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Discussion Forum > Automatic Scheduling with Skedpal

I am reviewing Skedpal on the blog today. I think it's the answer for me. It's an automatic scheduling app (free) that actually works. It takes into account your life and preferences to such an extent that you're never told to grocery shop late at night. You can see if you're overloaded. There are so many great features to it. I would love to hear if it's helpful for anyone else.

If you're a GTDer or if you don't have a lot of tasks or if your life is 24/7 interruptions (mine isn't, even with 5 kids still at home), it may not work. But otherwise it's worth a try to see if you love it as much as I do. I'm NOT an affiliate though I should be with how crazy I am about it. :-)
February 6, 2015 at 17:09 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
Hi, Melanie

That sounds like an interesting program, though it seems to have much the same functionality as Above & Beyond ( ) which has been around for ages. I haven't tried it recently so if you have I'd be interested to know what the differences are between it and Skedpal.

Has your husband ever written on your blog about his "little 3-item to-do list"? If not, isn't it about time he did?
February 6, 2015 at 19:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, you're right that there are a lot of similarities! I had never heard of it before. The differences appear to be a much older and uglier UI (it mentions syncing with a Palm Pilot); no sync with Google calendar (which is a deal breaker for me, especially since there is no iPhone integration); options for working with a team (I don't need this presently); more granularity (you can schedule 10 minute tasks--something I think would make the app LESS effective for me); an option for marking a task attempted which is pretty cool, but probably too granular for my purposes. The developers of Skedpal are very open to suggestions as the program is in beta. I'm sure if these different features were desired, they would consider implementing them.

My husband will laugh himself silly when I tell him what you said. :-) He isn't a writer and doesn't think of his approach as blog worthy. He uses his three items to remind himself of customers he needs to call. His primary approach is DO IT NOW. He responds to phone calls and emails as they come in. He will get up on the weekends and decide that it's a good day to repair the fence. Off he goes to the hardware store, usually with no list. He tackles few enough projects that this approach works perfectly for him. If I quit writing and extra teaching responsibilities, I *might* be able to use his method. As wonderfully carefree as his lifestyle is, I don't think I want it. :-)

I'm going to ask him his advice for getting things done, however, and I will report back.
February 6, 2015 at 22:58 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

<< I'm going to ask him his advice for getting things done, however, and I will report back. >>

I'm looking forward to it!
February 7, 2015 at 15:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Ok, I'm officially impressed. I thought I'd give skedpal a spin, but I wouldn't have if it were not for Melanie's enthusiasm. I tried something similar once with Life Balance but it turned out to be a disaster. Great program, but I just felt my life suddenly spin out of control. There was another GTD software tool that did something similar, I forget what it was called but I ended it with similarly disastrous results. But just setting skedpal up for this week has been amazing. Here are some observations:
- I tightened up my "work hours." Typically I don't distinguish between work and non-work hours. I just book appointments in my calendar and use autofocus whenever I get a chance. But I thought "what if," just for fun, I used 9-5 Monday to Friday like the rest of the human race. I book other events outside of those hours, but not skedpal tasks.
- using the skedpal procedure, I entered several big ticket tasks, including a daily "autofocus list" task, lecture preparation, sermon writing, and a few others. I'm leaving the smaller items for autofocus.
- amazingly, I was shocked at the utility of the schedule skedpal came up with. It's perfectly balanced and I can't believe the amount on discretionary, open non-scheduled time it gave me, even within the 9-5 constraints. I'm looking forward to those blank spaces in the evenings and weekends being stress free.
Well, that's what it looks like from here. For the autofocus tasks, I still intend to throw everything at it, using my combination of Random and FV. I'm interested to see how autofocus and skedpal interact this week. Usually when I experiment with a new method I end up under stress thinking I'm missing something. And ever since autofocus I have never like the idea of scheduling tasks. But I'm unusually optimistic about this, so far.
February 9, 2015 at 4:02 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
I'll be very interested to see how you all get on with this in the longer term. My experiences with scheduling (whether doing the scheduling myself or using software) have not been that encouraging in the past. The main problems I've found have been:

1) If it works to start off with, I start throwing more and more at it until it gets overwhelmed (a problem with all TM systems!)

2) When estimating how long a task will take I don't allow enough time. The result is that the balance and free time promised by the system prove to be illusory.

3) I don't allow enough time for interruptions and emergencies, which frequently results in my schedule for the day collapsing completely.

4) At some stage I always come to a point where the schedule tells me to do something and I simply cannot bring myself to do it.
February 9, 2015 at 9:54 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Those are exactly the same problems I've had with scheduling methods. I suspect item 2 will be a problem for me. I'll keep you posted.
February 9, 2015 at 10:32 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Paul, I'm so glad you're enjoying it at this point. Your post made me realize that there is definitely an Unschedule aspect to this program as well.

Mark, it's early days, so anything is possible, but here are my responses to your experiences so far:

1. You're less likely to keep throwing more and more into Skedpal because you will find out very quickly that Skedpal can't fit it all in and you'll get a warning.

2. I have both over and underestimated time so far, but because I haven't overloaded the schedule (per #1), it hasn't been a problem. The other reason is because the program encourages you to enter in tasks well ahead of time. It has that aspect of DIT. I just hit reschedule with the expanded time required (because I underestimated) or I use the time that is freed up from overestimates and everything works out well.

3. I have an hour at lunch time (the time I'm using to write this), 5-6:30 p.m., and 8-10 p.m. as non-task time every day. I also leave my morning and teaching hours as unscheduled because I already know what I'm doing. That's a lot of flex time to account for those interruptions, especially if I haven't jammed the week full. I'm careful to add prep and driving time to my appointments too. If I can't get to things, I hit reschedule. In that case, Skedpal will limit your activities to top priorities that are coming due. You may have to eliminate or delay some activities, but that's what we want the program to tell us.

4. I have had this happen to me. Fortunately, it's been in the evening which is part of my time map for activities that aren't critical. I simply hit reschedule and start over the next day. I honestly don't think I could have talked myself into doing anything at that point. The great thing is I feel so much less stressed and so motivated that I tend to do the things I miss during my unscheduled time just because I want to. I don't use Skedpal in a perfectionistic way, which I think would make it ineffective for me and for most people. I think of it like a personal assistant who knows me well. If I were just too wiped to do something, I would tell my assistant I wanted to reschedule. That's just what Skedpal does.

One other interesting note. I did have a more urgent task get scheduled for Saturday evening because of interruptions and the like. I didn't want to do it, BUT I knew if I didn't, I would have a MUST DO on Sunday. I have come to relish my free Sundays so much that I just knocked it out. All this to say that I think my success with Skedpal is because I have learned so much about how I work best, benefiting from your and others' wisdom over the years.
February 9, 2015 at 18:49 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
Mark, I asked my husband about his advice for getting things done. Here is what he said:

When it comes to work (he sells books to school librarians), it's pretty easy for me. I just write down who I need to call or email and that starts the process of setting up my appointments with my customers. To determine who I need to contact, I flip through my binders (he has information on hundreds of customers in ancient binders). Sometimes when I know I need to contact someone around a certain date, I write their name on my desk calendar. With stuff around the house, I just keep it short so I don't get too overwhelmed. It might be two or three things I need to do and I prioritize or base it on what I feel like doing because it's more enjoyable.

I asked him why he thought I have had a harder time managing my tasks and he said that it's the variety of things that I do, whereas his tasks are limited to a couple of areas. I agree! Again, I just can't give up all the other things I love to do or I could be easy going like he is. :-)
February 9, 2015 at 19:01 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

<< You're less likely to keep throwing more and more into Skedpal because you will find out very quickly that Skedpal can't fit it all in and you'll get a warning. >>

<< I asked him why he thought I have had a harder time managing my tasks and he said that it's the variety of things that I do, whereas his tasks are limited to a couple of areas. >>

Compare and contrast!
February 9, 2015 at 21:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Compare and contrast, meaning do I throw too much into Skedpal? Not at present. In fact, I was just looking at the glorious breathing room I have. Not sure why I didn't have that before, but I'm sure it's a combo of cutting back on some activities in the past year and knowing what I should be doing now. It's certainly true that I enjoy more variety in my activities than my husband does and I have no desire to change that.
February 10, 2015 at 1:15 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

<< Compare and contrast, meaning do I throw too much into Skedpal? >>

Not quite. What was amusing me was that you needed a computer program to tell you what was patently obvious to your husband, i.e. that the reason you have difficulty in doing everything is that you have too much "everything".
February 10, 2015 at 15:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I installed SkedPal but am honestly having a hard time figuring out how to set it up. I accidentally deleted a task and can't figure out how to get it back. I'm also not sure what info it's pulling from my calendar, and that makes me uncomfortable. I like the concepts (especially the "time map" thing) and the description of their algorithms -- it seems to capture the way I naturally think about my time, but automates and optimizes it. So I am looking forward to getting around these hurdles and giving it a good try.
February 11, 2015 at 23:38 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
it's unfortunate Melanie was not able to follow up on that last comment. I was hoping for an introspective response. I am just starting with Skedpal today after reading Melanie's post.

February 4, 2017 at 7:08 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Shaughnessy
Ryan, I am still using Skedpal and giving the developer feedback. It has changed a lot and for the better. Now you can choose a focus list of tasks for Skedpal to schedule. You can pin tasks to your calendar. If something doesn't get done, you don't get a negative response from Skedpal, but rather an "Are we changing the plan?" question. I am also using Skedpal differently now. I don't follow the schedule to the letter but use the day's list. It's so helpful to me. If you have any issues with Skedpal, post in the Skedpal forum and we will help.
February 4, 2017 at 16:18 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
Thank you! Just one question. I see that i can import my google calendar... Will Skedpal export to and populate the Google calendar as well?
February 4, 2017 at 17:51 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Shaughnessy
Yes, Ryan it does add a calendar to Google. Hope that helps.
February 6, 2017 at 20:49 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
Way back in college, before personal management software really existed (before handhelds were around), I had a dream of creating a program like this one that took my tasks and rules about when each can and can't be done and it would organize everything for me. Classes would be at a certain time, and big projects would fit in big holes and little ones in little holes, but adjusted according to when things were due, etc. The main driver was a notion that the software would alert me to how much free time I had and didn't have based on things that needed doing, such that I wouldn't over-procrastinate and be unable to properly complete assignments.

I never actually followed through on that, and these days I'm very much an unschedule type so I'm not particularly inclined to try skedpal, though I do like how it seems to be laid out.
February 8, 2017 at 2:02 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Is anyone still using SkedPal? It's named SkedPal 2 now, and it's a paid subscription, but I'm still interested to know how effective it is to have a program tell you what to do at what time of day. I've tried the beta of SkedPal back then, but the syncing was so excruciatingly slow that I stopped using it. Otherwise, the concept was very attractive.
January 30, 2018 at 13:19 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
When I tried SkedPal, it told me I had more commitments than I could manage, so I tried to negotiate with it, using time that would have been better spent working on or weeding my commitments.

It didn't know my energy and interest levels as well as I did (or maybe triggered my rebel gene), and, since I didn't follow its suggestions, I had to refresh it often, which led to more time spent negotiating.

What I really want is someone to reassure me that this task in front of me is a good choice, and get me to do it. To take into account current and future energy levels and reward me in ways that works. To read my mind and have a reliable crystal ball.

I don't know if sticking with it, and actually listening when it said I was over-committed, would have made a difference. I'd be curious to know what you find.
February 6, 2018 at 18:46 | Registered CommenterCricket
Hi Cricket,

Just thought I should say: That task in front of you is a good choice -- go ahead and do it!! :)
February 6, 2018 at 20:38 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Nicole, syncing works just fine now. I noticed that some time ago, Seraphim asked what info was being pulled from your calendar. It's appointments and I just include my main calendar.

I still use Skedpal to manage my tasks. I don't use ToDoist anymore. I copy and paste email URLs into the task title or notes so I can go directly to the email I need.

There are a number of factors that can cause Skedpal to "fight with you" on scheduling. You may have holidays or events on your calendar set to busy, keeping Skedpal from scheduling you then. You may have minimum block length set too long, so Skedpal is waiting for you to have a two-hour block to schedule a task, instead of 30 minutes, for example. You may have too little or not enough buffer. Skedpal may schedule you to do something when you're going to be driving to your appointment during that time. Or you may have buffer time set for all your tasks when you need things scheduled very tightly. Buffering can be adjusted overall or for specific tasks. If you set a deadline for a task or put it in your focus list, Skedpal will attempt to schedule it as soon as possible. The deadline feature should be used for the short-term. I do a weekly review to determine which projects/tasks should be in my focus list. Skedpal does have a start and finish by feature that can help with this as well.

My best advice for using Skedpal from the beginning is not to try to get every task scheduled at the exact time you think is best. Multiple time maps are an advanced feature. Besides, most of us immediately rebel when told we have to do these tasks at very specific times. I allow Skedpal to tell me which tasks I should do today. I do them as I care to then and I do NOT hit the reschedule button. The point should be to finish your list and have the sense of completion. If you work quickly, you'll be gaining yourself more work to do otherwise.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
February 7, 2018 at 18:39 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
Seraphim, Agreed! The task in front of me is almost always a good-enough choice, certainly a better choice than trying to train an AI that I probably won't listen to.

Melanie, Most of my fighting with it was when it told me there wasn't enough time to do everything I wanted. (I'm not saying it was wrong, just that I argued about it.)
February 7, 2018 at 20:35 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket, I understand that resistance. It’s the same, regardless of method. Skedpal is just more persistent in pointing it out. Using the focus list helps with this tremendously.
February 11, 2018 at 2:39 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
I tried SkedPal for a week, and indeed the syncing has improved dramatically. Also the user interface was better than what I remembered from my previous attempt.

But, after a few days I went back to RAF on paper, almost screaming in despair.

I think the problem was in repeating routine tasks. I added those to SkedPal as daily repeating tasks, but the result was that a large part of my list would be routine stuff, so I tended to spend waaay too much time on them. With paper, I have a better feel for what's actually on the list. Also, tinkering with the list is much more tempting with a digital list than with paper. I'm afraid I already knew that I work better with a paper list than a digital list, but somehow going digital always feels like "ooh, new, shiny!" Sigh.
February 21, 2018 at 15:54 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I had the same issue when I first started using Skedpal. The way I've worked around it is to group most of my routine tasks into 3 groups - AM Routine, Midday Routine and PM Routine. I have those 3 set up as daily recurring tasks in Skedpal. I use the notes section for each of those 3 Routines to list the activities that should be done during that particular routine. The list shows up nicely on the right side of the screen, keeping me focused on them. My calendar, then, looks cleaner to me as I've shortened my time estimate for the 3 Routine tasks.
February 22, 2018 at 17:57 | Unregistered Commentertomcal
That sounds familiar, even when using a paper list, especially when I'm feeling optimistic, such as "Project over! Now I have time for..."

All those little things I want to do often add up quickly!

After many false starts, I eventually decided how much time I wanted to spend in total on routine tasks, then adjusted my list to suit. Some things that I wanted to become routine didn't make the cut at all, and others went to a lower frequency.

Like tomcal, I schedule blocks rather than details. I like to do 30-60 minutes of housework each day. The block starts with anything urgent, then daily kitchen and laundry, then slower recurring tasks, then, if there's time, whatever calls to me or deep clean the next drawer on the list. I found, through trial and error, that 30 minutes is enough that the family thinks I'm doing a great job, and 60 is enough for me to think I'm doing a great job.
February 22, 2018 at 20:24 | Registered CommenterCricket