I often complain that there is too-little research into time management techniques, and that academics have failed to give humankind a workable set of principles, definitions and rules of thumb to work with in this area.The result is software that simply misses the mark.A recent article in BusinessWeek entitled High-Tech Time Management Tools seems to promise something that would help, but only hints at some work that is happening in different places that may or may not be useful. The article says:
Achieve, which Horvitz hasn’t demonstrated outside the company, takes initial input from a user, who might tell the software he needs eight hours to accomplish a set of reviews for his group, wants to finish as close to the specified deadline as possible, but doesn’t want to spend more than two hours a day on the task. The system locks up time on the user’s calendar so others can’t book it. When the work is at hand, the software warns the user his communications are about to be shut down so he can focus. If he’s not ready to start, Achieve looks for new time to book for the project. Eventually, Horvitz says the system could be the basis for a Microsoft “platform for time management” that other companies could use to develop software products that understand concepts of hard and soft deadlines, have access to users’ calendars, and understand what windows workers left open the last time they were working on a project so they can quickly resume when they pick up the work again.
It strikes me that the focus on others booking time in a user’s calendar is missing a critical point — most people who use Outlook operate as what we call White Belts here in 2Time. In other words, they use the calendar to schedule meetings and activities with other people only, the way a doctor would use his/her appointment book.
They have not developed the habit of scheduling their own activities into their calendar.
Perhaps Microsoft should start by designing its software to help users improve the way they schedule themselves, before they care too much about scheduling other people’s time.
I believe that there must simple ways to help users to use their Outlook calendar more effectively. I often think that one of the main problems that people who do research and develop software for time management have is that they spend a great deal of time solving the problems that other people have, before solving their own. In other words, there is no way to get the necessary insight into personal productivity without going through a process of self-improvement.