At the right place at the right time - digital support for personal time management.

By Min Lin of University Maryland, Baltimore County, US.

Published in Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 68(12-A), 2008. pp. 4903.

Calendars and to-do lists, either in paper or digital form, are the most frequently used time management tools.

However, the design of these personal time management tools is far from optimal and people are often too busy to memorize all of the important details of their schedules.

There are two key types of activities that people need to schedule: events and tasks.

An event is defined as an activity that has a designated start time, expected participants, and a location. On the other hand, a task is a piece of work that one intends to accomplish.

Often, tasks are not scheduled to be completed during a specific period of time, but it is common that tasks will have a deadline by which time they must be completed. Most tools address these two types of activities in isolation, but this is not what typical users want or need.

Users want to manage their activities to ensure that everything is completed in a timely manner, not to categorize activities based on the capabilities of the tool being used to organize their lives.

This research provides an improved understanding of time management behaviors, integrating the management of events and tasks, and highlighting the most fundamental fact that all of these activities are competing for a single limited resource: time.

By adopting such a duration-centric view of time management, this research presents a theoretical mechanism that allows the integration of event and task management.

Interviews with sixteen participants confirmed the value of four design concepts: integration of events and tasks, floating time slots, location awareness, and travel time awareness.

These concepts were refined through an iterative prototyping of Activity Calendar Tool (ACT).

The resulting prototype was evaluated in a controlled experiment with thirty participants, who scheduled 12 activities using ACT and the Palmreg; Date Book and To Do List respectively.

The results confirmed that ACT significantly reduced the number of schedule conflicts. The participants were more satisfied with the resulting schedules and were more satisfied with their overall experience when using ACT than the Palm reg; solution.

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