Timeful: Manage Your Time Like Your Stocks

Teach your smartphone to help you be as efficient as you can be—if you feel like it.

Those 15 minutes you spend watching nothing in particular (or, worse, something on CBS) doesn’t feel like a decision. They feel like the unholy lovechild of a missed opportunity and a mistake. You can’t, as they say, get them back. But you can always do a better job investing your time. In the interest of managing our chronological portfolio, we decided to try out Timeful, a smartphone scheduling manager that helps you make the most of your waking hours. We want to do better even though we were ambivalent about getting off the couch.

Timeful works like this. Pulling entries from your phone’s calendar, the app asks you to input some of your normal, time-consuming hobbies (like running or Tinder) as well as your current to-do list. From there, it’ll be your one-stop reference for your schedule, notifying you of upcoming events, suggesting times to do essential chores and keeping you organized overall. The goal of the app is to track how you spend your time, suggest how to better spend your free time and, ultimately, make you a person who uses their time more wisely.

We used Timeful’s scheduling app for the past month, and here’s what we noticed.

Your initial learning curve with the app will correlate directly to how organized you were before you installed it. If you’re already taking advantage of your phone’s native calendar app or you’re the kind of guy who lives and dies by his Outlook or Google calendar, you’re already miles ahead. Where Timeful is particularly helpful is in taking the order you impose on yourself and auditing your systems, pointing out the possibilities for you to streamline the boring stuff and move the hell on. If you care enough to use it diligently, you’ll get something out of it. That thing will be time.

We went into our trial of Timeful with moderate level of organization. Our starting point was a Google calendar of specific work meetings that require leaving the office as well as more loose social engagements, all mirrored on our iPhone’s calendar.  Timeful immediately imported all our appointments. From there we entered in habits like “answer emails” and “go running” as well as a quick, specific to-do list. Feeling ready, we let it do its thing.

Initially, we weren’t sure—and were slightly apprehensive—about how intrusive the Timeful app would be. It’s pointed in its reminders but also requires you to check on it occasionally if you really want to tick off those pesky to-do items. It intuitively finds the time for you to do the things you told it you want to do, time that might otherwise be wasted on the couch or in the pursuit of nothing in particular. All of this hinges on your motivation to open the app and actually see what it suggests, confirm the suggestion and then do the things you want to get done. Timeful helps you know what you could be doing, but it’s not really about what you should be doing.

That’s a good thing. No one wants an app looking over their shoulder all day.

As motivated as we are, there is one thing that Timeful doesn’t seem to understand, and that’s a normal workday. While many of us do use our calendars for work-related items, we don’t block out a nine-to-five workday on them every day—because that would be insane. As a result, it may take a while for Timeful to realize that, even though you have a meeting at 10 a.m. and another at 4 p.m., the time in between will never really be an opportunity to wash your spreadsheets. On the one hand, it’s a flaw in the Timeful experience. On the other hand, it’s a flaw with the human experience.

Hell, maybe Timeful has it right. Maybe we should treat 40 hours a week (ha!) as a an appointment that takes time out of our lives. But that’s a big thought and Timeful is, ultimately, a solution for smaller issues—like a fridge full of food.

Our time with Timeful led us to the simple conclusion that, no matter what app you’re using to keep track of your life, the act of consciously tracking how you spend your time will make you a more productive person. Unfortunately, if you’re not the organized type, this app will just give you something to ignore. We can give you some cocktail napkins. They’ll be just as helpful.

Photos by Alija / Getty Images