Thursday
Apr232009

Commitment Bar

What Does It Do?

The Commitment Bar gauges your workload over a selected date-range. Before adding a task, it is helpful to glance at the bar to see how much more time you have available. In this example, I have 2 hours and 24 minutes of work-time available for additional tasks.

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clip_image002[59] Hint: Completed tasks do not count toward your workload.

clip_image002[60] Hint: The Commitment bar is updated every sixty seconds. The available time only includes the actual time remaining in a particular time-block. For example, imagine I have a time-block, work (9am – 5pm). If by 12pm I have not checked “complete” any of my “work” tasks, then the bar will assume that I only have 5 remaining hours to do all my work tasks for that day. To get the most accurate reading from the Commitment bar, be sure to check-off completed tasks.

clip_image002[61] Hint: The Commitment bar ALWAYS adjusts to the displayed date range and category. If you are in the Summary view, then the Commitment Bar will reflect the total workload and total available time over ALL categories. Therefore, it is often most helpful to add new tasks under the particular category-tab (instead of Summary-tab). This will insure that the Commitment Bar is giving you an accurate category-specific reading.

How Does It Work? The basic idea is pretty simple: If I have 5 hours worth of work-tasks on my Today list, and 8 hours allocated for work, then my Commitment Bar will appear about 60% full, and the gauge will say, “3 hrs available”. The algorithm is a quite a bit more sophisticated, but that’s basically what a user needs to understand in order to take advantage of this feature.

clip_image003[9] Warning. The following material may cause dizziness; do not operate heavy machinery while reading.

In fact, the challenge of gauging one’s work-load for any particular category over any given date range is not easy for people OR computers. If a task must be done on one particular day, then the calculation is pretty straight-forward, but many tasks in Skoach are set for a multi-day range (This Week, Next Week, or even a custom range like “Wed or Thurs”). In other words, I don’t know which day the task will actually be done, only that it will be done sometime during a given range of days. So if I have a 2 hour project that can be done Monday or Tuesday, which day should I subtract the time from?

Enter Quantum Mechanics. (Yes, you are still reading the Skoach Manual.) The theory of quantum mechanics is founded on the startling (but verified) idea that a particle can never be said to exist at a definite location in space. Rather, we can only calculate the probability of finding it (at a given time) at some precise location. The sum of the probabilities over all space is always one (it MUST exist somewhere).

We followed the same approach to deal with these “indeterminate” tasks. Without going into the exact mathematical detail, we basically assume that a task is more likely to be done as the due date grows closer. For each day, there is a defined probability that the particular task will be done on that day. So, if there is a 40% probability that some task will be done on Monday, and 60% that it will be done on Tuesday, we divide the duration of the task 40/60 between the two days. If on Tuesday, the same task is still marked incomplete, then the commitment bar recalculates, assigning 100% probability that the task will be done today, and deducting the full task-duration from the Commitment Bar. (The reader’s jaw is now hanging open somewhere between confusion and mild terror.)

This statistical approach does NOT work for a single task, but works beautifully on an ensemble of multiple tasks over multiple overlapping ranges of variable extent. It takes some brain-scratching, and maybe a stiff drink to wash down, but it should make sense. If not, have another drink.

 

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