How do you manage complex appointments and timelines?

I like my Outlook for appointment management, I really do. But it lacks certain functionality I would really like to have. This functionality, in my case, has to do with event management, but I guess there are a number of other scenarios where one might have the same problem.

Consider this: There’s a conference taking place on a few specific days in October 2007. Now, in conjunction with this, there’s an abundance of appointments and deadlines I need to store (just an example):

  • The start and end date of the conference itself.
  • If I’m going to travel to the conference, there are these additional dates to keep track of:
    • I’ll probably leave home somewhat earlier and arrive back somewhat later. This time span I would like to store.
    • At some point in time I have to book a flight and/or make other travel arrangements.
    • At some point in time I’ll have to look into booking a hotel.
  • If I want to speak at the conference, there are several deadlines I need:
    • The deadline for the Call for Papers
    • The deadline for submission of my slides and samples
    • The date of the speakers’ dinner or similar event
    • The deadline to RSVP for the speakers’ dinner or similar event
    • Several other deadlines that are usually set by the organizers for various things
    • The point in time where I need to start preparing my presentations for submission – depending on the presentations, of course
    • The point in time where I need to start revising my presentation before the event – depending on the presentations
  • If we exhibit at the conference, there’s yet more:
    • Deadline to book a booth location
    • Deadline to book a nice booth location
    • Deadline to ship the booth and other materials to the location
    • And similar additional stuff as above

Okay – I guess there are sometimes additional things, but I’m sure you get the picture. Now, what I do right now is basically this: I create lots and lots of separate entries in Outlook to make sure I get a reminder at all important points.

In some ways that’s not bad… I’m not prepared to totally migrate my time keeping to another application and at least the Outlook data can be synced onto the BlackBerry easily. But obviously it’s a pain in the neck to handle this information, and once there’s more than one event going on per year (joke – of course there are always numerous events in some stage of preparation), it becomes really difficult to see what entries in Outlook belong to what event.

It would also be nice to get a per-event report or timeline out of Outlook, but it can’t do that.

I’m currently thinking that it would be great, and maybe not even too complicated, to have an external application to manage these “information sets” per event, and to have that application simply do the grunt work of adding and modifying all the Outlook entries for me. It could probably also create nice reports.

But then I thought well, there are people out there with the same problem, and some of them are bound to have much greater trouble with this than me, so maybe I should just ask whether somebody has a solution to this. Is there a tool or something that I’m not aware of? Please let me know!

(This is probably one of those blog posts that for some reason never get a single comment. Oh well. <g>)

4 Comments on How do you manage complex appointments and timelines?

  1. I share your pain Oliver. What this needs is an event that has multiple reminders. It’s essentially a compound event, with many dates both in the past and in the future. Might be worth looking for an Outlook plug-in that comes close, talk to the author perhaps? I’m sure we could over-complicate the solution by adding workflow into the equation :-)There, comments = comments + 1 🙂

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  2. One thing that used to irritate me with Outlook is that it never took account of timezone changes. When I used to travel a lot that would have been really useful. I’ve not yet seen if that has been improved in Outlook 2007.What used to happen was that I’d have a meeting booked in for 16:00 in Madrid. I’d be travelling that morning. When I arrive in Madrid I’d change the time zone so the clock was correct. But then outlook shifted everything, so it would tell me the meeting was now at 17:00.What it really needs is a travel appointment type that takes into account departure and destination time zones.Comments++;

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  3. Outlook 2007 can handle time zones, which is very nice. There’s one irritating thing about it though: when an appointment takes a full day, it is also "kept in place" when the time zone changes, which makes it look as if it suddenly takes two days instead of one. Mathematically correct, but still confusing when looking at the calendar.Anyway, you’re right that this is an important feature, and I was glad to see it in 2007.

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  4. In my travels, I’m seeing nothing but dissatisfaction with people’s current titme and event managers. I’m using Multi-reminders which you can get here http://www.theabsolute.net/sware/reminder.html and is freeware and runs on the desktop. I have to say, it isn’t anywhere near as complete in itself as you are guys seem to require, but I use it pricipally as reminder. Can I give you guys a reminder, you already have a mnemonic device, your memory, the one you were born with. Really, perhaps you’d be doing better to be training it to function better than effectively outsourcing your reliance on external bits and bobs. I used to have a ton of stuff I needed not to forget nad I got one of those train your memory courses, Bruno Furst’s I think, and I used it a lot but my need to remember a whole heap of stuff was long ago and any ability left unhoned gets rusty. Yup, I just Googled Bruno Furst and what do I find;http://www.youcanremember.com/biography.htmlI'd suggest you guys get his course and give it a go.BB

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