Finally, a schedule... done a very strange way...

Ryan Weal

July 17, 2006

I am now ready to give up paper. Long ago I gave up on Outlook's calendaring functionality as my primary time management system. At work it proves useful and it does a lot of good things. As you would expect though, I have a better way.

For a long time that better way was paper. I like to have a 7-day spread in front of me at all times in meetings and at play. During my hour-long commutes to Simon Fraser this was a flexible way of managing time. Since then my needs have changed only slightly but the nature of my work has changed too.

At the office I have fewer meetings than I had back in my university days. Hard to believe, but it's true. I was at a lot of meetings when I was studying. The other major shift is that I am now often chained to a desk like most workers. And this means Internet. The same thing goes for home, and at the cafe, so I'm noting this trend: the Internet seems to be everywhere. I bet you noted it too. So why is it that most people with calendars do things the same old way?

Familiarity is one reason. Having the ability to see things as a seven day spread is is vital to the success of any scheduling system I use. Simplicity is another. I prefer paper because there is only ever one way to use it: by writing. For me only the shell compares, so I wrote some scripts that utilize the shell and a software package called mhc to come up with a new way of scheduling.

How does my schedule work? First, I input things into my calendar using a command line tool. It prompts me for the necessary information and then quickly disappears when everything is ready to go. Then, I produce a listing of this week's entries by using the "today" command. I made one modification to the default behaviour by overriding the reporting of Sunday. I prefer Monday as the start of my week.

The last step in my configuration is to display the information out somewhere I can find it. I have a special program on my computer which I created as a "dashboard" for the shell. It displays random information so I extended it and added some additional sections. Here's what it looks like, by section:

Why did I select these items? Primarily because they are related to time. The 24-hour clock makes things easy to work with, and time zones are necessary for my work. The week of the year is a great planning tool for newsletters. The seven day schedule is a requisite but it is sorted to create the maximum level of personal excitement. The rest is all relative to what you think is important. For me this is the current song, making only the very top and bottom of the listing to have frequently updated information.