Incremental improvements can lead to significant gains

While reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, I was reflecting that my choice of embracing Emacs and progressively gaining mastery over it was intimately connected with the philosophy preached in the book.

My efforts initially started out with a craving for a system to quantify and manage my tasks, habits, notes, blog writing, job applications and projects in a custom environment, and to be able to build toolkits of code to perform repetitive tasks. As mentioned in an earlier blog post , I tried several approaches before settling on Emacs. The idea was to find or create a single system to track everything of importance in my life (with ease and efficiency). This was instead of a fragmented approach of using multiple tools and techniques, for example, Sublime Text / Atom as a text editor and Todoist as a task management tool.

I started with a vanilla configuration of Emacs and painstakingly borrowed (and eventually) modified lisp snippets to implement desired ‘features’ or behaviors. It was a just a couple of features every week, initially focused on Org mode’s behavior alone. That was nearly 3 years ago. As of now, I am able to manage my blog [hugo], view my email [mu4e], browse the web [w3m], seamlessly capture notes / ideas / tasks from (almost) anywhere [Org mode], chat on IRC, build multi-language code notebooks with ease [Org babel]. All the above provide me significant advantages in speed and efficiency which still have plenty of potential to improve.

Sure, I certainly appear closer to my goal today.. however, I did not know if it was a pipe dream when I started out. It was often extremely frustrating, right from memorizing the ‘crazy’ keybindings in Emacs, to struggling with getting a lisp snippet to work as expected.

Choosing Emacs had unexpected rewards as well. For example, the need of synchronizing my notes and Emacs configuration with multiple machines led me to Git. Magit’s easily accessible commands and relatively visual interface has been a massive help in getting things done with Git, despite not having any deep technical knowledge of how Git works.

My journey with Emacs is testament that an incremental, compounding improvement over time can ultimately result in significant gains. It is also important to acknowledge that I am standing on the shoulder of giants and the awesome Scimax is a cornerstone in my toolkit.