Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Monitor your workday productivity with RescueTime app

Want to know how productive you are? The RescueTime app can be installed onto your desktop or smart phone, and logs everything you do when you’re on that device.

Screen grab of RescueTime.
Screen grab of RescueTime.

How many hours of your workday yesterday were spent productively? On which day of the week are you most focused? Do you get into your flow best in the mornings or evenings? Many of us are unable to answer basic questions like this about what we actually do all day.

When it gets to 6pm we may think we’ve put in a good shift, but if we actually had to write down an hour-by-hour account from memory, there would be big black holes of time we couldn’t account for.

That’s what RescueTime is for. The app can be installed on to your desktop or smartphone, and logs everything you do when you’re on that device. You can even programme it to ask you what you’ve been up to when you’re away from your desk, and block distracting sites at certain times.

Then, at the end of the week, it gives you a productivity rating, based on how much you flit from window to window; it tells you how many productive hours you’ve put in, and when they happened; and it breaks down what you’ve been doing, using categories like communication, news gathering and business.

What I found when I first installed the app was that the site I used most was my email service. Most of this was work-related, but it made me think about pushing all my emailing time into certain daily slots: perhaps at the end of the day, when I was too tired for more challenging activities.

This was part of a broader realisation: we don’t just waste time on pointless activities, we also do it by switching too often between useful ones. However, some tasks, like researching a topic, require scanning many sites quickly. Although you can teach RescueTime what types of activity are “good” and which are “bad” for you, most of us do such a diverse range of things during our working lives that there are exceptions to every rule.

Overall, the app is a useful motivational tool; not a panacea.

q&a get into some good habits

Jessica Holland evaluates the usefulness of your evaluating how you allocate your time during the working day:

Why dwell on the past?

Keeping track of how you’ve worked can emotionally manipulate you into forming better habits, and keep you informed about the best time to schedule big blocks of focused activities.

Is it customisable?

Yes, you can tell it which uses of time are productive for you, and which are distracting. If you work as a social media marketing manager, for example, you can switch all social media platforms to “productive”, or just individual sites.

What kind of goals can I set?

Let’s say you want to spend two hours every day one week opening up Word to work on your novel, or you want to limit Facebook browsing to 10 minutes a day. You can get notifications and alerts to tell you when you’ve crossed these thresholds, and track how close you are to doing so.

What if knowing all this still doesn’t change my bad habits?

You can sync your RescueTime account with other apps, like Beeminder, which will fine you if you don’t meet your goals, and Exist.io, which helps to track your mood and activities so you can see if there is a link between certain other types of behaviour and bad work days.

I use the same laptop in the evenings, on my own time. Won’t that screw up the results?

You can set RescueTime to only track your activity during working hours.

How much will it set me back?

Free, or US$6-$9 per month for the Premium service.


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