What is RescueTime?

RescueTime is software that tracks all of your activity across applications and websites. I was first introduced to this by Tim Ferriss in his bestseller*The 4-Hour Workweek.*

So how does it work?

Each week, you are emailed a report which shows you all your activity from the previous week. You’re provided with total logged hours (vs. difference in hours logged for the previous week) and a productivity score (vs. difference in productivity score for the previous week).

*Weekly Report from RescueTime*
Below each of the main stats, you can see a breakdown of the top five categories that your time went towards and the top five applications and websites that you used as well as how much time you devoted to each.

What’s a category?

RescueTime uses the term category to group your activities. For example, anything related to Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook is grouped under Communication and Scheduling. Design & Composition includes PowerPoint and Word.

What is a productive activity?

RescueTime has been programmed to recognise common activities that are distracting such as Facebook, BBC news and Youtube and also those that are more productive such as Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel.

Tailor your profile

The trick is to use the first report to sift through each activity listed and change the distraction/productivity rating it has been assigned. You then have the option to change the scoring to match your needs. For example, the intranet at my company was originally scored neither distracting nor productive. As an intranet content manager, I chose to switch this activity to +1 productivity as I’m using the intranet to post news not read it.

Set Tangible Goals

****One of the useful features to take advantage of, after you’ve looked at a week’s worth of data, is Goals.

*Goal Report from RescueTime*
Goals are divided into number of hours you’d like to spend being productive. As you can see, you are also given the option to spend less time on very distracting activities.
*Goals Management from RescueTime*
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A great snapshot for seeing your progress is sitting under Efficiency. On the left-hand side you’ll see that I’m most efficient in the morning – something I knew but it’s handy to know that I’m not as inefficient outside of mornings as I previously thought. A handy part of this feature is that you get the default and then you can add any time period you wish. I’ve decided I want to better track my activity outside of work in the evenings on weekdays. I’ve set a new schedule to monitor my activities during this timeframe: Mon-Fri 7pm-11pm.

The ego boost is the display on the right which shows how my productivity compares to others using RescueTime. I feel pretty good about being more productive than 82% of people – although it’s key to keep in mind that this has been tailored to what I deem productive which is more than likely to be biased.

*Efficiency Summary from RescueTime*
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Why use RescueTime?

1. Personal Satisfaction

What’s great about this is every Monday I have a chance to reflect on what I accomplished or didn’t accomplish in the previous week and can use that data to help shape the week to come. It’s made me much more aware of my usage of Outlook – which I realise is in need of monitoring and above all it’s kept me motivated about using my time towards my greater goals.

2. Work

From a work perspective, this is handy for any reviews that I carry out with my line manager as I have the data to show where my time is spent in working hours and whether this needs to be altered to help reach my goals at work for myself and the wider team.

3. Lazy man’s Software

It took me all of five minutes to sign up and install RescueTime. Each week, I spend perhaps 10 minutes looking over everything and seeing whether I need to adjust my goals. With minimal user input, RescueTime’s output is impressive.

What do you use to track your productivity? Share your thoughts in the comments.