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Three useful URLs

As a sysadmin at an international company I find myself doing more and more timezone conversions, and with a high frequency of errors. Thus, I rely on this site to make my life easier. Not only do they provide a great free service, but their web pages are bookmark-able in ways that let me use and re-use their stuff.

The site has many useful date and timezone calculations. If you want to know the time in New York City, Cambodia, or any other place you have (or haven't) hard of, they can do the calculation. You can even create URLs that display the current (or a particular) time for your favorite locations. They have calculators that do frequent but error-prone lookups that go beyond simple timezone calculations. How many days between today and Sunday, June 6, 2010? When is Easter Sunday in the US next year? When did I turn 1 million seconds old? Countdown clocks, eclipes, and so on are also available. It seems like they add new features every month.

Suppose you have offices in New York, London, and Shenzhen. You can create a URL that shows the current time at those offices. Bookmark it. Now if you need to make a phone call, check the bookmark before you dial. Simple.

Bookmarking these three URLs will save countless hours and prevent tons of embarrassing mistakes. (In these examples we'll pretend you have offices in San Francisco, New York, Dublin, Hyderabad, Beijing, Melbourne.)

  • Personal World Clock: This URL shows the current time at all six locations. Since it always shows the current time, this is useful for deciding whether or not it is apropriate to call someone in another office. I'm sure you can think of many other uses for this page. The URL encodes the list of locations. You can list dozens and dozens of locations so don't be afraid to list ever darn office in your company. Put the link on a highly visible place (like your internal intranet web site) so others can benefit. Here's a tip: Sort the countries west to east so the display is more logically ordered.
  • Meeting Planner: Suppose you need to set up a meeting. Click on this URL. The colors indicate when people might be sleeping or awake (Mnemonic: "red is bad") (again, the locations are sorted west to east). People in New York, Dublin and Hyderabad need a meeting? Move your mouse down to highly potential meeting times and look for where all the locations involved are "green." The optimal time for someone may be "tomorrow" for someone else, thus day of the week is included. Unsure when Daylight Saving Time kicks in for Dublin versus the US? Never fear. knows. Adjust the URL to the exact date and your timezone worries are over. This planner accepts only 6 locations therefore you might want to provide links on your internal web site that are appropriate for each division.
  • Friday, July 31, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM (NEW YORK TIME): Are your fingers getting tired listing the time and date for a meeting followed by conversions for all the timezones involved? Not only am I tired of this, but I tend to accidentally introduce typos or miscalculations when I try. Now I list only one time but create a link to a URL like this one that does the conversion for me. The link is easy to generate: it's taken from the meeting planner page. Some companies have a policy of only listing date/times in the timezone of their HQ. Linking to this URL makes it easier for everyone. (If a meeting has participants from 1 or 2 timezones I list both times right in the email. However, linking to a URL like this is even better).

For all of these I use the same list of locations consistently. It is the locations of the people I most frequently deal with. That way they get used to seeing the same set of countries. It encourages people to use the same list every time too.

Lastly, using a gobal calendaring system like Oracle Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Google Apps and so on also reduces the need for people to manually convert timezones. However, even with these tools, we often want to list times and dates in emails or on web pages. is extremely useful in these cases. Using it makes us more efficient because it saves us time and prevent errors. When we place URLs like the ones above on our intranet homepage or use them in emails the use tends to spread virally (in the good sense of the word) and we create an multiplier effect improving efficiency throughout our organization.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

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