shift+up and Shift-down on a time-stamp. At some point, somebody ought to submit a feature request to have an option to include time-stamps in the agenda view. One option would be to just jump to the master todo-list, then use Shift+up / Shift+down on a time-stamp and jump back to a refreshed *Org Agenda* buffer. Not sure if that is any better than your C-c C-d and C-c C-s though. – lawlist Mar 17 '16 at 2:22
  • Consider programmatically organizing your master todo-list with things like org-sort-entries and collapsing what you don't want to see and using sparse-trees. I use the agenda buffer when a targeted search is needed, and I use a calendar view to show me deadlines, birthdays and holidays. So, I don't really use org-agenda-list that much any more, but I do use org-tags-view and org-search-view all the time. They are on speed-dial to my custom keyboard global shortcuts. – lawlist Mar 17 '16 at 2:32
  • @lawlist what have you bound Shift+up to? C-c C-d allows adding a deadline to an entry in the agenda views, not particularly useful since I typically add deadlines when I create a task. – user2699 Mar 17 '16 at 3:33
  • @lawlist, Those functions do seem useful too. I'd say they could easily be an answer. It looks like a complete approach for working with org files. – user2699 Mar 17 '16 at 3:38
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Here are some built-in functions -- org-mode version 8.2.10 and perhaps earlier (but untested) -- for changing the date in org-agenda-mode that the original poster may find useful -- they are available in the drop-down menu or certain mouse pop-up context menus, and some of them have keyboard shortcuts already defined:

"Change Date +1 day" org-agenda-date-later

"Change Date -1 day" org-agenda-date-earlier

"Change Time +1 hour" org-agenda-do-date-later -- "C-u S-right"

"Change Time -1 hour" org-agenda-do-date-earlier --"C-u S-left"

"Change Time +  min" org-agenda-date-later -- "C-u C-u S-right"

"Change Time -  min" org-agenda-date-earlier -- "C-u C-u S-left"

"Change Date to ..." org-agenda-date-prompt

See the section of the manual: http://orgmode.org/manual/Agenda-commands.html

Another option would be to jump to the master org-mode file, and change relevant portions of the time-stamp with Shift+up / Shift+down / Shift+right / Shift+left -- and then redo the agenda buffer. For more information on those features type:

M-x describe-function RET org-shiftup RET

M-x describe-function RET org-shiftdown RET

M-x describe-function RET org-shiftright RET

M-x describe-function RET org-shiftleft RET

The three main functions used to create org-agenda buffers are org-agenda-list; org-tags-view; and org-search-view. Consider putting them on speed-dial with global keyboard shortcuts.

Consider programmatically organizing the master org-mode file with functions such as org-sort-entries, and using the outline collapse features to make everything more readable. See also the section of the manual relating to creating sparstrees (a collapsed outline based on a search criteria): http://orgmode.org/manual/Sparse-trees.html

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Scheduled tasks can have repeaters:

* TODO Write paper
  SCHEDULED: <2016-03-17 18:00 +2d>

In this example, "Write paper" will appear on the agenda every 2 days. Each time it appears, you do it and mark it as DONE. The schedule will then advance by 2 days, hiding the completed task from today's agenda. This only works, of course, if you work on it periodically.

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