Not having enough time in the day, week or month is a ubiquitous problem. Coffee dates with friends or catching up with a family member are important parts of our daily lives, but other tasks, such as work responsibilities, meetings and school project due dates, often take priority. Interpersonal commitments are the ones we often overlook; when you cancel on a friend, colleague or family member, there’s still the responsibility of finding the right time to reschedule.
Reclaim, a Portland-based start-up company that just received $4.8 million in funding from angel investors, seeks to provide the time management solution: a “smart calendar assistant,” according to their website, that syncs your virtual calendars, blocks out time for tasks, and reminds you how much time you have left in the day. Patrick Lightbody, one of Reclaim’s three co-founders, agreed to talk with Portland State Vanguard about how their new product works, why they started the company and where they hope to take Reclaim in the future.
Lightbody, along with Henry Shapiro and Ian White, make up the team that launched Reclaim in 2019. Before then, the trio worked together at New Relic, a software company in California. Lightbody and Shapiro gained respect for one another’s work ethic and design sensibilities during their time at New Relic, and, about two years ago, decided to embark on their own mission.
“Initially, we were looking at industries and problems that were much closer to where we were at New Relic, [including] software monitoring, alerting of software,” Lightbody said. “Obviously, we did not want to compete with where we just came out of, and we thought there were opportunities to do something kind of novel around how teams come together to build high quality software.”
Lightbody explained the motivation behind Reclaim: “As we dug into that concept, the thing that kept coming back over and over after interviewing engineering managers, product designers, product managers and executives was not the need for some new piece of software that can be more agile, or cloudy or scalable, it was a question of time.”
Conflicting meetings and priorities are common for a busy manager, and the responsibility to find time for these tasks ultimately falls on them. Lightbody found that the biggest scheduling problem came from middle managers being pulled in too many directions, leading to dysfunction as well as quality and alignment issues. The accumulation of these conflicts can boil over to company wide dysfunction. Meanwhile, executives assigning these tasks may be unaware of the reasons why their expectations aren’t being met. Lightbody and Shapiro personally experienced these frustrations themselves, causing them to pivot and create an entirely new approach to time management.
Work wasn’t the only thing keeping Lightbody busy. “I also have three kids,” he explained. “I’ve been living the life of juggling playdates and personal commitments. I have this pain point that in a lot of ways is universal and really basic, and yet it wasn’t solved until Reclaim kind of came into the picture.”
“People need to balance their work life and their personal life,” Lightbody said. “Productivity has changed where people are afforded [their] freedoms, and, because of the pandemic even more so, to break up their day.”
Reclaim doesn’t just sync up with calendar apps; it also compensates for flexible scheduling. Timeframes can be set for lunch, for example, to make sure it is actually penciled in for a certain time range, not just at a specific hour. The feature, called Smart Time Blocking, blocks out times based on set priorities. It can juggle multiple events at once, mark someone as busy during certain times and allow the user to choose how much information they want to expose about their commitments.
“We live in a global economy now where you’re working with people in different time zones,” Lightbody said. “So sometimes it makes sense for you to do some of your work early in the morning and then the rest of your work late at night, because that’s what works best for your personal life or your company structure.”
Recently added features like Tasks and Habits create more calendar space for commitments that tend to get pushed back or overlooked, but that the user would prefer to keep open. Whether it’s a weekly meditation habit, a daily workout or a school project due by a certain date, priority levels can be set for each Task or Habit—and Reclaim will make time for them.
Lightbody explained that Reclaim was designed to be used as a circuit breaker for calendars. As events fill up the calendar, Reclaim will automatically warn its users, “hold on, this is the last spot to have a half hour lunch. Sorry, there’s no more time for you.” Reclaim’s software provides context about why that time is so valuable, and why it shouldn’t be over scheduled, its creators say.
“That was a big breakout moment for us because it put us on the path of working with our customers to say, what is the ideal you?” Lightbody said. “You invest time telling Reclaim what the best version of you is, and we’ll help you negotiate that in an automated way. That frees us up for the next stage of our growth.”
This next stage of growth includes integration with an industry management tool called Asana for Jira, which provides collaboration tools for general project management, according to Lightbody.
“[Now], instead of [what’s] the best version of you, it’s what’s the best version of your team?” Lightbody explained. “What’s the best version of your company?”