Time Management

It seems we never had time for a good time management – it appears to be a very complex task that takes more time than it saves. When computers arrived they bring along a variety of new tools to track our time and manage the schedule. Today we also have web tools and mobile devices that require even more time to maintain. But when it comes to the time management all they can do is to announce upcoming events by playing a nice ringtone.

Let’s say you have dismissed a meeting pop-up notice and decided to spend the remaining ten minutes to answer some emails. Twenty eight minutes later you are rushing to the conference room while trying to come up with a good excuse for being twenty minutes late. Sounds familiar? The problem is – calendars and reminders do not help me manage my time.

Five years ago I was watching the movie About a boy (1) where the main character (played by Hugh Grant) has shared his novel time management technique: “I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It's amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I'd ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?”

I was wondering the same thing. Since then I have discovered that this technique may be very efficient in a business environment. All I needed – a little automation.

A little automation

Time1.jpg

I wrote a simple program called “It’s about time” that helps me to implement the time-unit approach. It divides your day into 20 – 25 half-an-hour units and allows you to manage it in very simple manner. All it does – it displays progress of the current time unit and shows preview of the next one (see the actual size screenshot on the right).

The window does not beep nor it flashes, but it always visible so you can see how many minutes left in the currents unit.

Time2.jpg

To edit the today itinerary double-click the window. In the dialog box you will see your day divided by time units. Click on any unit to edit the text. When you done – click OK button. The Tasks tab are for advanced users only – see below.

The program is free – you can download it from this page. Installation is not required, but you must put the program to a data folder so you have right to create files there. The program requires Microsoft .NET framework (saves me a lot of coding time). If you running Windows Vista, then you are all set, otherwise download and install the .NET 3.0 here (2).

Configuration

I have several good tips for advanced users. You can change start and end time unit by changing the settings.xml file:

      <settings app="Time Manager">
        <timetable start="8:00" end="18:00" />
      </settings>
    

Also, the program stores each day in a separate file with very simple format. You can write your own program to update these files automatically from Outlook, Lotus Notes, or any other calendar program, so you do not have to retype all today meetings every morning.

You can also export your tasks to another XML file called ToDo.xml. I believe that the sample file is self-descriptive. Send me a note if it is not.

The program allows you to add, delete and change tasks – use context menu by clicking right button on your mouse.

[1]
About a Boy
Internet Movie Database (*)

[2]
Microsoft .NET 3.0
Microsoft (*)