Benjamin is a task manager and calendar inspired by Benjamin Franklin, and built to facilitate time management systems that are similarly inspired. If you’re new to these systems, one of the best ways to learn their principles is to attend one of the many third-party training courses that are available. You could also read the book The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith, or one of the many books by Stephen R. Covey which will introduce you to the time management principles used in Benjamin. If you want to get started quickly, though, this Getting Started guide should serve as an adequate introduction to how Benjamin works.
Any complete personal management system must be able to handle four types of information: tasks, appointments, contacts and notes. These four types of information are so vital that they are often referred to as the “core four.” The built-in apps that come with iOS are great, but they’re limited. They don’t allow you to view your calendar and your tasks at the same time, they don’t allow any way to cross-reference tasks and notes, and they don’t allow for the rich task models that are required to fully support many time management systems.
That’s where Benjamin comes in. Benjamin implements the calendar, tasks and notes components of the core four so that, in conjunction with the built-in contacts apps, your iOS device becomes a fully featured personal management tool. With Benjamin, you can manage your calendar and tasks at the same time. You can create tasks and assign to them statuses, priorities, and due dates. You can create notes that are automatically timestamped so that you’ll never have to wonder when they were created. And most importantly, you can create relationships between your tasks and notes so that you can, for instance, cross-reference several tasks with the minutes from the meeting that generated them.
The Home Screen
When you launch Benjamin, you will immediately notice the home screen which is the jumping off point for all the other features of Benjamin. The home screen includes entries for Today’s Events, Today’s Tasks, Today’s Notes, Calendar, Master Task List, and Projects, among other entries.
Today’s Events contains the appointments that you have scheduled for today, and gives you an easy way to see the landscape of your day. Events in your calendar are stored in the iOS system calendar, so you can easily sync them with other services like iCloud, Exchange, and Google.
Today’s Tasks contains the tasks that need to be completed today, so it’s in this screen that you will probably spend most of your time as you go through your day. A task can appear in Today’s Tasks because you set the task’s due date to today, or because it’s due date is set to a day in the past. As you go through your day and complete tasks, you can check them off by tapping the checkbox on the left side of each task’s row. If a task in Today’s Tasks is not completed by the end of the day, it will be automatically forwarded to tomorrow’s Today’s Tasks screen. If you want to prioritize your tasks, tap the Edit button. If you want to see more information about a task, tap on its row to be taken to the Task Details screen.
Benjamin fully supports the ABC-123 task priority system used in many productivity systems. Generally, Priority A items are tasks that must be completed today, Priority B items are tasks that should be completed today, and Priority C items are tasks that could be completed today. To change the priority of a task, tap the Edit button at the top of the Today’s Tasks screen. You’ll notice after tapping the Edit button that three horizontal lines appear on the right side of each task’s row. These horizontal lines act as a “handle” that you can use to drag the task up and down the list of tasks. As you drag a task to different sections of the list, its ABC priority changes to match its new section. It’s 123 priority is also changed to reflect its new position within its section. When you have finished moving tasks around, tap the Done button.
The Task Details screen displays all the information that exists about a task. Details displayed includes the task’s title, its status, to whom the task has been delegated, the task’s priority, the date on which it is due, how often the task repeats, the project with which it is associated, notes with which it is associated, any comments that were entered about the task, and timestamps for when the task was created, modified, and closed out. To change any of these pieces of information (except timestamps), tap the Task Details row that contains that piece of information.
Today’s Notes contains the notes that you’ve created today. Notes can be used to record information about telephone calls, meeting minutes, or anything else that you need to record for later reference. But notes in Benjamin are more than just a stand-alone reference source. They can be associated with one or more projects or tasks so that you can cross-reference things that need to be done with supporting information. These cross-references give you a convenient way to browse which tasks have been created as a result of a note (for example action items that stem from meeting minutes stored in a note), or allow you to supply context and supporting information for a task or project (for example, notes from a hallway conversation that may apply to more than one task). If you want to see more information about a note, tap on its row to be taken to the Note Details screen.
Master Task List
The Master Task List is a staging area for your tasks. It’s a place to store tasks that you need to complete, even if you’re not sure when. As you become aware of tasks that don’t need to be completed immediately, you can add them to the Master Task List for later consideration. Then, when you plan your week, you can select tasks from the Master Task List that you want to complete in the week ahead. To remove a task from your Master Task List, simply assign it a due date. The task will appear under that date in the calendar. If the due date is today or in the past, the task will also appear in Today’s Tasks. To return a task to the Master Task List, simply clear its due date.
A project is simply a collection of related tasks. For example, a project titled “Build a House” might include tasks titled “Purchase Real Estate,” “Hire an Architect,” and “Interview Contractors.” When all of a project’s tasks are completed, you can indicate that the entire project is complete by tapping the folder on the left side of project row and changing the project’s status. To see which tasks are part of the project, just tap the project’s row. To view or change details about the project (like its title or project comments), tap the detail disclosure indicator button on the right side of the project’s row.
Benjamin also has a full-featured calendar that you can access from the home screen, although how you access it differs between the iPhone and iPad. On the iPhone, tap the Calendar row to view your calendar. On the iPad, the calendar is always visible in the bottom-left corner of the screen. On either device, the calendar indicates that there are events, tasks, projects, or notes associated with a date by displaying a dot on that day. To view the objects that are associated with a particular day, simply tap that date on the calendar.
The calendar serves two main purposes in Benjamin. It acts as a record of what you’ve done in the past, and it gives you the ability to plan your future. When you select a date in the past, you will see a list of that day’s events, the tasks and projects that you completed and canceled on that day, as well as any notes that you took on that day. If you select a future date, you will see that day’s events, as well as a list of tasks that have been scheduled for that day (as indicated by the tasks’ due dates). If you are looking ahead to plan upcoming days or weeks, you can use this screen to prioritize future tasks by tapping the Edit button and dragging tasks up and down (just as you can in Today’s Tasks).
Benjamin’s Settings screen can be accessed from the home screen as well. On the iPad, tap the Settings row. On the iPhone, tap the gear icon at the bottom of the home screen. Although the Settings screen provides several ways to provide feedback about Benjamin, the main thing that it does is allow you to manage your synchronization account and the system calendars that are displayed.
Benjamin allows you to synchronize your tasks, projects, and notes between your iPhone and iPad over the air, so they are always available. Even if you only have Benjamin on one device, synchronization serves as a convenient way to backup your data so you’ll always be able to recover it, even if your device is lost or stolen. Sync subscriptions are available for a low price and can be cancelled at any time, but before you can sync, you first need to create an account.
Creating an Account
To create an account, start on the Settings screen. Enter a username and password of your choice, and then tap the Create Account button. (Note that the Create Account button will not be active until you supply both a username and a password.) After tapping the Create Account button, you will be prompted to verify your password by retyping it, and to enter an email address so that you can reset your password if needed. After verifying your password and supplying an email address, tap Create Account again.
Getting More Help
Hopefully this guide has given you enough information to get you started with Benjamin. If you need additional help, please check out our documentation page. You can also email our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org.