Hard vs Soft Scheduled Items

Professionals who undertake the discipline of Scheduling at higher skill levels (Orange and Green belts) have their calendar as the central point of focus (rather than their memory, or lists of different varieties.)

They place most activities directly into an available time-slot, immediately assigning it a date, duration and start-time. In so doing, they are able to forget about the time demand until the appropriate “appointment” comes up.

These users do use their calendars flexibly, moving items depending on what happens each day. They make these changes on the fly, using electronic tools like Outlook in a way that goes well beyond the intent of its designers. As a result, they have developed some special needs.

One feature that would make things easier would be a way to schedule “hard” vs “soft” segments in the calendar.

Essentially, Outlook tries to treat each item in its calendar as an appointment: a timed meeting that involves another person such as a dinner date or a meeting with a customer. However, Orange and Green belts also schedule individual activities, dubbed by some as “appointments with yourself.” The vast majority of these items involve no other people.

However, these two commitments are not exactly alike.

Their lives would be made much easier if Outlook were to distinguish between different kinds of segments, recognizing them as either “hard” or “soft.”

A hard item is one that has external consequences if the start and/or end-times change. Many involve activities with other people who rely on our presence, and have some expectation regarding the other person’s attendance. These segments cannot be changed unilaterally.

A soft item is one that only involves the user, and can easily be moved around one’s calendar, with few immediate consequences. They might have great importance, but a late start would not endanger the end result.

Given these differences, programs like Outlook could help users to “protect” hard segments by making it more difficult for them to be double-booked or deleted, and also by giving them stronger reminders with different pop-ups and audible sounds. Colour coding would also help to separate them from other segments in a user’s calendar.

This would help users to manage the two kind of segments differently, in keeping with their distinct functions.