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Timelines: what are they and what are they for?

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Each and every one of the things we experience, the problems we have, the challenges we face or in general the situations we are part of our lives occur in a spatio-temporal continuum, in which at a specific moment an event occurs concrete. That is to say, not everything happens at the same moment, but rather a more or less prolonged temporal sequence is established.

Understanding a fact means understanding the phenomena that have been occurring over time., and often we will have to analyze what has happened in a situation (either because we want to understand our past, establish a chronology or look for the causes of a specific phenomenon). For this, it can be very useful to use some type of graphic element that allows us to represent it. One of the options available to us is to create timelines.

Related article: "70 phrases about time and the passage of life"

Timelines: what are they?

Timelines are graphic representations in the form of a line whose main function is to allow the correct understanding of the temporal sequence in which one or several phenomena have occurred, indicating through various marks on the line the different steps or main elements that have been marking the element that we are analyzing and noting the time or period in which said events have occurred Steps.

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For example, we can establish a time line with the events that have marked our life from our birth to the present, marking the points that we consider key. Another example would be the analysis of a problem or an element of interest, such as the bankruptcy of a company or the acquisition of learning or skill, observing the elements that have been leading towards it throughout the time.

It is also possible to develop several time lines on different situations or variables and compare them In order to try to visually determine if there could be a relationship between them, they have some point in common.

Creating timelines: steps

Creating a timeline can be very useful in multiple areas and in order to analyze different aspects. However, you cannot start annotating elements without further ado, but rather a series of steps and consideration of different elements are required.

To develop a timeline it is essential to take into account and follow a series of steps:

1. Evaluate and decide what we want to represent and for what

This step seems very logical, but is essential for the timeline to make sense. Mainly it is important to assess the type of data that we are going to reflect and determine which should appear and which should not. If, for example, we consider making a timeline of the development of the Roman Empire throughout history, it will not be necessary that we explain what was happening in territories not linked to it, or that we write down details about the day-to-day life of a subject in concrete. It is about maintaining a certain consistency and representing only the main and most important elements.

2. Set time limits

An also important step is to take into account where the temporal limits of the representation that we are going to do are.. If we are analyzing the causes of a particular problem that happened a year ago, it is not necessary for our graph to continue until today (unless it is specifically required, for example if the problem has not been solved) It is necessary to decide in advance what date will start our graph and what will give it end.

3. Determine the measurement scale

Our future representation already has a theme and objective and a beginning and an end. But what kind of temporal divisions are we going to do? We are talking about writing down hours, weeks, years, centuries, stages... It is necessary to be clear about this so that we can situate the different phenomena on the time line.

4. Collection and selection of the most relevant data

Once decided what we are going to represent in the time line and how to do it, you can proceed to collect and/or decide which elements are going to be exposed. This step may have been done previously before thinking about how it is going to be rendered. On the one hand, this process can be greatly influenced by the choice of time periods to be measured and the scale chosen, but on the other, it can be the one that marks them.

5. Elaboration of the line and the brands that will represent the different steps that have been wanted to highlight

Once this is done, you can proceed to draw the line and the divisions that we are going to make of the chosen time sequence.

6. data placement

Finally the chosen data will be placed, ordered chronologically and also noting the temporal moment in which the event occurred.

Other aspects and considerations of creating timelines

Regardless of the previous steps, it is necessary to take into account that the timeline is a simple graphical representation.and. We do not have to insert explanations into it, simply the events or milestones that have been occurring over time. Neither are opinions or subjective elements unless they are what we are measuring. The language should be clear and concise.

The line drawn is going to be a straight line, since it marks the events in the temporal and non-functional plane. By this we mean, for example, that we are not making a diagram of how something works, but how it has worked over time. Even though we can consider that time is something cyclical, we will generally be referring to specific dates.

In addition to being able to do it manually, today we have multiple options to create timelines in different applications and computer programs. For example, applications like Timetoast (in which you can also add images), Tiki-Toki or Timelinr. In a much more rudimentary way, it is also possible to perform them in well-known programs such as Microsoft Excel.

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