SkedPal 3.0 Beta

Saied ArBabian
Jul 7, 2020 · 11 min read

You Asked. We Listened.

We have taken yet another major step forward in improving SkedPal. Those who have been following us for a while know that we have had two step-changes in the past, namely moving from version 0.97 to version 1.0 and moving from version 1.7 to 2.0. SkedPal 2 was released about 4 years ago and we made continuous improvements throughout its lifetime. This lengthy changelog tells the story of numerous improvements made in version 2. And, then we hit the point where going to the next level of improvements required a breakthrough redesign. So, we spent the last year rethinking, redesigning and re-implementing SkedPal from the ground up.

And, now, we’re excited to announce the release of SkedPal 3.0 beta! The new version is now simple, beautiful, and powerful. Although the underlying concepts of SkedPal — loved by all users — haven’t changed, this newly designed interface is truly worthy and reflective of the power that’s underneath it.

The new design is based on our community feedback. We have had hundreds of discussion threads either through emails or on the forum. We listened carefully and tried to deeply understand the underlying jobs that needed to be done and identify the major opportunities for improvement.

Here’s an overview of some of the most exciting changes you’ll see:

Empty Your Mind

An important part of planning is listing. It’s the process of getting the “stuff” out of our mind and outlining the next steps. Historically, list management hasn’t been SkedPal’s strongest feature. It’s going to be a different ball game in SkedPal 3. Let’s take a look at some of the newly designed features:

Unlimited nesting of tasks — We’re breaking the rigid structure of having areas, projects, and sub-tasks and empowering you with an unlimited hierarchy to organize your work and life. So, if you want to have sub-areas under an area, or have multiple sub-projects under a project, you can do it. If you have a big task and you feel you want to break it down into smaller tasks, you can do it. And, if one of those sub-tasks turns out to be another big task that needs to be broken down, no problem!

No more long lists of projects — If you tend to keep a lot of someday projects, your left pane would always be cluttered with a lot of projects. In SkedPal3, your left pane shows only your favorite projects — or the projects that you’re actively working on.

Focused Views — The nested structure comes with the ability to zoom in on a task. Clear all the clutter and long list of tasks so you can focus on the small list of sub-tasks.

Web app — Now you’ll be able to use your browser to access everything in SkedPal. Open multiple tabs or windows with different views. In addition, your tasks and projects come with an exclusive link. You can save the link in your documents and open them with the click of a button.

Rich text for your notes — Make checklists, bullet points, highlight, and format your notes.

Plan realistically

Creating a schedule with back to back time blocks often fails and leads to berating yourself. SkedPal has offered buffers and Time Maps to balance your schedule. And now, SkedPal 3 goes one step further in this direction and empowers you with these additional features:

Deep work vs shallow work — Time blocking is a powerful method to get deep work done. But, not every task is deep work. There are many tasks that do not require as much concentration and cognitive power. So, treating them like deep work is overkill. The big difference between time blocked tasks and others are that time blocks are like appointments on your calendar. They start and end at fixed times. This is ideal for deep work and you’ll mentally prepare yourself to deep dive into the task while minimizing all distractions — just like an important meeting. But, this will not work if everything is a time block from morning to evening — at least not for most people.

In SkedPal 3, you’ll be able to define what tasks or projects will be time blocked. The rest of your tasks will still be scheduled but they will be batched together as a knockout list on the calendar. This feature offers a lot of flexibility and you can set default values for all your tasks or a group of your tasks.

We talked about treating time blocks like important appointments. So, we are adding another important feature: Your time blocked tasks will sync with your main calendar in Outlook (or Google, ..) and will enable you to block your colleagues from booking you in meetings during your time blocked hours. And, just like other appointments, you’ll be able to set default reminders for your time blocks.

Multi-segment planning — The best way to plan a big task is to break it down into smaller sub-tasks and schedule the sub-tasks. But, sometimes, you just want an abstract task title to get scheduled, and then you’ll dive into your project materials to do the work. So, to plan these big tasks, you’ll be able to add multiple plans. For example, 4 hours this week and another 5 hours next week. Of course, this is not limited to big tasks. You can break up a task and say you’d like to schedule 30 mins this morning, and another 30 mins tomorrow afternoon.

In-line NLP — Natural language processing of dates and times has been an existing feature in SkedPal. We’ve taken this feature to the next level by parsing these values in-line as you type your title. This will give you assurance as to what is being parsed and will enable you to immediately make a correction.

Improved Recurrence — Repeating tasks are an important part of SkedPal. Some of the repeating patterns are exclusive to SkedPal like ‘3 times per week during preferred times’. This feature is now taken to the next level as well. Multiple new patterns including the yearly patterns and several variations of the monthly pattern have been added. So, you’ll be able to schedule tasks like Every year on the third Monday of January. And, for each of these patterns, the ‘fuzzy’ element is now added for maximum flexibility. And, based on popular demand, you’ll also be able to set sub-tasks to repeat!

Fixed Events in Projects — Ever had a fixed-time appointment as a task in your project? Now, you’ll be able to add your calendar appointments as tasks in projects so the tasks that depend on the completion of the event are scheduled properly. If your calendar event changes, all the preceding and subsequent tasks that depend on the scheduled time of this event will be rescheduled automatically.

Localization (pardon me, localisation) — Here is to all our friends outside the US who always wanted to see time in 24-hour format or see dates with dd/mm/yyyy format or see the start of their week as Monday (or any other day) on the calendar, Time Maps, date pickers and everywhere else. Good news: this is done in SkedPal 3!

Last but not least- Let’s keep the last one as a big surprise for later. This is a feature that is not ready yet and will be released later in the year. We are banking on this feature to make your planning process a snap. More on this later.

The Zero-Sum Game

You cannot save your time for later! You must spend your time. The clock is ticking and you can’t stop it. But, you CAN decide what to spend it on. We have 168 hours each week that must be spent. The real game is to allocate these 168 hours to the right things. We must realize saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. Time is a zero-sum game. And, our productivity is not about doing more things; it’s about doing the right things.

SkedPal 3 is going to help you become much more conscious of this zero-sum game. You’ll be able to define your custom Zones of Productivity. For example, ‘creative work’ zone, or ‘necessary evil’ zone. Once you categorize your tasks into these zones, you’ll be able to set up your desired budgeted time for each zone. For example, if you feel you’re overspending time in chores and admin work during the week and would like to allocate more time to your deep work, you can set up your goal in SkedPal and your schedule will be produced based on your desired allocation.

Curate Your Day

We introduced the ‘Curate Your Day’ feature in the mobile app last year. This feature is meant to assist you with the need to constantly adjust your plans and reprioritize your tasks. We have made some improvements in the process and brought it to the desktop.

Automatic replanning — SkedPal’s key value proposition is the Fuzzy Planning method. What it basically means is that you schedule your task based on a less specific reference to time; for example, I want to do this task sometime this week. Before SkedPal 3, if a task was not done before the end of the week, it would go to the hotlist. No more hotlists in SkedPal 3! Tasks that could not be done during the intended time frame will either be automatically re-planed into the future at the earliest possible time, or they will be added to a suggestions list where you’ll have to approve or override this replan manually. The choice is yours, of course.

Suggestions — Understandably, you may want to have more control over certain areas or projects and do not want to delegate the re-planning process to SkedPal. You’ll be able to turn this feature off and get ‘suggestions’ instead. On the suggestions page, you’ll see SkedPal offering new dates for your tasks and asks for your confirmation. Of course, you’ll be able to override the suggestions and re-plan the way you like. In addition, the ‘triage’ feature is made available here too.

You will also be able to drag & drop your tasks on the Today list. This could only be done in the last step of the Curate Your Day wizard in the mobile app. And, now you’ll be able to do it without entering the lengthy process.

Granularity & Horizon

This is probably our most frequently asked question over the years: Why can’t I see my calendar events after 21 days? Or, why is my task for 45 minutes turned into a 1-hour task? SkedPal has had two limitations: a scheduling granularity of 30 minutes and a scheduling window of the next 21 days. Not any more!

The good news is that we have been able to scale up significantly. Now, you’ll be able to schedule every single 5 minutes on your calendar for the next 6 months! The bad news is that we won’t be able to offer these higher scales at the same price. The cost of computation rises with increasing granularity and horizon, and we’ll have to be able to cover the cost with increased pricing. So, for those who really need this higher granularity or horizon, they can configure their accounts with multiple options available. For the rest, it’s the same pricing and configuration as SkedPal 2.

Time Maps

Time Maps have had two roles: to set your preferred times and to budget time. With the introduction of the Zones feature, you’ll now be able to set your budget without specifying which days or hours of the week. So, Time Maps will now be responsible merely for the preferred times.

However, you’ll now be able to customize specific days and weeks of your Time Map. This is particularly useful for the following use cases:

  • For those who have a shift schedule, you’ll be able to set alternating Time Maps for the odd and even weeks. Or, your Time Map can repeat every 3 weeks if that’s what you want.
  • If, say, two weeks from now, you’ll have a totally different schedule due to the circumstances, you can customize your Time Map for that week. Or, if you need to tweak your Time Map for next Monday and only the next Monday, you can.

Technology

We have revamped our technology stack and migrated away from Oracle-based platforms to the platforms offered by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The front-end interface can now run on the web browser while allowing to work offline either in the browser or in the desktop apps. The sync process is significantly improved and many of the issues in the desktop/mobile sync are now resolved.

Roadmap

As much as we would have liked to do a slam dunk release with all the features, we couldn’t. As you have already seen the amount of change was massive. So, here is the plan:

The web app with all the explained features above is ready for beta testing. We will run the beta testing in two phases:

Beta Phase I: In this phase, we recommend that you do not fully migrate to SkedPal 3 just yet. Use with caution until we confirm the stability to go to Phase II.

Beta Phase II: This is a more stable version of the app but we’re still keeping it in the beta mode because of two reasons:

1. We would like to complete the below features before going out of beta.

2. We would like to prepare adequate help documentation and videos for new users to SkedPal.

The remaining features to complete in the months ahead (not necessarily in the same order):

  • Zapier, Evernote & Asana Integrations
  • Mobile Apps
  • Filters — They will enable you to define lists of tasks based on various criteria like planned tasks in a certain project, or completed tasks in the last two weeks, etc.
  • Task dependencies — This is to set dependencies between tasks. You can set any task to depend on any other so, the scheduled times will be adjusted accordingly.
  • Smart Tags — Apply attributes to a tag (like a plan or a Time Map, or zone, etc) and when you assign this tag to a task, all attributes will be set for the task automatically.
  • File attachments to tasks
  • Timer — This will enable you to start and stop a timer for each task and then extract reports on your actual spent times

Getting Acess to SkedPal 3.0 Beta

SkedPal 3.0 beta is available to all existing SkedPal users with an active subscription. If you’re an existing SkedPal user with an active subscription, please click on the link below to fill out a form and we’ll get back to you with the details to get started with your exploration of SkedPal 3.0 Beta. You should be getting an email from us in a maximum of 7 days:

Click Here to Request Access

More Screenshots

Here is a quick, less-than-a-minute video of some screenshots from SkedPal 3.0:

SkedPal

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