Profile: Zime app & the psychology of helping you manage your time better
Zime is an app that sets itself a challenge – it wants to help you balance your work and your home life so you get the most done with the least stress. And to do this the team behind the app is combining some unexpected skills and influences to make Zime unlike any other time management app out there.
More than a calendar app, Zime (@zime_app | Facebook) syncs with your calendars and prioritizes your tasks so that it can become your personal time coach. We spoke to the app’s developers to see how they got started and what’s in store for the app (and how the humble GPS and a degree in psychology are helping guide its development).
How did Zime get started?
To create Zime, we set up a technical team – it’s not just one developer. We have an experienced video games developer, a former PalmOS/WebOS core apps developer, a 3D animation expert, and a psychologist. All are experienced in their own areas, and are bringing their own personality to this project.
What do you like developing?
We like developing apps that are creative and useful at the same time. We are more motivated by very happy users, than by just developing the app itself.
Who are your influences?
Personally, as co-founder and technical team lead, I was very influenced by industry leaders that I was fortunate enough to cross in my professional life, sometimes working closely with them. They influenced me in the areas of product design, management style, company strategy. Some names you will maybe recognize: Donna Dubinsky, Jeff Hawkins, Jon Rubinstein, Peter Skillmann.
How is Zime different from other calendar apps?
Zime is very different. In fact we don’t even call it a “calendar” app, we call it a “Time organizer.” On the surface, Zime offers three distinctive features that I’ll describe below. But beyond technical features, our goal is to offer a tool that’s always with you, and helps you master your own time, so you’re less stressed. That’s why our web site shows “Be Zen” as the first tab.
Main features of Zime are:
1. A 3D / perspective view of your time:
We took a page from the GPS playbook, and saw that 3D GPS devices with small screens have largely replaced large paper maps of yesterday, in just a few years. We believe that the paper-based tools of today are going to be replaced by something that looks very different, and we wanted to invent that new way of visualizing time. All the existing software that deals with time has copied the paper-based design of weekly appointment books from 50 years ago. We think it’s time to invent something better. In 10-20 years from now, paper calendar books are probably going to be very difficult to find in a store.
At the same time, GPS devices had a peculiar secondary effect: by displaying your route towards your destination, and giving you information to guide you along the way, you become less stressed about your journey. That’s the effect we want to create for you, your time, your work.
2. Time is not just appointments – it’s everything you want to do with that available time
That’s why we don’t want to call Zime a “Calendar.” We think there has been a fundamental flaw in having calendar apps on one side, and to-do apps on the other. They don’t talk to each other, but in real life, your to-dos take time, and you can’t do them while in a meeting. So the natural thing to do is to manage Time, not appointments or to-dos. So Zime merges your to-dos with your calendar, and provides a view of what your time looks like as of now. Because this view changes continuously. So the picture of your time in 30 minutes will not be the same. Zime is very fluid and flexible and will move your tasks dynamically as time goes by.
We are just starting to bring your personal coach inside your pocket. The first very simple but powerful feature is to “mimic” what a coach would ask you on your weekly session: what have you done last week, and how did it go? So Zime is asking only 1 question, for everything that happened in the last 4-5 weeks: were you late or not?
The key here is that by “playing along,” you force your own brain to go back in time and actually think about each of those events. You will decide for yourself if it’s late or not. In fact, rating is less important than the actual effort of thinking back and drawing a conclusion. Because this has an effect on how you will plan this coming week, and that’s the main value of coaching: you decide for yourself if and how you’re going to change things in your life, and Zime will show you that “it works” by having higher numbers this week.
We will bring more and more of those very simple technical features that bring a psychological value. This is why one of the co-founders has a PhD in Psychology 🙂
Why did you decide to develop it?
We think that Time Management is an area with huge potential. If our app works, we could help millions of people better plan their daily life. So we analyzed why no current solution is really working for most people, and we came up with those 3 principles: 1- new visualization, 2- time = appointments + tasks and 3- psychology is a key factor in time management. It’s not really about tools or methodology. It’s about what you have decided to do or not.
The visuals on Zime are certainly unique, how do these help with task management?
They help on different levels at the same time:
– Time is really linear, continuous. If you can’t do something today, it will flow to tomorrow or later. In fact it’s much more natural to see the future ahead of you, and in a linear way. So this helps by showing you a representation of time that people will recognize as more natural, closer to reality.
– At a more practical level, Zime finds a “slot” in Time for each task. By giving you this planning view, you immediately see whether things “fit” or not in your time. If you have too many “red” tasks (Zime automatically changes the color of tasks based on their deadline), that means you have so much to do that you will miss deadlines in a few days. Maybe you have not missed it yet, but you probably will. So you can decide now if you want to change things. This is impossible to do with “simple” to-do lists.
– You also have an immediate visual feedback on how tasks and meetings are balanced or not. You will immediately see if you have too many meetings and not enough time to do your tasks. This is impossible with a calendar on one side and tasks list on the other, because each one, by itself, is perfectly OK. The problem starts when you merge to-dos and meetings.
What sort of feedback are you getting?
We’re excited by the all great feedback we get. Users contact us by email or through the app “send feedback” menu item. What is really amazing is how quickly users have adopted Zime and understood what it can bring for their life. We have lots of testimonials that are very enthusiastic. We received also direct contact from major industry players, but we’ll disclose details probably a little later. Users also ask us for the features they want, which is great because it shows that they understood how to use Zime, and our next versions will give them an even better tool.
What’s next for the app?
We have given some hints on our Facebook page: Google Task sync plug-in (the #1 request from users), a tablet-optimized version that will show a little more what “time management” means for us.
One obvious area that we will need to deliver quickly is how you can organize your work time and also your personal time together, in Zime.
Also we want to develop more Task sync plug-ins over time. Tasks are coming from a lot of different systems, and we can imagine inserting tasks from your corporate Workflow management system, Project management server, etc.
And as we grow, we’ll need to think about other platforms, beyond Android. But that’s a little later.