The best method we’ve found to see where we’re wasting time
When both your work and personal life are dominated by a computer, it’s easy to let the two cross over. Online shopping and social media make it all too tempting to procrastinate, which means you work late and wonder where the day went.
If you often find yourself missing work deadlines, you may need RescueTime, a web-based service that helps you to stop wasting precious minutes and hours. RescueTime uses a desktop client to track exactly what you’re doing with your time, and set goals and classify tasks based on how productive you think those tasks are. If, for example, you find that replying to emails and attending futile meetings take up too much of your time then you mark those tasks as unproductive.
When you first sign up to RescueTime, a getting started guide introduces you to the web interface’s main dashboard and you’re prompted to set goals. You can also block distracting websites, access a full record of your productivity over time and log time spent away from the computer.
We started by setting some basic goals for what we wished to achieve. We wanted to spend less than 2.5 hours unproductive time between 6am and 8pm, and more than 2.5 hours productive time in both the morning and afternoon, including our lunch break.
Over the course of a day, RescueTime monitors your activity and displays your productivity pulse, which shows how productive you are as a percentage. Doing activities you’ve classed as productive will raise the productivity pulse, while wasting time on unproductive activities lowers it.
Over the first few days, you’ll probably want to refine RescueTime’s default settings. Your goals might need a bit of tweaking, too. Within our definition of productive time, we found that we almost never met our morning goal but exceeded our afternoon goal. We could use this information to see how realistic our goals were, as well as our most efficient periods of the day.
You can define your own productivity ratings for different types of activities
We also discovered some surprising things about our productivity: Friday afternoons were our least efficient period when working in the office, but our most productive period when we worked from home.
Those who tend to overwork, either at home or at the office, will be pleased to know that you can configure alerts to let you know that you’ve hit a certain goal for the day. You can be notified via email or a pop-up message. You can also use the alert system to give you a nudge if it looks as if you’re falling behind. A mobile app for Android and iOS lets you track activities when you’re away from your PC.
The desktop client can log everything you do over 24 hours, but tracking productivity over this long period can reduce the accuracy of your productivity score if you use the same computer for work and play. Thankfully, you can define a specific time period to monitor. You can also use RescueTime’s Advanced Filters settings to monitor different periods for different days, perhaps because you work different hours at the weekend.