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Job Scheduling in Node.js with Agenda: A Beginner's Guide

Stanley Ulili
Updated on November 29, 2023

Task scheduling is an essential component in modern web applications, especially when dealing with operations that are resource-intensive or time-sensitive.

In the Node.js ecosystem, one of the most efficient and versatile tools for this purpose is Agenda. It's a lightweight yet powerful library that simplifies the management of background jobs, ranging from simple tasks like sending out periodic emails to more complex operations like data processing and report generation.

Agenda supports flexible scheduling using both human-readable time formats and cron syntax, offering developers a familiar and intuitive approach to defining task execution times.

Moreover, its ability to persist job data in MongoDB ensures that scheduled tasks are not lost during application downtime, making it an ideal choice for production environments where reliability is key.

This article will demonstrate using Agenda in Node.js, exploring its setup, basic to advanced usage, and best practices, thus providing a comprehensive guide for anyone looking to implement effective task scheduling in a Node.js application.

Let's get started!


Before starting this tutorial, ensure that your system has the latest LTS version of Node.js installed. Agenda relies on MongoDB to store its jobs so you must install it by following the instructions on the MongoDB documentation page.

Once installed, verify that the MongoDB server is running by executing the following:

sudo systemctl status mongod

You should see the text "Active: active (running)," confirming that MongoDB is active and running successfully:

 mongod.service - MongoDB Database Server
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/mongod.service; disabled; vendor prese>
     Active: active (running) since Mon 2023-11-20 18:03:32 UTC; 3 days ago
   Main PID: 7543 (mongod)
     Memory: 101.7M
        CPU: 46min 1.223s
     CGroup: /system.slice/mongod.service
             └─7543 /usr/bin/mongod --config /etc/mongod.conf

Nov 20 18:03:32 testing-node systemd[1]: Started MongoDB Database Server.
Nov 20 18:03:32 testing-node mongod[7543]: {"t":{"$date":"2023-11-20T18:03:32.1...

If the output indicates "Active: inactive (dead)," start the MongoDB service with the following command:

sudo systemctl start mongod

Step 1 — Setting up the project directory

Now that MongoDB up and running, clone the following GitHub repository containing the basic code to get started:

git clone

Navigate to the newly created directory:

cd nodejs-scheduled-tasks

Next, run the following command to install the dependencies for the project, which include Agenda, dotenv, and date-fns:

npm install

Once the installation is completed, open the project in your text editor and create a new .env file at the project root:

code .env

Populate the file with the following contents:


This sets the MongoDB connection string for the project, ensuring that Agenda can connect to it reliably.

Once you're done, proceed to the next step where you'll learn to schedule tasks with Agenda.

Step 2 — Scheduling tasks with Agenda

In this section, you'll go over the basics of task scheduling in Node.js with Agenda. Start by opening the index.js file as follows:

code index.js
import 'dotenv/config';
import Agenda from 'agenda';

const mongoConnectionString = process.env.MONGO_URI;

const agenda = new Agenda({ db: { address: mongoConnectionString } });

agenda.define('welcomeMessage', () => {
  console.log('Sending a welcome message every few seconds');

await agenda.start();

await agenda.every('5 seconds', 'welcomeMessage');

A new Agenda instance is created with the MongoDB connection string, enabling it to store job data in the database. The code defines a welcomeMessage job which logs a message to the console.

Finally, the start() method is used to initiate job processing, followed by the every() method which runs the welcomeMessage task every five seconds.

When you execute the program, you will observe that the message is logged to the console every five seconds:

node index.js
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Sending a welcome message every few seconds

To confirm job storage in the database, halt the program with CTRL+C and access the MongoDB shell:


In the shell, list all the databases:

test> show databases

You will see output similar to the following:

admin      40.00 KiB
agendaDB   92.00 KiB
config    108.00 KiB
local      40.00 KiB

The agendaDB database has been created, indicating successful storage of jobs.

Next, set the current database to agendaDB:

test> use agendaDB

You will see the confirmation:

switched to db agendaDB

Next, list all the collections:

agendaDB> show collections

View the collection contents with the following:

agendaDB> db.agendaJobs.find().pretty()
    _id: ObjectId("6564f4f0559ca345dcb11cce"),
    name: 'welcomeMessage',
    type: 'single',
    data: {},
    endDate: null,
    lastModifiedBy: null,
    nextRunAt: ISODate("2023-11-27T19:59:35.369Z"),
    priority: 0,
    repeatInterval: '5 seconds',
    repeatTimezone: null,
    shouldSaveResult: false,
    skipDays: null,
    startDate: null,
    lockedAt: null,
    lastRunAt: ISODate("2023-11-27T19:59:30.369Z"),
    lastFinishedAt: ISODate("2023-11-27T19:59:30.375Z")

The output displays information related to the defined job, including its name, repetition interval, and other essential details. This confirms that Agenda can communicate with your MongoDB database successfully.

To exit the shell, use the following command:

agendaDB> exit

Now that you've seen the basic way to schedule tasks with Agenda, the next one will discuss some ways to configure the Agenda instance.

Step 3 — Exploring the Agenda options

Agenda is highly configurable, allowing you to define the frequency of MongoDB database queries and adjust the processing interval based on the urgency of the task execution. Let's look at a few notable options that it provides:

  • db: allows you to define the MongoDB connection string and collection name which defaults to agendaJobs.
  const agenda = new Agenda({
    db: { address: process.env.MONGO_URI, collection: 'scheduledTasks' },
  • mongo: instead of using the db option to create a new database connection, you can use an existing mongodb client instance, such as the one provided by the native MongoDB Driver for Node.js.
  const agenda = new Agenda({ mongo: mongoClientInstance.db('agendaDb') }
  • name: allows you to identify an Agenda instance by name. It corresponds to the lastModifiedBy field in the jobs collection.
  const agenda = new Agenda({ name: 'test queue' });
  • processEvery: sets how frequently the database is queried to find pending jobs that need to be processed. The default is every five seconds.
  const agenda = new Agenda({ processEvery: '5 minutes' });
  • maxConcurrency: specifies the maximum number of jobs that can be run
  concurrently. It is set to 20 jobs by default.

  const agenda = new Agenda({ maxConcurrency: 50 });
  • defaultConcurrency: sets the default number of a specific job that can be run at any given moment:
  const agenda = new Agenda({ defaultConcurrency: 5 });
  • lockLimit: specifies the maximum number of jobs that can be locked at any given moment. Defaults to zero which indicates no limit.

  • defaultLockLimit: indicates the maximum number of a specific job that can be locked simultaneously. Also defaults to zero.

Ensure to check out the docs for more information on the various setup options available.

Step 4 — Customizing Agenda jobs

Scheduled tasks often need additional data for effective execution, and Agenda accommodates this requirement gracefully. It offers the ability to pass custom data to each task, ensuring that tasks have all the necessary context and parameters to execute correctly.

This feature is particularly useful for tasks that rely on dynamic or external data, like processing user information, generating reports based on time-specific data, or sending personalized emails. You can easily attach relevant data to a task at the time of its scheduling, which Agenda then persists alongside the task details in the database.

In your index.js file, add the highlighted lines below to define another job:

. . .
agenda.define('dataExport', (job) => {
const { name, path } =;
console.log(`Exporting ${name} data to ${path}`);
await agenda.start(); await agenda.every('5 seconds', 'welcomeMessage');
await agenda.every('5 seconds', 'dataExport', {
name: 'Sales report',
path: '/home/username/sales_report.csv',

In this example, a dataExport job is scheduled to run every five seconds and it can access the data object passed to it under

Save and run the file to observe the following output:

node index.js
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Exporting Sales Report data to /home/username/sales_report.csv
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Exporting Sales Report data to /home/username/sales_report.csv

Now that you have learned how to pass custom data to jobs for execution, the next step is establishing job priorities.

When you have more than one scheduled task, you may want to guarantee that one is performed before another. This is where setting a priority level comes in handy. Here's how to do this:

. . .
agenda.define('dataExport', { priority: 'high' }, (job) => {
const { name, path } =; console.log(`Exporting ${name} data to ${path}`); }); . . .

You can use the following values for the priority property:

  • lowest
  • low
  • normal
  • high
  • highest

Optionally, you can also pass numbers instead of strings, which have the following mappings:

  • highest: 20
  • high: 10
  • normal: 0
  • low: -10
  • lowest: -20

Agenda will now prioritize this task over others and ensure it is processed promptly:

Exporting Sales Report data to /home/username/sales_report.csv
Sending a welcome message every few seconds
Exporting Sales Report data to /home/username/sales_report.csv
Sending a welcome message every few seconds

As you can see in the output, the dataExport job is now logged first because it has a higher priority. Ensure to review the documentation to learn more about how tasks are prioritized in Agenda.

Step 5 — Setting the right schedule frequency

Up till now, we've only scheduled jobs at second-based intervals for demonstration purposes. However, Agenda provides more versatile scheduling options using both human-readable intervals and cron expressions.

Using human intervals

Agenda supports human intervals, allowing you to schedule jobs in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months (assumes 30 days), and years (assumes 365 days):

agenda.every('1 second', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('2 minutes and 15 seconds', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('2 hours and 30 minutes', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('3 days', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('3 weeks', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('1 month and 2 weeks', '<job_name>');
agenda.every('2 years and 6 months', '<job_name>');

Using cron expressions

You also have the option to utilize cron expressions, a standardized syntax used in Unix systems for defining recurring tasks. A cron expression consists of five fields representing minute, hour, day of the month, month, and day of the week:

"* * * * *"
 | | | | |
 | | | | |
 | | | | day of the week
 | | | month
 | | day of month
 | hour

For each field, the following are the allowed values:

Field Allowed Values
Minute 0-59
Hour 0-23
Day of the Month 1-31
Month 1-12 or JAN-DEC
Day of the Week 0-6 or SUN-SAT

Here are some of the cron expression equivalents:

agenda.every('0 0 */3 * *', '<job_name>'); // 3 days
agenda.every('0 0 */21 * *', '<job_name>'); // 3 weeks
agenda.every('0 0 1 */1 *', '<job_name>'); // 1 month
agenda.every('0 0 1 */2 *', '<job_name>'); // 2 months

Step 6 — Scheduling jobs to run once

We have explored scheduling recurring jobs, but there are occasions when you might need to run a job once. Agenda offers several methods designed explicitly for preparing single-execution jobs.

Using the schedule() method

Agenda's schedule() method allows you to set a job to run at a specified time.

await agenda.schedule('tomorrow at noon', '<job_name>', {
  jobData: 'data the job needs',

In the example, the task is scheduled to occur tomorrow at noon. Once this task executes at the scheduled time, it will not repeat, making it a one-time event.

This functionality is helpful for tasks that need to be executed at a specific time but do not require recurring execution.

Using the now() method

For instances where immediate job execution is required, the now() method may be used:

await'<job_name>', {
  jobData: 'data the job needs',

The job should be executed immediately and stop after that.

Step 7 — Managing Agenda jobs

Agenda provides effective tools for managing active jobs, giving you the flexibility to cancel or disable them when necessary.

Canceling a scheduled job

To cancel a job, you use the cancel() method, demonstrated here:

await agenda.cancel({ name: '<job_name>' });

This makes sense when you want to cancel an active job under certain conditions. Once the job is canceled, it will be deleted entirely from the MongoDB collection.

Disabling and enabling jobs

An alternative to canceling jobs is to temporarily prevent their execution using the disable() method:

await agenda.disable({ name: '<job_name>' });

When needed, you can re-enable the job using the enable() method:

await agenda.enable({ name: '<job_name>' });

These methods offer flexibility in controlling when specific jobs should or should not be executed.

Listing jobs

Use the method to iterate over all running jobs. The following code demonstrates how to achieve this:

. . .
async function listJobs() {
  const jobs = await{});
  jobs.forEach((job) => {
      `Job ID: ${job.attrs._id}, Name: ${
      }, Data: ${JSON.stringify(}`


The given code snippet features the listJobs() function, which utilizes the method to fetch all current jobs. This function loops through each job, outputting details like the job's ID, name, and associated data.

Run the script:

node index.js

You will observe the following output listing the running jobs:

. . .
Job ID: 6564f4f0559ca345dcb11cce, Name: welcome message, Data: {}
Job ID: 65658eee5479599ee60f23cb, Name: exporting data, Data: {"database":"Sales Report","path":"/home/username/sales_report.csv"}

When iterating over jobs, you can do more than print their contents. See the following instance methods for more details.

Step 8 — Scheduling database backups with Agenda

In this section, you'll build a sample script that backs up a MongoDB database into archives.

Now, open the backup.js file with the following contents:

import { spawn } from 'child_process';
import { format } from 'date-fns';

const dbName = 'agendaDB';
const compressionType = '--gzip';

const getFormattedDateTime = () => {
  return format(new Date(), 'yyyy-MM-dd_HH-mm-ss');

const backupDatabase = async () => {
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    const currentDateTime = getFormattedDateTime();
    const backupFileName = `./backup-${currentDateTime}.gz`;

    console.log(`Starting database backup: ${backupFileName}`);

    const backupProcess = spawn('mongodump', [

    backupProcess.on('error', (err) => {
      reject(new Error(`Failed to start backup process: ${err.message}`));

    backupProcess.on('exit', (code, signal) => {
      if (code) {
        reject(new Error(`Backup process exited with code ${code}`));
      } else if (signal) {
          new Error(`Backup process was terminated with signal ${signal}`)
      } else {
          `Database "${dbName}" successfully backed up to ${backupFileName}`

// Initiate the database backup
backupDatabase().catch((err) => console.error(err));

This code imports the spawn() method from the child_process module and uses it to initiate a child process for the mongodump tool, which backs up the MongoDB databases.

The backupDatabase() function also includes error-handling strategies for subprocess termination and success logging.

When you execute the script, you will observe the following output confirming a successful backup operation:

Starting database backup: ./backup-2023-11-29_07-55-30.gz
Database "agendaDB" successfully backed up to ./backup-2023-11-29_07-55-30.g

List the directory contents to verify the creation of the backup archive:


The directory listing should include the newly created backup archive:

. . .

Instead of executing the backup once, let's use Agenda to repeat the task continuously. Create a new schedule.js script as follows:

import 'dotenv/config';
import Agenda from 'agenda';

const mongoConnectionString = process.env.MONGO_URI;

const agenda = new Agenda({ db: { address: mongoConnectionString } });

export async function scheduleTask(name, frequency, callback) {
  try {
    await agenda.define(name, { priority: 'high' }, async (job, done) => {
      await callback();

    await agenda.start();
    await agenda.every(frequency, name);
  } catch (error) {
    throw new Error(`Error scheduling task '${name}': ${error.message}`);

The exported scheduleTask() function accepts three arguments: the name of the job, the frequency representing the intervals, and the callback function containing the actual task. It uses agenda.define() to define the job, while the agenda.every() method runs the job according to the given frequency.

Return to the backup.js file and modify it as follows to enable job scheduling:

import { spawn } from 'child_process';
import { format } from 'date-fns';
import { scheduleTask } from './schedule.js';
. . . const backupDatabase = async () => { . . . };
async function runBackup() {
try {
await backupDatabase();
} catch (err) {
console.err(`Error while backing up DB: ${err}`);
try {
await scheduleTask('backupMongoDB', '1 minute', runBackup);
console.log('Backup task scheduled successfully');
} catch (err) {
console.log(`Failed to schedule backup task: ${err}`);

The scheduleTask() function is imported and invoked with the necessary parameters, such as the task name, frequency intervals, and the backupDatabase function.

Execute the program by typing:

node backup.js

Keep the program running for a few minutes to observe the execution of the backup task:

Backup task scheduled successfully
Starting database backup: ./backup-2023-11-29_08-08-08.gz
Database "agendaDB" successfully backed up to ./backup-2023-11-29_08-08-08.gz
Starting database backup: ./backup-2023-11-29_08-09-08.gz
Database "agendaDB" successfully backed up to ./backup-2023-11-29_08-09-08.gz
Starting database backup: ./backup-2023-11-29_08-10-08.gz
Database "agendaDB" successfully backed up to ./backup-2023-11-29_08-10-08.gz

When you list the directory contents, you will observe several archive files, confirming that the script is functioning as expected:

. . .

Step 9 — Job monitoring with Agendash

To monitor and manage your scheduled jobs, you can use the Agendash package which is provided by the Agenda team. It lets you schedule new jobs, monitor their progress, and stop or delete them without writing code.

To use Agendash, install the agendash package:

npm i agendash

It comes with a standalone Express app, which you can use like this:

npx agendash --db=mongodb://localhost/agendaDB --collection=agendaJobs --port=3002
Agendash started http://localhost:3002

Visit http://localhost:3002 to see the dashboard in action:

Screenshot of the Agenda dashboard

This dashboard allows you to see all tasks that are in the queue, create new tasks, and check the due times of these tasks, along with other features.

You can also use it as a middleware function for your Node.js server so that you can mount it on a specific route in your application (such as /dash). See the documentation for more details.

Step 10 — Getting alerted to job failures

When implementing scheduled tasks, it's necessary to plan for the possibility of task failures, which can arise for various reasons. To avoid being oblivious to such failures, you must set up a monitoring system that will notify you when they occur.

A notable example of the consequences of insufficient monitoring is the significant data loss that GitLab suffered in 2017 following a backup process failure, as discussed in their post mortem. This incident underscores the importance of vigilant monitoring to ensure prompt awareness and response to any issues that may arise.

In this section, we'll introduce Better Stack for monitoring the scheduled database backup job. Better Stack actively monitors the execution of your scheduled jobs and promptly notifies you of any anomalies or failures.

These alerts can be configured to reach you through various channels, including Slack, SMS, emails, or even direct phone calls, ensuring you're immediately informed should any of your scheduled jobs encounter problems. This proactive approach to monitoring significantly mitigates the risk of unnoticed failures and the potential damage that it could cause.

To get started, sign up for a free Better Stack account and find the Heartbeats section on the sidebar. Click the Create Heartbeat button:

Screenshot of Better Stack interface that allows you to create  a heartbeat

Provide a suitable name for your monitor and select how often you expect the scheduled job to be repeatedly executed. In the On-call escalation section, select how you would like to be notified. Once you are done, click Create Heartbeat:

Screenshot showing Better Stack interface with options for creating a heartbeat

You will be redirected to the Heartbeat page, where a new endpoint to monitor the task is presented to you:

Screenshot showing the heartbeat endpoint created

Copy the URL, and return to your text editor where you'll make the following modifications to your .env file:


Next, open the backup.js file and send a request to the Heartbeat URL once the job succeeds:

. . .
async function runBackup() {
  try {
    await backupDatabase();
const response = await fetch(process.env.HEARTBEAT_URL);
if (!response.ok) throw new Error(response.statusText);
} catch (err) { console.error(`Error while backing up DB: ${err}`); } } . . .

Ensure that your monitoring setup for scheduled tasks sends a request only when the task is completed successfully. This way, any execution failures or errors occurring during the task's runtime will trigger the alert system.

Save the file and execute the backup.js file once again:

node backup.js

The scheduled backups should proceed as before. Once the first backup succeeds, Better Stack will confirm that the job is "UP":

Screenshot of Better Stack showing the scheduled job status is "UP"

To simulate job failure, stop the script and wait for a few minutes. Since no requests were sent to Better Stack for the configured duration, the status of the job will be updated to "Down", and you will promptly receive alerts to the configured channels:

Screenshot of Better Stack showing the scheduling job is down

Screenshot of an email sent By Better Stack

With this confirmation, you can rest easier at night knowing that your backups are running smoothly, and an alert system is in place to notify you if anything changes.

It's also a good idea to log the reason for failure so that you can quickly fix the issue and get your jobs back up and running quickly. See our Node.js logging guide for more details.

Final thoughts

In this tutorial, we delved into the capabilities of Agenda for task scheduling in Node.js, and you learned to implement monitoring and alerting for your scheduled tasks in case something goes wrong.

For further exploration, ensure to check out the documentation for Agenda and Better Stack.

Thanks for reading, and happy coding!

Author's avatar
Article by
Stanley Ulili
Stanley is a freelance web developer and researcher from Malawi. He loves learning new things and writing about them to understand and solidify concepts. He hopes that by sharing his experience, others can learn something from them too!
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