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I find myself working on a number of smaller projects for clients, as well as managing my daily list of "to do" items.

I'm looking for a tool that would allow entry of tasks (taskname, duration, start day, start time, end day, end time), and then, given the start/end times for my day, give me a prioritied list of what I need to get done that day.

The ability to prioritize scheduling is important. Meetings and appointments with a fixed time take precedence. After that, everything's in due date/time order, oldest (earliest start date) first.

I want the software to be intelligent enough that if I have a 10:30 meeting (per my first priority), it won't schedule a two-hour task beginning at 9am, but rather look to the next prioritized items to fill a 1 1/2 hour time period, coming BACK to the two hour task that was skipped and inserting it into the next available 2 hour block. Alternately, splitting the task acrossunscheduled time periods would be acceptable.

The idea is that all I need to do is worry about capturing tasks and having a tool that schedules my life for me based on prioritization parameters.

EDIT: I've adopted my own flavor of Pomodoro; I don't assign specific tasks to specific Pomodoros...mostly because nothing ever takes as long as the guesstimate. I structure my day according to Pomodoro principles, though. Work + shortbreak x 4, long break, repeat. However, Like I said, I rarely assign specific tasks to a work period. I just attack my prioritized to-do list for 25 minutes, then break for 5, etc.

I'm looking for a tool that will allow me to do that, but detail the ITEMS in the list in each Pomodoro. I woul also like it to exclude any schedule appointment times from the available Pomodoros.

So, for instance, if I have a meeting from 10-10:30, 11:30-12:30, and my to do list for today has the following:

Write client proposal, 2:00
answer e-mails, 0:25
change printer toner, 0:05
call client, 0:15
generate invoices 0:20

My schedule would look like:

08:30-10:00 - Client proposal 
10:00-10:30 - Meeting
10:30-11:00 - Client proposal (last half hour of task)
11:00-11:25 - Answer emails
11:30-12:30 - Meeting
12:30-12:35 - change toner
12:35-12:50 - call client
12:50-13:00 - generate invoices
13:00-13:30 - meeting
13:30-13:40 - generate invoices (last half of task)

Alternately, the scheduler could also wait until AFTER 13:30 to schedule the Client Proposal, and fill the 08:30-10:00 with shorter tasks. That'd look like this.

08:30-08:55 - Answer emails
08:55-09:00 - change toner
09:00-09:15 - call client
09:15-09:25 - generate invoices
10:00-10:30 - Meeting
11:30-12:30 - Meeting
13:00-13:30 - meeting
13:30-15:30 - Client proposal 

Either option would be acceptable.

Since I'm learning java and c#, open source written in one of those would be awsome so I can learn more about the code.

Is anyone aware of a tool like this that's available free or cheap?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I am using such application:


It is updating schedule when you change something. You can also change tasks order so in the end you know how it will turn out, in the middle of busy day.

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Years ago I used a tool called Above & Beyond that had the ability to dynamically organize a schedule, fitting tasks in between meetings. It still exists, although I haven't looked at it in probably 20 years. See http://www.1soft.com/aandb.html

I've never seen anything else so successful at that task, and not even many attempts. I've worked with some rule based systems that automate department scheduling (nursing shift assignments, for example) but nothing that really works at the level of an indvidual's tasks.

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Opinion, risky to add because this isn't a discussion board: You're trying to delegate to the software decisions that require too much data to be entered to make responsibly. The amount of time you'd need to spend updating your database of tasks and appointments and changing priorities to enable the software to make decisions is far greater than the amount of time it takes to scan a GTD style list of tasks for your current context. –  Dennis S. Apr 4 '13 at 13:25

Quick recall - I think Chandler might have it http://blog.chandlerproject.org/ But I am not sure you will have to dig in and find out.

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Yeah, but Chandler is long dead. I have removed it from my machine because there is no more development going on, not even bug fixes. I would not rely on such software. It's a pity, reading the 'Dreaming in Code' book made me enthousiastic to use it. –  Jan Doggen Jun 7 '13 at 13:42

A challenge you have here is that your tasks for the day are not generally prioritised by how well they fit into a schedule. Instead, critical factors tend to be how important or complex they are, or when the deadline is, or how much the client is paying etc.

If you do have a range of tasks that you know will be 30 minutes or 20 minutes, you'd possibly be better off looking at using Pomodoro or even just writing a simple script to shuffle the items into free space, but honestly, when do tasks take exactly the time you expect? Building a time budget which slots items into spaces exactly is going to cause you problems if any item overruns!

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That's actually a good point; I'll revise my question to clarify, as I'm actually visualizing this as Pomodoro-ing tasks, but allowing for scheduled appointments to NOT be included with Pomodoro-izable time slots. There. I just invented two words. :) –  dwwilson66 Apr 5 '13 at 15:31

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