Use the Balance All Days command (from the Balance menu, or press Alt+F8, or click the Balance Day icon on the toolbar) to have TimeTo™ recalculate your entire schedule, in an attempt to make sure that all deadlines will be honoured, and that items will be done in an order that takes into account their priorities.
You can either choose to Balance All Days whenever you wish (from the Balance menu or Alt+F8) or you can set TimeTo™ run Balance All Days automatically every so many minutes. To set Balance All Days to run automatically, click the Balance All Days Every X Minutes option in Other Settings and specify how often to automatically run the command. Balance All Days will sometimes also be triggered by certain events, such as editing a Splittable item.
Balance All Days does two main things for you:
If you have checked Expected Returns Active in Other Settings, the Priority of items is automatically adjusted for you based upon their Expected Return/Hour. If not, then the Priority is set manually by you (either by adjusting the Priority Tier and Priority Rank in the properties of individual items, or by opening the Priority View and dragging items up and down the list to change their priority in comparison with other items). (Priority is also tweaked during the Balance All Days deadline resolution process: every time you Skip Item, TimeTo™ takes that as a hint that item is a bit higher priority than previously thought and so bumps it to the next important rank number).
How does TimeTo decide what order to schedule items in?
The priority, duration, and begin time (if any) are all taken into consideration. Higher priority items are given precedence, but there are exceptions: for examples, items of shorter duration (or those you have designated as Splittable) are easier to find time for, and therefore may be scheduled earlier in your schedule than an item of longer duration even though the longer item has a higher priority.
All items with a Set Date (which includes instances of recurring items for the date in question) get priority over flexible date items. This is because you should first get the things that need to get done today out of the way, then you can breathe easier while you move into flexible date items (things you want to get done today). Until you have done all your "A" items you don't know for sure if you have underestimated how long they will take or whether you will run into an unexpected problem while trying to get them done. For this reason, the earlier in the day you get to them the better. Once all your "A" items are done, then should an emergency or important interruption arise, you are more likely to be able to accomodate it without risking missing a deadline.
What it's like to Balance All Days:
Normally, Balance All Days will pause your use of TimeTo™ while it spins through all of the flexible-dated items, and you will see a progress window whiz by showing item titles and counting off from 1% to 100% as it completes its task. If there are no scheduling conflicts and you don't have very many items, the process may occur so quickly you may not even realize it happened. However, if TimeTo™ cannot find a slot from a particular item before its deadline and that satisfies all of item's timing restriction, a warning dialog will appear interrupting the process, alerting to you to which item is not yet fitting the schedule, suggesting a deadline extension and awaiting your intervention. The dialog offers you a choice to:
Change Deadline: Offers a suggested date which you can edit or accept by clicking the Change Deadline button).
Edit Item: Go into the Item Properties and change more than just the Deadline (Note: you can view but you cannot change the item's Note from here).
Done Item: Mark the item as complete and thus ease up the schedule (if it's a quick thing to do, you might just go do it and then click this button).
Delete Item: Delete the item and thus ease up the schedule (if it's a quick thing to do, you might just go do it and then click this button).
Skip Item: TimeTo™ will try to find a different candidate for you to modify in order to potentially balance the schedule. TimeTo will also lower the priority rank of the item by 1 if it is not already 1 (so, for instance, priority B4 becomes priority B3, but D1 remains D1), thus learning from your action that the item has slightly more priority than previously thought (and thus reducing the chance of the same item being offered again in the future as a candidate).
Skip Rest Of Items: Choose this option if you simply don't have time to continue to work through the Balance All Days decisions now. This is equivalent to pressing Skip Items as many times as necessary until Balance All Days is completed (except without the Rank adjustments described above).
Sometimes Balance All Days will suggest an item for further deadline extension that it has suggested previously during the current Balance All Days procedure: this is normal as it continues to try to find a way to build a schedule for you that fits.
When Balance All Days can run without having to make any suggestions for changes, you know your schedule is completely balanced, with all items scheduled within their deadlines.
What TimeTo™ is actually thinking about during Balance All Days:
Balance All Days will potentially reschedule items that have a Flexible Date to any date and begin time that adheres to the limitations specified in the item's properties. The date and time must allow the item to:
This may sound awfully complicated: in fact, it's your life that's complicated. TimeTo™ automates all this thinking for you, so you no longer have to!)
Balance All Days will accomplish this, while never moving items with Set Dates away from the dates to which they are designated.
The more items to which you assign flexible dates rather than set dates the more liberty TimeTo™ will have to optimally balance your schedule. Beyond the many parameters you can set for a flexible-date item in it's item properties, you can apply further control over how flexible-date items are sequenced relative to one another by using the Sequenced command.
Here's an example of how Balance All Days could work for you in real time:
Your day begins with that carefully balanced schedule you planned before finishing work yesterday. You are happily going about your priorities as planned when 25 minutes into your day an urgent e-mail arrives: the Web site's down and you spend the next 90 minutes on the phone with your service provider before things are back to normal again. However, since your TimeTo is set to automatically Balance All Days every 30 minutes (and Balance Day every minute...a feature that works hand in hand with Balance All Days), while you were handling the crisis, TimeTo™ was rebalancing your schedule by moving 90 minutes of items of the lowest priority that were not due today onto future days (being very careful not to every reschedule an item beyond its deadline or into a time slot that contradicted its properties). Thus, after the crisis has passed, you are left with a conflict-free plan for the rest of your day, and the confidence to know that you have nothing else to worry about right now except for your next priority. In other words, higher productivity with less stress.
What if TimeTo™ couldn't find a way to move 90 minutes of stuff within all of the parameters that have been set for your items? Then Balance All Days would notify you, presenting each item it cannot reschedule in turn, asking for your input in how best to adjust the properties of at least one of the items in order that TimeTo™ can build a schedule that fits.
Useful schedule adjustments will also happen in the positive direction: if a meeting gets cancelled, TimeTo™ will automatically move appropriate high-priority items into the gap created in your day when you delete the meeting or move it to a future day (you can either wait for the next automatic Balance All Days or force one immediately by choosing the command manually.)
TimeTo™ also takes into account the need to build time into your schedule for unexpected things that arise: use the Interruption Reserve settings in Balance Settings. (On today, as the amount of time left in your working day decreases, the amount of free reserve allocated will be also be reduced accordingly.)
Having your scheduling automated for you doesn't have to mean a loss of control: you can still override the schedule which TimeTo™ drafts, moving items around your schedule in whatever way you see fit, or using the Lighten Load or Increase Load command to request that TimeTo™ choose appropriate items to move off or onto today's plan. If you create a conflict by doing so, TimeTo™ will indicate this by marking the begin times of the conflicting items in red.
Items that must have Set Dates and times remain in place, while TimeTo™ flows all the flexible items around them (including all of the recurring items you wish to add to the mix).
Once you get into the habit of assigning appropriate properties to items rather than just assigning them to a particular day, TimeTo™ will likely start doing a better job than you would of planning your schedule; especially if you have a lot of items in your schedule. With a highly optimized and realistic schedule, and the confidence of knowing that you have a plan that will work without fear of any balls getting dropped, you can focus entirely on the task at hand rather than having part of your brain distracted with wondering what else you're supposed to be doing.
Bring Forward Past Undones To This Day
Automatically Bring Forward to Today (at launch, midnight, or exit