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This App Makes You a Time Lord

March 27, 2018

“How did it get so late so soon?”
―Dr Seuss

It doesn’t matter your role, your industry, where you’re from, how hard you work, how easy you have it. When it comes to time, we’re all in the same boat.

We get 24 hours per day.

And seven days per week.

But when it comes to time management, it seems that not all men were created equally. For some, dividing up their allotted 24 hours into a productive day comes naturally. But for a lot of people, managing time seems like a constant battle between getting enough tasks done, and finding moments to stop and smell the roses (or watch a bit of Netflix without feeling guilty).

Understanding Your Week

‍A 3D visual representation of the calendars of a CEO, a work futurist, an account manager, and a recruiter.

The team at x.ai used Plotly graphs to visualise their workweeks as 3D representations of their calendars. Every dot is a person, and the size of the dot is the frequency of meeting with them. The colours denote company.

Using these graphs gave the x.ai team (or, as they refer to themselves, Time Lords) a deeper understanding of how they use their time. They found that the most similarities in calendars occurred between similar job types, irrespective of industry.

“If you scheduled a ton of meetings with a team that just isn’t your priority or met only once with that client who seemed promising, a 3D view of your calendar data might surface those misalignments.”
 Laurel Woerner, x.ai

Get smart… with time

Besides from using cool 3D graphs to understand their workweeks, x.ai have another trick up their sleeve.

Robots.

More specifically, an AI assistant that schedules meetings for them. And depending on your job, you may be wasting more time than you think on manual scheduling.

Dennis Mortensen, CEO of x.ai, came up with the idea after realising that in 2012 he spent over 1000 hours scheduling meetings for himself. The idea was soon backed by investors like Two Sigma, Firstmark, and Pritzker Group. Not long after that, virtual assistants Amy and Andrew were born.

It works like this.

Either human party suggests a meeting.

You then CC Amy into your conversation and ask her to set something up.

She goes through your calendar, finds times available, and gives these options to the other person. They can even suggest other times, and Amy will find a solution to fit.

X.ai works with Google, Outlook, Office 365, and Slack. You don’t have to download or install anything—just CC Amy or Andrew and they’ll start scheduling.

According to their website, Amy and Andrew could save 9.7 hours every month in time you would spend scheduling meetings.

We believe in invisible software, kindness as a design principle, and the power of AI to increase human potential.
Dennis Mortensen

A similar (but pricier) alternative is Clara, created by Maran Nelson and Michael Akilian. At a glance it may seem very similar to x.ai, but delving deeper reveals its differentiator: a learning strategy penned “human-in-the-loop”. The team at Clara recognise that there’s merit to combining humans with machine learning, which they call cooperative intelligence.

Clara's cooperative intelligence scheme

To the left, we can see that easily automatable tasks are assigned to ML, while harder tasks need human creativity to solve. Clara uses both human and machine workers to create a seamless solution for its end users.

The company believes that humans lose too much time to the mundane: scheduling, spreadsheets, and emailing, and that this is time that would be better spent creating, discovering, and solving.

Turn your students into Time Lords

For many of us, scheduling is still a manual task—and the same is probably true for your students. When a new academic year begins, learners are often given a student diary to keep track of not only their studies, but their work schedules and social lives. How about instead of handing them a paper diary (let’s be honest, this is only beneficial to the most diligent of students) you consider giving them a tool that’s going to help them, independent of whether or not they’re conscientious?

See if the platforms you use allow for push notifications—both Blackboard and Moodle have these features, but if you don’t set them up for your students, there’s no point. Give your students the tools they need, and they’ll become masters of time in no time.