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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt junior develops organization and time management software ‘TaskCentral’

Junior mechanical engineering student Sitan Huang developed a software directed at motivating students to check things off their busy to-do lists.
Graphic+of+a+broom+cleaning+up+ideas+and+assignments.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FLexie+Perez%29
Lexie Perez
Graphic of a broom cleaning up ideas and assignments. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

We all know far too well the struggles of achieving a balanced grasp on time, especially as a college student. Lucky for us, a fellow Vanderbilt student has developed a software focused on fixing that once and for all.

During their first year at Vanderbilt, Sitan Huang, now a junior, discovered that, like many of us, the traditional organizational strategies that once worked in high school simply weren’t cutting it in college. Huang was trying to gauge time for assignments, make to-do lists and plan their schedule, and Google Calendar simply isn’t built to be the hub of organization they wanted. Let’s face it, few first-years really have a good grasp on task management, so college is the perfect place to try new strategies.

As a mechanical engineering student, Huang thought it would be helpful to build their own software to tackle a busy schedule.

“I really liked writing software. I’ve been writing enterprise applications since 2014,” Huang said. “Writing good code is like writing poetry — it’s not only functional but pleasant to read.”

With extensive experience in software development, Huang set out to create a program that would encompass all the features a motivated college student could ever need. They’ve opened their software, TaskCentral, to other students in hopes of helping those with the same struggles they once did. Currently, the software is available as a web app, but Huang is exploring the option of piloting it as a mobile app in the future.

Software inspiration

Huang anticipated that their second semester at Vanderbilt would bring a significantly heavier course load compared to their first, prompting them to create TaskCentral.

“The second semester [of my first year] I was taking a lot of classes, and I was really stressed out about it, so [TaskCentral] became my primary project during the winter break to try to plan ahead and have some platform that integrates everything into one place,” Huang said.

According to Huang, TaskCentral started as a single-user program where only one account existed to store and track tasks. They built the software to cater to their own personal taste, but when their friends saw them using it and wanted to try it out, Huang added a feature to have multiple users and accounts. 

“I get a sense of accomplishment and community through that software; I feel like it’s a win-win situation to publicize it more,” Huang said. “Having more people use it hopefully helps to keep them productive.”

Huang feels that the philosophy of TaskCentral is to help students focus on one task at a time. 

“[Computers operate] by switching tasks very quickly, but there is a penalty every time it switches tasks, and the same is true for humans,” Huang said. “If I tell you to work on something different every 10 minutes, there is going to be efficiency loss because your mind doesn’t context-switch very well.”

Software features

With task optimization in mind, Huang structured the software so that only upcoming tasks would be displayed on the user dashboard, reducing anxiety that comes with seeing all tasks at once. Using the included Pomodoro timer and the manual progress slider, TaskCentral calculates your work efficiency and helps plot out how long future tasks will likely take. 

“TaskCentral uses an advanced sorting algorithm inspired by operating system kernels to suggest the next best possible task to work on, guaranteeing maximum throughput,” Huang said.

Huang further added a component that can provide some self-driven competition for users who want to improve their productivity by competing against their past selves. The software also includes 20 different metrics they included to measure productivity and relative stress levels. 

“There are ratings for your day, for your week, for your month. That’s based on how much work you completed in the past,” Huang said. “We stay motivated by competing against ourselves and others. This competitive nature pushes us to do things faster and avoid procrastination.” 

Users can choose to use only features they find helpful. 

Creating a task is the first step to using the software. From the task creation and edit menu, you are able to set the weight, due dates and priority of each task. Project tags are an absolutely necessary feature; both visually seeing different class tags and having the ability to sort based on classes can improve productivity. One of my favorite features is the timer feature where you can set a timer while working on a certain task. Using this data, the software calculates motivating metrics and helps predict the time remaining on future tasks. 

In a recent addition to the program, Huang added the ability to mass-import assignments from syllabi; using just a little bit of basic Excel formatting, I managed to add an entire semester of assignments in a matter of minutes.

As the semester progresses, a well-established organizational system can make all the difference in staying ahead of the curve. Born from someone who understands the need for organization, TaskCentral is a great tool for students to try as the season of busyness approaches. Its feature-rich interface provides all the necessary tools for students to track and estimate their assignment progress.

“The project is fully transparent and open-source, so I would love it if there’s collaboration. Anyone can edit the code,” Huang said. 

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About the Contributors
Drew Nelles
Drew Nelles, Staff Writer
Drew Nelles (‘27) is from San Diego and is majoring in biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. When he is not consumed with schoolwork, you’ll likely find him exploring Nashville or going for a hike. You can reach him at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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