Thursday, December 08, 2011

Remember the milk...

Like so many others in these electronic days of endless potential, I have scheduling issues. And like so many others, I have learned how to use wonderful digital tools such as google calendar or all the other electronic calendars available - synchronised over many different platforms. It seems like technology actually can make life easier, as it helps me keep track of the many complex committments of a modern life.

My husband has access to the google calendar. I then match my ITU calendar (which does not synch) to the google calendar when I make changes that influences my work-hours, since my colleagues and the administration use the ITU calendar to plan our mutual schedules. Occasionally, I even update my paper calendars (two, one diary, one overview), when I plan the term and I need some kind of visual idea of the term. Most of the time having google calendar in my pocket - i.e. on the phone - has simplified life immensely, even if it looks like I am double italian accounting - as they would say hereabouts.

It still doesn't meet my scheduling needs. A lot of my time restraints are ongoing, and flexible to a certain point. When I am working on an article, I need perhaps 40 hours of hard work, but I don't have to do those 40 hours from 8.00 - 16.00 on any particular dates, as long as it's done by its deadline. I often juggle several different deadlines, some long, some short, and prepare a series of lectures while writing one or two articles while being in several committees, a board or two, and have several firmly scheduled meetings. We all know what that's like, right?

What this means is that I need to remember the deadlines a long time in advance, just noting the date isn't enough. I also need to prioritize, and I need to sort according to type of task. While some calendars do parts of this - google, for instance - it doesn't tell me how much time I have already scheduled for a certain period, and it doesn't give me an overview of types of tasks. Also, the tasks end up like long, long bars at the top of the calendar, and given the many tasks I have running simultaneously, they end up hiding the calendar itself! I have been playing around with some other views on the google calendar, but while the calendar with its connection to the maps and the incredible locator function that comes with it is great (how many times have I been saved in Copenhagen by that combination?), the truth is - it's a great calendar but a bad to-do list.

That's where "remember the milk" comes in. It is a to-do site/software/app with the combination of many platforms increasingly important today. It integrates with Siri - the new apple wonder-app which is taking over the lives of apple users, and also with gmail through aggregating a to-do list next to the emails.

What "remember the milk" does not do is create a nice visual representation of my time restraints and affordances. It's still a list, even if I can sort these lists in a lot of different manners. Now I have spent the last 20 minutes trying to google a lovely diary/calendar design I saw not too long ago: Two circles - day and night - represented each 24 hours - the visual simplicity and speedy perception of a traditional clock face on paper.  It made me long for a very different solution, and interestingly, the technology is here - almost.

I have recently bought a livescribe pen and notebook, and play around with this almost magical technology. It combines my hand-written notes with my digital storage, adds sound and allows for the fluidity of recall based on my notes for meta-data. Now, combine my desire for a more comprehensive and fluid scheduling system with the combination of hand-written notes and cryptic data, and yes, I want a livescribe notebook calendar/diary with a circular representation of time, that can be synchronised across platforms as easily as I can make a note in the book.

The wonderful thing about new technology is that this fantastic fiction not really that far away. All that's needed is for a brilliant designer to hook up with an innovative programmer, and then somebody who can market it. I guess I'll dream on though.


Joe Kiniry said...

Hi Torill,

I look forward to see how Siri integration influences my GTD process. I have tried many of these tools with fancy UIs like RTM, but I keep returning to my old workhorse Emacs (with org-mode).

I have been asked to give several talks on time management to research groups and PhD student cohort at ITU these past couple of years. Perhaps you can give the talks with me in the future to show more than one perspective?

Happy holidays,

Torill said...

Joe, I don't use Siri, so I look forwards to seeing what you think about that! As for the talks - let's talk about that when it comes up? I'd be happy to help out, but time management for me is still strictly about managing my own time. :)