The Internet is quite possibly one of the worst things to happen to time management in human history. Particularly when one is working from home, staying productive and keeping one’s schedule in check can often seem like a nearly impossible task. Ask anyone who’s ever been a freelancer, and they’ll likely tell you just how difficult keeping your work organized can become.
Actually, I should rephrase that. Ask anyone who’s ever tried to finish any work whatsoever on a PC, and the story will be the same. It’s just too easy to get distracted and lose track of time. It’s just too simple to whittle away your productivity.
Thankfully, there exists a wide array of applications to help encourage productivity, secure efficiency, and reclaim lost time. RescueTime is one of those.
The premise is a simple one: after installing the application, it will monitor the websites you visit, the applications you use, and the files you open over the course of a day. It then translates this information into real-time graphical statistics, telling you exactly how much time you’re spending on Facebook or how many hours you’re wasting with pictures of silly cats.
To look over a RescueTime report is to face a number of hard truths about both your productivity and your work ethic. Spent most of your day on Facebook instead of punching out that project you’re supposed to be working on? The numbers will reflect that. Vegged for several hours instead of working? You can bet you’ll have the truth of that staring you in the face.
See, it’s one thing to be aware that your productivity’s gradually crawling into the toilet, but another altogether to actually see broken down just how much it’s suffering. Figuring out where you’re going wrong isn’t the only use of the application, however.
The hour-by-hour activities breakdown (and productivity measurement) that RescueTime provides can also help you optimize your work schedule even if you aren’t terribly productive. By looking over a week or so of activity, it’s fairly easy to determine the hours at which you work most effectively.
Notice that you’re seeing some incredibly high productivity between 8 AM and 11 AM? Try relegating more of your work to that time-frame. Does it look like you get nothing done in the evening? Don’t try to work, then.
How the application actually works is by installing a small client onto your computer. When that client is installed, opening it will cause the RescueTab icon to display in the system tray. At that point, it sets to work, keeping a close watch on everything you do from the background. To that end, it’s fairly unobtrusive, with a considerably low memory footprint. You probably won’t even notice it’s there. Clicking on this icon will launch the web app, bringing you to your RescueTime dashboard. This is where you’ll see your efficiency reports.
Each website you visit and application you open is assigned a category and an ‘efficiency score’ by the client. In some cases, the client may assign an incorrect rating and category to a website. In the event that it does that, it’s a simple matter of clicking on the site and changing the settings. For example, the app listed PC Mech for me as a “very distracting” News & Opinion activity.
Given that my time here is generally spent writing or replying to user comments, this is an incorrect assessment. A few mouse-clicks brought me to the “settings” menu, where I quickly corrected the error. PC Mech now appears as a very productive writing activity. You can also choose to have RescueTime completely ignore a site, as well.
All the features I’ve listed thus far are components of the free version of RescueTime. There’s also a subscription model, which carries with it a price of $6.00 a month. For that, you’ll get deeper and more accurate tracking, the ability to track offline time, the ability to set productivity goals, and the ability to opt-in to periods where the app will block everything that isn’t absolutely essential to getting work done. It’s a nifty set of features, and one I might just shell out for in the future.
For the time being, I’d recommend all of you swing by RescueTime’s website and try the app out for yourself. You’ve nothing to lose, and a ton of time to gain.