Why I Don't Use a Calendar

Rob Hof

An online calendar like Outlook, that is. Actually, I use a bunch of calendars, but all paper. Don't look at me like that. After attending the When 2.0 workshop yesterday at Stanford, I already know most of you in corporateland can't imagine how I get anything done without some kind of online calendar.

But as folks at When 2.0--mostly entrepreneurs who are pitching some kind of online calendar service--admitted, I'm hardly alone. "Most 'normal' people don't keep their schedules on a computer," noted Esther Dyson, who presented the workshop. While I would never consider myself representative of "most normal people," the reasons for my reticence probably aren't unique. And they suggest some potential solutions--though it looks like it still could take awhile for online calendars to become as commonly used as, say, email or search engines. ...

* Paper's still easier, always available, and generally more portable. Fact is, there's still way too much friction in having to log in to a service, type in an appointment, and call it up later.

* Most people I know, both at work and in the rest of my life, don't use Outlook or similar shareable scheduling programs. At the same time, although standards efforts are underway for sharing data among different calendars, it can't be done yet. So there's no benefit from network effects.

* Despite the best efforts of employers, work and personal life for most people haven't meshed completely. And most calendar services haven't made it easy enough--though they're making valiant efforts--to selectively share particular events in our own calendars with colleagues, family, friends, and social groups.

* My own job involves relatively little need to coordinate schedules on a regular basis with a regular set of colleagues. Our work is organized such that we simply don't need to coordinate our schedules all that much. I suspect that's still true for many people's work life.

* I still don't have always-on connectivity, especially outside the office. If my company bought me a Treo, that might change, but that's unlikely in the short term.

* Personally, I suspect I tend to shy away from jobs that require scheduling all my time into meetings and events. Heck, I stopped wearing a watch because I found myself trying to squeeze too many things into some arbitrary number of minutes, making me feel in ever-less control of my life. Maybe I'm not as "productive," but life isn't all about productivity.

All that said, there's a huge amount of work being done in scheduling and events management by Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Evite, and the open-source Chandler project, as well as such startups as Airena, TimeBridge, Zvents, Trumba, EVDB, Zimbra, and no doubt a bunch of others I know even less about. I'm not sure how much technology can do about the social challenges of shared calendars, but it's clear that much innovation is soon to come. I'm not ready to toss out my desk calendar or the scribbled notes in my shirt pocket. But now I can actually imagine a time when I will.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.