Google Home’s new feature is a procrastinator’s dream. Here’s how to use it

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Google Home can now perform an action in the future — up to seven days from now, according to Google.


Dale Smith/CNET

Not all of the smart home tasks I ask Google Home to perform need to be done right this very second, like turning off the lights before bed or starting a coffee pot in the morning, especially if I’m making my commands from another room. Others I need to start right away but would really prefer them to be on a timer so they don’t go all day and night — like running my space heater. Up until recently, Google Home could only execute commands immediately. And if I wanted something to turn off after a certain duration, well, Google Home could set a timer for me. It just wouldn’t know what to do once it went off.

Thanks to a recent update, that’s all changed. Now you can have Google Home hold off on certain tasks for up to a week — or you can start something now but put an expiration date or time on it so that it stops, later. What’s better, you can also schedule tasks around sunrise or sunset and Google Home will calculate when that is based on your location. 

Scheduling tasks for later is a boon for both planners and procrastinators. The new Google Home feature gives planners the ability to plot out what they need, when they (eventually) need it. And it also makes space for people to ask for a future task whenever it occurs to them.

As with any new feature, there are some kinks that need to be ironed out and a few things other platforms can do that need to be added. For example, being able to schedule something around sunset or sunrise but not precisely on it (like turning lights on 30 minutes before sunset) would be nice. Nevertheless, the feature is immediately useful and I’m ecstatic it’s here.

Here’s how to schedule Google Home actions and some examples of when this new feature might come in especially handy:

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Say, “Hey, Google, play upbeat music for ten minutes” to time your shower if you have a smart speaker in the bathroom.


Dale Smith/CNET

Google Home scheduling basics: Start with these tips

At its simplest level, all you need to do to have Google Home perform an action later is to add a length of time to your command. After you say, “Hey, Google, turn my bedroom lights off,” just add “in 15 minutes.” Google Home will acknowledge with a precise time, so if you gave that command at 9:02, it would respond, “Sure, I’ll turn off the lights at 9:17 p.m.”

Likewise, if you’d like something to happen for a certain period of time, just add the duration to the end of your command. “OK, Google, turn my bedroom lights on for five minutes” might give you just enough time to go grab a snack, for example. Or, “Hey, Google, play relaxing music for 30 minutes” might be long enough to let you fall asleep.

Google says you can schedule up to 7 days ahead

Although the documentation on Google’s developer support pages says Google Home can hold off on an action for up to seven days, some users have reported difficulty getting it to follow through on anything offset by more than a day, so your milage may vary. 

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There are still a few kinks to iron out, but overall Google Home’s new scheduling feature works well.


James Martin/CNET

If you do want Google Home to perform a task, say, tomorrow, you’ll want to be as precise as possible in how you say the command. In other words, don’t just say, “Hey, Google, turn on the living room TV tomorrow” or even “tomorrow morning.” Instead, say, “Turn on the living room TV tomorrow at 8 a.m.”

Here’s another weird glitch to look out for

I’m big on space heaters in the wintertime, but I’m acutely aware of how they can drive your utility costs through the roof. I’ve cobbled together all kinds of smart home workarounds to get my space heaters to turn off after a short duration — usually 20 minutes. I figure, if I’m still cold, I’ll just pop it back on. If not, great! So when I discovered I could now schedule actions, this was the very first thing I tried: “Hey, Google, turn on my office heater for 20 minutes.”

Imagine my dismay when Google Home replied, “Sorry, I can’t schedule actions for devices configured as heaters.” Thankfully, having recently discovered a similar problem, I was pretty sure I knew a workaround — changing the type of device to make Google Home think it’s a light. (Check out this article on how to coax “brief mode” out of Google Home for the step-by-step on changing device type).

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You have to trick Google Home into thinking a space heater plugged into a smart outlet is a light before you can schedule it on or off.


Dale Smith/CNET

Sure enough, even though my “light” is called “office heater,” Google Home will now run it for the requested 20 minutes (although it will also now turn my space heater on if I tell it to “turn on the lights,” so I’ll have to fiddle a bit to get that bug ironed out, too). 

I stay on top of new (and new-to-you) Google Home features so you don’t have to. Check out some of the ones I’ve detailed lately, like Google Home’s new home and away modes, the broadcast feature Apple ripped off for its HomePod ($300 at Best Buy) and this collection of five of my favorite Google Home tips and tricks.

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