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Create Project Codes With Shortcuts


When you have as many projects going on as I do, things get confusing pretty fast. Ok, maybe I have too many projects, but that’s another issue altogether. I like to break things up pretty granularly, so I end up with a metric crap-ton of projects. I tried many different ways to keep them easily searchable and sortable, and finally settled on creating projsect codes. I had a slightly different system before reading a post over on I adopted a bunch of stuff he’s doing and it really streamlined and solidified my system.

The basic gist is - create a code that has 3 parts. The year, the Area of Responsibility (AoR), and an incremented number. So a code may be 23CC14 for the 14th project of 2023 in my Cocktails and Coffee AoR. It’s a great system that has a lot of benefits. Easier searching, better sorting, and being confident that things are named the same everywhere are just a few.

My problem was keeping track of that incremental number. Opening Omnifocus or Obsidian every time I wanted to create a project just so I could see what number I was on became a burden. So, me being me, I created an overcomplicated Shortcut to count for me!

The Setup

This Shortcut relies on DataJar, an amazing Shortcuts utility by Simon Støvring. It’s basically just a database for Shortcuts where you can store things in data dictionaries. For the purposes of this Shortcut, I’ve created a database named ProjectCodes and in that, three dictionaries: aor, ProjectIncrement, and icons.

The Project Codes in DataJarThe Project Codes in DataJar

The AoR dictionary has a bunch of key:value pairs with the name of the project and the code. This makes it nice in Shortcuts when choosing from a menu, it displays the name and the code.

The AoR DictionaryThe AoR Dictionary

The Project Increment dictionary has a bucket for each year. Inside the year is a number value for each project code key. This keeps the number of the most recent project increment for each AoR. The Shortcut automatically increments this every time I create a project.

The Project Increment DictionaryThe Project Increment Dictionary The 2023 DictionaryThe 2023 Dictionary

The Icon Dictionary is totally optional. I like using emoji in my project names as a sort of icon”, so I keep those emoji here, as values against the project code key.

The Icon Dictionary I’m sure you could do this a thousand other ways using a spreadsheet or even a text file, but I like the way DataJar handles this, and the Shortcuts actions make getting data in and out of DataJar super simple using simple dot-syntax (like ProjectCodes.ProjectIncrement.2023.HM to get the increment for my Home AoR.)

Obviously, if you set up your DataJar differently, you’ll need to adjust all the actions in the downloaded Shortcut.

The Shortcut

Step Image Description
1 Ask for InputAsk for Input Step 1: Ask for Text to get the project name.
2 Get value forGet value for Step 2:Get value for the DataJar collection named ProjectCodes.aor (which is where I keep my Area of Responsibility codes in key:value pairs in DataJar
3 Cloose ffrom LisCloose ffrom Lis Step 3: Choose from the list of codes pulled in Step 2.
4 Set variableSet variable Step 4: Set variable to the chosen item
5 Get value forGet value for Step 5: Get value for the project. This digs into DataJar to find the increment in the year/code dictionary. The current date” and variable in this step resolves to 2023.VH for my Vehicle code.
6 Set variableSet variable Step 6: Set variable increment to the number we pulled in Step 5
7 Get value forGet value for Step 7: Get value for another DataJar value that is the icon” for the project. I keep these as emoji in the database. Totally optional, but I like emoji!
8 Set variableSet variable Step 8: Set variable icon to the emoji found in previous step.
9 CalculateCalculate Step 9: Calculate the project number by adding 1 to the previous project number found in Step 5
10 Set valueSet value Step 10: Set value of the project increment to this new number.
11 IfIf Step 11: If the increment is less than 10, we’re going to format the number with a leading zero to keep them all 2 digits. This keeps things properly sorted in the file system.
12 TextText Step 12: Text with a zero and the single digit increment. This is a total cheap and messy hack, but I’m not embarrassed. Come at me (ง’̀-’́)ง.
13 OtherwiseOtherwise Step 13: If the incremnt is NOT less than 10, do this other thing.
14 TextText Step 14: Text of the increment from Step 9.
15 End IfEnd If Step 15: Closes out the If statement.
16 TextText Step 16: Text that builds the project name. These variables will resolve to something like: 23HO14 - Paint the Patio if this was the 14th project in my Home domain in 2023.
17 Add Omnifocus itemAdd Omnifocus item Step 17: Add Omnifocus Item with the icon variable (Step 8) and the project name (Step 16) to my 🏠 Home folder.
18 TextText Step 18: Text with the base URL scheme for my Obsidian vault.
19 TextText Step 19: Text with the folder path within my Obsidian vault, including the project name twice - once for the folder and once for the filename.
20 EncodeEncode Step 20: URL Encode the folder path. This is the reason it’s 2 different text blocks. The base URL is not encoded, the folder path is.
21 Find Omnifocus projectsFind Omnifocus projects Step 21: Find Projects where the title contains the project name. 1
22 Add Omnifocus itemAdd Omnifocus item Step 22: Add Omnifocus item to create a task for filling out the project summary. The Note of the task has a URL built from the text in Steps 19 and 20. This will link to the document we’ll create next.
23 TextText Step 23: Text with the template text for an Obsidian document that I fill out for every project. It includes variables for the project name, the code, and a link to the Omnifocus task created in Step 22.
24 Set nameSet name Step 24: Set name of the text in Step 23 to <<theprojectname>>.md. Be sure to toggle on Don’t include file extension” option in the dropdown. If you don’t, Shortcuts will automatically add a txt extension.
25 Create folderCreate folder Step 25: Create folder in my Obsidian vault’s 50.02 Projects folder, which is where all my projects live. Folder will be named with the projectName variable.
26 SaveSave Step 26: Save the item renamed in Step 24 to the folder we created in Step 25, again using the project name variable for the folder path and file name.

It’s a big one, for sure. But now with one tap, I can create a new project in Omnifocus and a folder and document in Obsidian that all link to each other, and I know it’s a unique name that’s easy to search and sort.

Creating the Obsidian summary” document as part of the Shortcut also forces me to consider the project carefully as well. If I don’t fill in the summary doc within a few days, I delete the project. If I can’t justify in writing why I want to spend time on this thing, it’s probably not be worth doing.

You can get the Shortcut here

Comment or reply on Mastodon

  1. This is a big benefit of using project codes. Search is much easier because they are unique.↩︎

🗓️ March 19, 2023 🏷️ Shortcuts 🏷️ Automation 🏷️ Obsidian 🏷️ Omnifocus
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