The Importance of Visualization in Time Management

Time management requires a range of different skills. While software can help with time management, it really comes down to being able to understand time, which is a bit more difficult than people may be likely to think. When it comes down to it, time is a very abstract concept. We measure time, but we cannot contain it. We allocate time, but we cannot control it. It passes – as far as our experiences unfold – at a constant rate and, because of that, it’s imperative that we always understand how much is remaining, how it needs to be spent and how much has passed when trying to assess the relative efficiency with which a goal is being pursued.

Visualization tools can provide an incredible advantage were time management is concerned. The reason is that visualization tools allow human beings to take something that is very abstract – even if it is something that can be quantified and measured – and put it in terms that can be understood more easily. The human brain is very good at visually assessing general measures such as less or more, bigger or smaller and so forth using visual criteria. Time management tools that incorporate visual forms of data within them can be eminently useful.

An Example

Information Is Beautiful is a site that specializes in visualizations of complex concepts. One area where the power of visualization can be readily observed is in terms of helping people who are not scientists to understand scientific information.

The above link leads to a chart that gives information on radiation dosages. It may not seem like it on the surface, but radiation is actually something that is fairly similar to time in many regards. It is something that can be quantified and measured, but that cannot be seen. While it cannot be seen, the results of too much or too little of it are readily observable, even by a layperson. There are also specific criteria as far as safety zones are concerned.

Here’s an example of how the two intersect. According to the chart, a dental x-ray gives out approximately 5.0 micro sieverts of radiation. This is safe, especially considering the fact that dental health is vital to overall health, but it’s not a level of radiation you would want to be constantly exposed to. If somebody told you that this level of radiation was given off by a dental x-ray without any sort of a reference, it wouldn’t mean much. But, take that figure and weigh it against the 1000 micro sieverts that the US government considers to be the maximum acceptable amount of artificial radiation to which a person should be exposed during the course of a year and you have something you can work with.

There is a corollary where time is concerned. If you’re driving, one of the rules of thumb to follow as far as safety goes is that you should have two seconds of time between the instant the car in front of you passes an object and the instant that you pass an object. Given that the human brain takes approximately one quarter of a second to receive information and initiate a reaction, this should give most people plenty of time to react to a bad situation. The two second rule doesn’t mean much, until you realize that that amount of time gives you more than ample space to react.

The same sort of comparison can be used in the work world. If a programmer says that it takes approximately 8 hours to put together the lines of code required for a given project, it’s much easier for a manager to understand that a project twice that large should take roughly 16 hours. This, however, is still rather abstract, as everything is still being communicated by raw numbers.

Add a Visualization

Timelines have been used for a very long time in history classes. They help students to understand the intervals of time between major events by putting them on a line along with other events. Time management tools that allow this to be done with live information are incredibly useful for the same reason.

If the 16 hours required by the programming department can be put on a line along with the – just for example – four hours required by the marketing department to finish their end of a project, it will become readily apparent that it will take four times as long to program the project as it will to market it, and this is very easy to see with the timeline. It’s a lot easier to work with this information in a visual form than it is to work with it in a form that is only written in numbers.

How it Helps

Visualization tools provide information at a glance. Rather than having to do the math, figure out the hours involved and so forth, a manager can simply look at the screen, see the information laid out in a visual form and instantly understand what is involved as far as time management is concerned. This is an incredibly useful tool for anybody in a management role and, in fact, it is a useful tool for any employee in a business that is large, that has many departments that need to communicate information and that absolutely depends upon the accurate communication of that information to build successful projects.

Time management software varies tremendously in terms of the advantages it really offers. Those time management software products that are able to take information, convert it to a visual form and present it in an easily understandable format have significant advantages over programs that cannot provide this level of functionality. Whenever a manager or an employee needs to truly understand time and how to manage it effectively, having a visual tool available that makes it easy to see time – so to speak – can go a long way toward making everything function more efficiently. This, not too surprisingly, cuts down on the amount of time required for effective time management.

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