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Get Me To The Church, Train or Plane on Time

Get Me To The Church, Train or Plane on Time

This Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet can help you avoid last minute rushing to make a plane flight (or help you get anywhere else you need to be). It easily accommodates various chores and tasks that need to be accomplished prior to showing up at the ticket counter.

By Larry Nielsen

Everyone knows how long it takes to drive or take public transportation to the airport, so why do we need a computer to get us there on time?

Well, in my case, things change each time. There are variations to each departure, and it is easy for me to become distracted and find myself behind schedule, or worse yet, arriving at the gate way too early. So I developed a spreadsheet, FLYWK.1 n, using Lotus 1-2-3 on my HP 200LX palmtop computer.

 Flights change at the last minute, and other circumstances enter in that affect what time to set the alarm clock for a morning departure (or to return home to begin the process of an afternoon or evening departure) so I left plenty of room for modification in the spreadsheet. Lotus and Hewlett-Packard's palmtop do the calculating and keep me fully informed about whether I have time to dawdle with coffee and talk on the phone, or whether I should pick up the pace a bit.

 My airport spreadsheet is similar to a monetary budget

 The idea behind the spreadsheet is quite simple. There are tasks to accomplish, such as shower and dress, have coffee or breakfast, finish packing, shovel snow, stop at the bank, navigate the airport terminal, check in luggage, etc. As with a monetary budget, the amount of time for each task is entered into the spreadsheet, along with the task's description. Tasks can be easily added for different trips, or "zeroed out" if they don't apply. The travel time between each stop is also entered in and the best estimate is used, depending on time of day, etc.

 Consider my example spreadsheet (see Screen 1). The process starts with the morning alarm clock (cell B43) and reads from bottom up, ending with the aircraft departure (cell A2). You can see that I have 31 minutes for the public train ride to the airport (cell C18). That is the time it takes from my train stop to O'Hare Airport. I also allocated eight minutes for a missed train. This is in case I arrive at the station just as a train goes through, as the trains are eight minutes apart. These amounts can be adjusted for different times of day.

The 10 minutes to check in luggage (cell C14) can be zeroed out if the trip only requires carry-on luggage. Leaving your automobile at the service station can be adjusted or zeroed out as appropriate, and the same is also true for bank or other stops. You can be as conservative or risky as you choose on these time estimates.

 As you perform each task you can see whether you are ahead or behind schedule, and react accordingly. The "instant on and off" feature of the HP 200LX is perfect for a quick check.

 Changes in departure time aren't a problem

 At the top of the spreadsheet I enter the flight number and the scheduled flight departure time. All the tasks are keyed to this departure time. If the flight changes, all the other times just fall into place automatically. That (along with any tasks added, deleted, or modified) results in the correct time to wake up (cell A3) and begin the whole thing.

 I generally start entering some of the data, such as flight time, days before the actual flight. I plan the pre-flight errands, adjust for rush hour differences, etc., and make adjustments right up to the night before. Then I set the morning alarm and move along calmly, confident that I am "organized," thanks to the convenience of the palmtop computer.

 Building the spreadsheet

 Here's how to build the spreadsheet. Set the column widths so everything is visible on the palmtop without scrolling. Columns A & E are set to 18 for the text, B is left at the default 9, C reduced to 6, and D reduced to 4. (To set the width for column A, go to cell A1, then type MENU, W, C, S, 18, ENTER.)

 Cells A2 & A3 are formatted as "D7" type, using Lotus designation. (Go to cell A2, type MENU, R, F, D, T, 2, DownArrow, ENTER). (By using the range function to apply this to cells A2 and A3, you won't have to change the settings in each cell.) Do the same for column B, from row 7 on down.

Column C from row 7 or 8 on down is formatted as "D9". (Type MENU, R, F, D, T, 4, ENTER.) Cell B7 has the entry +A2 (this merely copies the flight departure time that's in cell A2 to cell B7). Cell A3 has the entry +B43 (so the final result can be seen at the top of the spreadsheet). Text in rows 1 through 5 is entered as shown, and row 6 is filled in.

The Lotus @TIME function

 Let's enter a theoretical flight departure of 9:15 AM in cell A2. [Our time entries are put in using the Lotus function @TIME(0,0,0). To do this, we will replace the first zero with hour 01 through 24; the second zero is replaced with minute 01 through 60, and the third zero, representing seconds, is left at zero.] Go to A2 and type @TIME(09,15,00) ENTER. "09:15 AM" will appear in cell A2 (and also in cell B7).

 Now we can lock titles to keep the important information at the top, even when we scroll down. Go to row 7 and type MENU, W, T, H.

 Go to cell B9 and enter +B7-C8 ("09:15 AM" will appear in cell B9). Copy this entry to cell B11 and do the same for all the odd rows on down in column B. Later, as you enter in amounts of time for different activities, Lotus will adjust (each time, automatically) the times in column B. But for now, the time will be displayed as the flight time of 9:15, since we haven't entered any activities yet.

 Go to cell D8 and enter MIN and then copy it to each even row down in column D. Go to cell A7 and type DEPARTURE. Go to cell E8 and type CHECK & BOARD.

Now go to cell C8 and enter the amount of time you want to allow at the gate. If you want to designate ten minutes, type @TIME (0,10,0). Right away you'll see that cell B9 now displays 9:05 AM, since the ten minutes is subtracted from the flight time of 9:15 AM in cell B7. (If you are using the new ticketless procedure and your reservation is all in order, the amount of time you allow at the gate can be minimal. If you are flying standby and want to get on the list early [or need to make special requests, get your seat assigned, etc.] adjust accordingly.)

Go to cell A9 and type ARRIVE GATE. Continue describing the "activity" in the even rows of column E, the amount of time each takes in column C, and the milestone where you should be in column A. As you make adjustments to the time for tasks in column C, the milestones in column B will all change accordingly. You can zero out an entry by typing @TIME (0,0,0) if the entry is just a reminder to lock the door or deposit a letter in a mailbox, or something else that doesn't require any time.

 Make one "typical" spreadsheet containing the most likely entries, then save it. Now to do a real trip: open the typical spreadsheet, make your entries, and save it with the name of the trip. Keep the typical spreadsheet as a template to use over and over.

 Happy flying and Palmtopping.

 The author's spreadsheet warns him that, in order to perform all the tasks listed, he has to wake up at 5:38 a.m. to make his 9:15 flight departure.

iPhone Life magazine

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