I seriously love Rescuetime. Much like Instapaper or Dropbox, it’s one of those ridiculously useful services that you don’t realize you *really* need until you start playing around with it. You realize that it is an essential service that integrates with you life. According to RescueTime, they are a “A personal-analytics service that shows you how you spend your time & provides tools to help you be more productive“.
With Rescuetime, after you’ve logged some time data on your Mac or PC through the free software they provide and start digging into their time analytics through their dashboard, you quickly realize where, how and what you’re spending your time on exactly. The moment you see your time data visualized, there’s almost a knee jerk reaction of wanting to do something about how wasteful you may be with your time.
So far I’ve logged 5229 (as of writing this) hours since 2009 when I first found out about it on a Lifehacker article. It wasn’t until the latter half of 2011 that I started to use it to it’s fullest potential, where I bit the bullet and decided to pay them my $9 a month to see how having access their premium features would impact my productivity – and boy did it ever.
Essentially, I see RescueTime as that gentle “slap on the wrist” whenever I try to log onto Facebook, check out Hacker News, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest etc to keep myself disciplined and focused. Whenever you log onto your list of (-2) or Most Distracting sites, that “slap on the wrist” is in the form of a witty reminder along with an inspirational quote such as below:
What You Get Out of RescueTime
- Ensure you get shit done
- Be cognizant and more appreciate of your time
- Real-time alerts and emails of your (non) productivity
- Weekly Summary Email
- Reclaim wasted time that you can never get back from Facebook, Twitter or any other time sucking website.
As you can see from the weekly email, Rescuetime gives you a weekly summary which is essentially an aggregate of your past week’s productivity.
How I use RescueTime
In a bid for ultra-efficiency while slicing my time data in the dashboard, I’d zero-in on my most distracting areas and attempt to weed out distracting activity with ruthless vigour. Namely curbing social network use and anything else that’s distracting like TechCrunch, Hacker News, or Techmeme.
I make it a weekly ritual to do a review of the week that goes over the actions/goals that I set for myself which are attached to bigger “outcomes” for a 30 day period, which are then in turn attached to 90 day and yearly goals. A complicated process that’s a patchwork of various productivity/time management techniques I’ve cobbled together – but if you’re familiar with Tony Robbins “OPA” (Outcomes, Purpose, Actions) you’ll roughly understand my process.
An example of an insight that was shocking and instigated me to make changes to how I spend my time was how much time I spent in my inbox last year, which amounted to an astounding 7 freakin’ days!
How I’ve tackled this is one particular problem area was that I moved my gmail inbox from the home page launcher on my Android home screen and moved it 2 screens over and replaced it with the RescueTime app in its place, dead front and centre… following me like a creepy time-stalker… it keeps me cognizant of my time 🙂
Another shocking insight I’ve gained from using Rescuetime is how much time I spend on social networks. It’s ridiculous. The end result of this analysis is that I’ve deleted my Twitter and Facebook apps, turned off all notifications for things that are not important or crucial (such as email).
In any case, how I use Rescuetime is on the tactical level that let’s me analyze my efficacy on a week to week basis on the low level or a month to month basis of comparison when I’m evaluating how I’m doing with my progress. I set 6 AM – 8 PM as my “Productive Hours” where I’m on the clock and I let Rescuetime run continuously.
I usually try to aim for 80% as the “ideal” amount of efficiency, but that’s not always the case as stuff gets in the way (I’m usually around 73-77%). Keeping in mind that I use the Pause button sparingly (usually during my lunch or scheduled breaks).
On a week to week basis the cycle for me is as follows: measure, analyze/learn, reflect, set goals, act – wash, rinse, repeat 🙂
This process isn’t for everyone obviously as it might be considered “OCD” for some, but it’s how I’ve made RescueTime to work with the ebbs and flows of my life.
Why Track your time in the first place? (Or anything for that matter)
Simple answer, to reclaim your time and be more productive. Collecting data is something that we’re already doing passively anyway through our devices, mobile and web apps. The more data you’re collecting over time, the better analysis you can do on yourself to be able to make better decisions in the future.
With RescueTime, you’re not only “rescuing your time” – our most precious non-renewable resource – you’re saving your life from being frittered away from timesucks that add no real value to your life: pointlessly checking Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Wikipedia, Reddit, Pinterest.. feel free to add in your own timesuck. For that little “Focus” button that Rescuetime provides, I happily pay that 9 bucks a month to let me know how I’m spending my time in the highest quality way as possible.