Your personal task & time manager for a humanely multitasking business
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README.md

README (or the german version)

  1. What is FlowgencyTM?
  2. What is it not?
  3. The FlowgencyTM demo service(s) (planned)
  4. How to benefit most from it?
  5. Wherefore all that, what is the vision?
  6. The concept in more detail
  7. Installation (see INSTALL.md)
  8. Credits to other Open Source projects used
  9. Contact and Support
  10. Copyleft and license

What is FlowgencyTM?

In short, FlowgencyTM is a software tool to help establish a sustainable, healthy and humane work culture and reconcile it with our usual fast-paced parallel timed commitments in business.

Seven longer key-points explain that:

  1. FlowgencyTM is a tool to plan and to manage tasks, their urgencies, progresses and also dependencies if any, just for yourself. In a business world that is fallen for the multitasking illusion, it is essential to maintain atomic steps in a sequential order that allows for completing all of your tasks in time. Doing this all in mind wastes attentiveness and is prone to airy and impulsive revisioning. Better delegate consideration of which tasks deserve your attention most, by right now, to the computer. Provided the data you enter is appropriate, flow experience is then liklier to come, your working gets healthier and more sustainable.

  2. The user interface is implemented in HTML5 and Javascript, so it runs in your favourite web browser. The server component is included in the distribution, too. It is preconfigured to run on your local system from which it exclusively accepts requests.

  3. The tasks are ranked by descending urgency. The ranking is updated when you click the icon in the top left corner. You decide when any checks you did are committed and respected in the ranking, and when you are mentally prepared for being occasionally confronted with other tasks that may have become suddenly more urgent than those you are currently working on.

  4. In FlowgencyTM terms, priority is just one of several urgency dimensions, albeit the only that is directly entered and adjustable afterwards. The software distinguishes four other that depend on time:

  • How close the due-date has approached,

  • how much time has elapsed in relation to how much expenditure you have checked as done,

  • for how much time you have been keeping the task open (if at all) and finally

  • how much will the additional time need be compared to what you have originally planned, considering your working speed.

You can weight all dimensions as you find appropriate. By default, all five are weighted equally (1).

  1. All dimensions but static priority increase with the passage of time. Please observe, however, "time" does not mean here exactly what the system clock measures. FlowgencyTM has got its own that runs or stands still according to a time model you define in advance and keep in sync with your later needs.

  2. You can divide tasks into steps, steps again into substeps. You can build arbitrarily deep hierarchies. Sometimes tasks or steps have substeps you find ridiculous to describe because they go without saying. Then you can instead specify that the software is to provide how many checks ever for them, one for each substep just thought.

  3. It is open source software licensed under the General Public License, version 3 or any later version. It resides on GitHub (URL: https://github.com/flowdy/FlowgencyTM) for you to download and use, or to fork it.

This is how FlowgencyTM looks like on your screen. In newer versions it differs, but essentially little changed:

Screenshot

What it is not

FlowgencyTM is no groupware

It is not meant for more than small-scale project management, ignoring management of costs, assets, staff, risks etc. Neither as an enterprise-level groupware solution, albeit basic delegation features are planned. You are, however, welcome to enhance it with interfaces to groupware products e.g. for tasks import or the propagation of those done.

FlowgencyTM is not a smart-phone app

The target group of FlowgencyTM uses the software at their work-place equipped with a desktop computer, laptop or tablet of reasonable screen size and resolution. If you find in your smart-phone app store a FlowgencyTM app, it is not official. Plus, there may be issues with GPLv3 license compliance. If you suspect any terms are violated (as applicable), please use the e-mail below to notify me.

FlowgencyTM is not unproblematic if served by a third party

Due to its architecture, it is technically possible to provide a FlowgencyTM service for others to click a bookmark and to sign up easily. However, this scenario is specifically not in focus of development. Users of FlowgencyTM are rather encouraged to run their own server to ensure privacy and to elude subtle control.

After all a server is simply a program that communicates with other programs via a network interface, which can just as well be localhost (IP 127.0.0.1) to ensure that server and client are actually running on the same machine. Such so-called loopback interface is provided by any system that could likewise communicate with a remote machine via the internet. That way, a FlowgencyTM server listening to a localhost port is as safe against unauthorized access as the underlying SQLite database and any other locally stored file is.

FlowgencyTM live demo

The project initiator hosts a FlowgencyTM demo service to let people find out, without having to install software, if the concept sufficiently matches their individual working style and the software helps them actually. Plus, I encourage doing this to everyone who can.

Please see the official list of non-commercial FlowgencyTM demo services and choose one. The short terms of use and the measure to have new users actually read them are deliberately designed so it is not possible to ignore the terms and to disclose naturally private data without one's expressed agreement. All public demo instances therefore comply to the ethic that data inherently belongs to the owning person's privacy.

How to benefit most from this tool

Define your personal time model

User profiles are created with a default 24/7 time model. This is to avoid tasks to vanish at times, which would rather confuse the user. It is not meant at all to promote the idea that workoholism is of any good.

Your experience of proper urgency-based ranking requires settling beforehand when you plan to work on the entered tasks and when not. You can always modify your time model for the future (e.g. for holidays), but to touch the past would lead to false results which is why that would lead to an error message. The time model consists of patterns of alternating working and off-time segments. These patterns can supersede or intersperse each other. Last but not least, the model can also have multiple tracks in order to distinguish different types of tasks. Paused tasks are by default even hidden from display, but there is a list option available to make them appear even so when needed.

But take it relaxed: It is not required, in fact it is impossible anyway, to follow your defined time model tightly down to the second. Just the more your actual working times match with what you have planned, of the more use will be FlowgencyTM for you. This asks of you some discipline. To a certain extent, you will have to let go of spontaneity, you have to plan your day and to roughly stick to that plan. When you have to go at times, no matter what your plan say, you can have a glance into a future state of your urgency ranking given it is left alone till then, so there will be no nasty surprise when you return.

So define: When are you at work? When do you engage in which job or project? And when are you off, absent from work, which means rather fully present for family, friends, hobbies and stuff? When do you want a computated reason to let go of worries related to your work organization, business imponderables drawing circles in your mind? Observe that the overall amount of working time directly relates to how fast urgencies rise along the way, however.

The time model system is very flexible in order to allow for hopefully everyone's preferences. For example, when you define a variation (a rhythm bound to a given time span) inside a time track, you can have that variation shared with other tracks specified in the track definition. So you need to define holidays only once in a master track, all subordinate "slave" tracks can automatically adopt them and future changes to them as well. But then there is a risk of overcomplicating your time model. If you don't understand why task X is unlisted as paused suddenly, this is unfavourable and can reduce your productivity by turning your focus back to time management instead of the tasks themselves. Keep it simple and stupid, and do not tune it all the time. Best change it only to add next holidays or when you are imposed / have agreed upon rather fundamental revisions of job structure.

Observe your scheduled off-times

Off does not mean stand-by. In those times you do not need to load and look at FlowgencyTM every now and then. This would be like opening the fridge just to convince yourself that it is dark in there.

The benefit of FlowgencyTM is limited if you end up having no regular periods of time when all time tracks are inactive together and render all linked tasks paused, that is, if there are no or not enough periods of really private, non-work and unorganized time. Just determine general taboo times and take care that no track violates them. Taboo time is not a technically realized concept, however, so it is optional but highly recommended. If in your time model there is always one or more active track, please do not blame FlowgencyTM for the imposed stress.

Structure your tasks unless they are simple.
Check steps when they are done.

Enter tasks before you do them. Enter even simple ones unless you are certain that doing them right ahead is notably faster than entering them first. It goes without saying, however, that utility of FlowgencyTM correlates with how much time is spent on tasks entered properly.

In order to enable FlowgencyTM to calculate and rank their urgencies correctly, make sure you take the following questions into consideration:

  • When does a task start if not now, and when is it due?

  • If you have more than one time track, on which do you want to do it? That is, when shall they be active and bubbling up in the list in need to be checked? Shall they change the time track at given points in time? Even that is possible, but mind the cost (complexity) versus benefit.

  • Which priorities do they have?

  • Can they be divided into steps and which of those further into substeps perhaps? The hierarchy of steps and substeps can be arbitrarily deep.

  • Do these steps require to be checked in the given or in random order? You can restrict random order to certain subsets of steps. Steps for which you must do other steps first, are not displayed, nor would be those done. You can have also steps to do occasionally in any order, at the latest after having done all ordered steps of a superordinate one or the overall task, respectively.

  • For advanced users only: What is the relative expenditure of time of a step compared to other steps surrounding in the hierarchy? The default is 1 and there will not be often a need of adjustment. Do that only when you are certain about it.

  • How many checks do you want to give a specific step/substep? Setting a number greater than 1 is like assigning substeps to it without writing a description, estimating their expenditure of time and maybe increasing the number of checks.

Once a task is entered with proper data, and it is displayed somewhere below in the ranking, just forget it and return to the tasks currently on top.

Check a step right when it is done. When you want to save the checks and you are mentally prepared to switch to another task that might have become more urgent than what you have been working on: Just deliberately click the FlowgencyTM logo to reorder the tasks by descending urgency as how it is at the time of the click. Tasks of which the associated time track is currently "off" will never raise in urgency while this is the case. In other words, these planned periods of still time are logically identical with the net second before. By default, paused tasks are even hidden from display.

Wherefore all that, what's the vision?

On the larger scale, if the software is used by many, this I hope is what FlowgencyTM will contribute to: As a kind of a feedback-driven pacemaker, there will be reliable rhythms of stress and relaxation in a global business life that is presently running amok, overheating more and more and therefore likely to collapse thoroughly someday.

Software is for humans. That is, software is to serve humanity, hence must be humane.

One could doubt, though, that software can be the right means of help, but in an era of quite religious belief in computers and technology in general (which is something computer pioneer and late technology critic Joseph Weizenbaum made me question), it is high time to teach our computers that we must be off regularly because we are at last who deliver them energy to run. To comply with them in their agnostic nonstop GHz-rhythm is idiotic, it is like having our children say what we are to do. Keep in mind, too: Your competitors never sleep, maybe since they suffer burn-out syndrome ;-).

At least I hope you get more flow experience – hence the name –, because you can focus better on tasks in your work as you can focus better on challenges in your life. Your employer would not say no if he effectively regains individual working time of up to twenty minutes that, according to studies, are regularly lost in average because you need them to refocus – and to fix errors due to lacking attention – after each unexpected interruption.

The concept in detail

This is the summary of the concept that you can read in thorough detail. Those who have got a good command of German might prefer that version as it is at times more up-to-date than the english translation.

Installation

Please read the installation guide. It is not yet as easy to install as it could be, but eventually I will deal with that.

Credits to other Open source projects used

FlowgencyTM could not even be thought of without the following Open source tools used. My acknowledgements to the respective developers:

  • Perl – The programing language used for the server-side
  • JQuery, JQueryUI – used for the client-side
  • Moose.pm – A Modern Object system for Perl
  • Date::Calc – Time-related calculations
  • Any+Time – Date/Time picker by Andrew M. Andrews III, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.
  • SQLite, DBIx::Class – Database Model
  • Mojolicious – so you have your own server and need not expose any data, and you need not rely on the availability of a third party
  • Firefox – for testing and using FlowgencyTM (& various other browsers)
  • VIM – it's not an IDE, but what amazing power an editor can have!
  • git – distributed version control system
  • InkScape – design of logo and icons

Contact and support

flowgencytm-dev at humanetasking.net
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Please note: FlowgencyTM is beta. For me as the developer, support is rather to make the software better than to support you individually. But I'll do what my time permits.

Copyleft and License

Copyright (C) 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Florian Heß

FlowgencyTM is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

FlowgencyTM is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with FlowgencyTM. If not, see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/.