Last month, I received an email I’d been dreading — the time-management app that I’d been relying on for the past year or so, Timeful, was going to be no more by the end of September. This announcement was inevitable, as I’d already learned that Google had acquired Timeful a little while ago. So, with Timeful no longer present on my iPhone, I went hunting for a viable alternative in hopes of answering the following question: is there such thing as the perfect time management tool?
Timeful worked well for me because it was one of the few apps that worked with me. Like many other students, I have to juggle a number of different responsibilities including school, work, extracurriculars, and other personal commitments. The nice thing about Timeful was that it worked as both your agenda and to-do list, not to mention its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to schedule your tasks during a time that worked best for you.
With Timeful gone, I asked my friends for their recommendations. The answers were mixed. Despite the popular belief that many students are perpetually plugged in, there were still a large number of us who relied on the highly effective method of pen and paper planning.
Some used the various tools that came with a UTORID, available through the Microsoft Outlook system. Many relied on Google Drive. A common feature of most of the productivity apps was cloud computing, which allowed you to access your data from wherever you choose to sign in from. Your data and information exists on the Internet, rather than a physical location like on a USB or your hard drive. Either way, no one relied on a single tool for managing their time and staying on top of things.
There are a plethora of resources on the internet dedicated to enlightening readers with tips and tricks on how to be their most optimal and productive self. One could spend more time reading articles on Lifehacker and other related sites than actually getting stuff done. There are sub-communities on Tumblr and Reddit dedicated to productivity and time management skills. While I was looking for a new time management system, I stumbled upon a number of different tips and apps.
There is the Pomodoro Technique, created by developer Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, which suggests breaking up your tasks into 25-minute time increments, interspaced with 5-minute breaks. The Pomodoro Technique website offers helpful tips for activities to do during your 5 minutes of downtime, such as ‘office yoga’, or just simply reorganizing and clearing your workspace. The technique also suggests listing distracting thoughts that may intrude while you’re in your 25-minute work period in a notebook or a file on your computer. That way if your brain is pestering you with reminders to email your professor, or Facebook is notifying you of an upcoming potluck that you still need to bake for, you can rearrange according to priority later during your break.
The newly popular Bullet Journal (which I’ve been trying to get the hang of) applies a digital way of thinking to an analog something by way of a method called ‘rapid logging.’ The concept was devised based on the idea that the more effort you need to put in to your organization system, the less likely it is that you will keep your system updated. In the ‘rapid logging’ language, you use short statements to characterize your thoughts, preceded by symbols to label your thoughts accordingly. Dots, for instance, represent actions that need to be completed, whereas circles signify events. Once you have mastered the language, logging your life on paper and then reading it afterwards becomes a quick and painless task. However when it comes down to it, productivity and good time management aren’t skills you pick up overnight. At the core of being productive and organized is developing healthy habits and attitudes towards work and time management. Unfortunately, technology has yet to provide us with a one size fits all solution to fix our procrastination woes. In the meantime, in an effort to stay on top of things, perhaps it’s best to try out different tools and tricks in order to find a system that works for you.