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TimeTo - dynamic scheduling

Sunday, November 20, 2005

TimeTo is Windows software by David Berman that helps you manage appointments, tasks and recurring actions in a unique, powerful way. The power comes from TimeTo's dynamic scheduling capabalities: based on the attributes you assign to items (earliest start, due date, priority, and other constraints), your optimum schedule is created and is updated in near real time.

Two main factors contribute to the efficacy of this approach. One, most items do not have to be done by a certain day; you just want to get them done as soon as possible. For this, TimeTo has "flexible" items which fill themselves in the gaps around fixed (hard landscape) appointments and tasks that must be done on or by a certain day. Second, large tasks can be "splittable," which means you don't plan to (or can't) complete them all in one sitting. Small chunks of splittable tasks are written into your schedule when there are available gaps. So if you have a meeting in 30 minutes, TimeTo may schedule 30 minutes of a larger six-hour task in that time.

After you've entered a lot of your workload into TimeTo, you may feel initially intimidated by the down-to-the-minute schedule in front of you. Just remember that this is your *optimal* schedule. You can easily pick and choose from the day's scheduled items and start any of them at any time; the list of available options is just already narrowed for you based on the information you've entered. With TimeTo, it's easy to handle interruptions, shift items around in the schedule and even take a nap for a couple of hours. When you return from your nap, TimeTo has already rearranged your schedule to account for it.

There are also some good visual indicators of your total workload, including a small monthly calendar with color-coded days based on the load for those days. And support for recurring items of various flavors is the strongest I've seen. And since there is built-in timing of tasks you are working on, you also get an historical record of your activity that can be read in a spreadsheet for analysis, billing, etc.

With TimeTo, I feel like I really have control over everything I need to do and have a good sense of the bulk of my total commitments. I never need to spend much time deciding what to do next since the software is helping me out in that regard. I think using it has also improved my ability to estimate and keeps me conscious of how small inefficiences can really reduce productivity over time.

I think it's important to note that TimeTo will work best for you if most of your work is done in front of a computer. Also, you will want to switch to Pro mode as soon as possible; a lot of the power is unavailable in Lite mode. (You can switch modes at any time).

GTD: The author is aware of GTD. Part of the help file is dedicated to using TimeTo with GTD and the software interface even reflects GTD terminology in some places. I personally find that TimeTo neatly serves as calendar and next action lists (next actions are essentially flexible items in TimeTo). For certain things, like errands, a separate list will probably work better. While TimeTo sort of obviates the need for separate next action lists and therefore might frighten purists, I think having the computer do some of the grunt work is ideal. Think of it as a pre-filter for your intuition.

Above & Beyond: TimeTo is based on Above & Beyond (I assume from when A&B was briefly open source). The difference is that TimeTo is being actively developed. TimeTo has a lot of interface improvements, clearer language and functionality that is starting to evolve.

Posted by murt at 1:49 PM


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