In this post, I will be going over how I increased my productivity by over 30% using Rescue Time and how it has grown on me so much since I began using it that I now consider it to be the ultimate productivity tool in my toolset. What makes Rescue Time even better is that its free version is more than capable of being used to help massively improve your productivity.
Around a year ago I began to realize that I was wasting massive amounts of my free time on useless things such as YouTube videos, online games and social media. It quickly became apparent that I needed to find a tool that would allow me to track exactly how I spend my time while online. After researching a number of similar tools I decided to try Rescue Time and have never looked back.
I did this by making a point of checking the data recorded for the previous day as soon as I was able to get online. Before moving onto any other tasks I would force myself to recall what I did during the spent on sites like YouTube and then try to force myself to find a way of how that time helped me reach my goals. Then, the point of that day became to avoid repeating that same mistake and avoid that website for the full day. Little by little a sort of habit formed where instead of wanting to go on Reddit I would check my todoist to see what other tasks I had on for the day
Thankfully after a month of repeating this process and using the data provided by the tool I was able to adjust my daily routine and online habits to consistently reach my goal of spending at least 80% of my online time being productive and that ratio has remained consistent to this day. I 80% as I am a true believer that we are more productive when we have short regular breaks, although I still visit sites like YouTube and Reddit during these breaks from work I have found my self-control to be much stronger and I often find myself getting bored and wanting to get on with my next task.
As regular readers of my blog will know, I love testing things to get actionable data to better myself and develop methods for a wide range of goals and whereas most productivity tools save you time by speeding something up or allowing you to do more at once, Rescue Time gives you the hard data required to better yourself.
So, How Does Rescue Time Work?
Essentially there are two parts to the tool, the first is a free downloadable app available for both Windows and Mac that needs to be installed on your local machine. I personally have the app set to turn on automatically as soon as my Mac is powered up and it sits in the background logging my time for me.
The second part of the tool is the visualization of the data the app gathers viewed by logging into your Rescue Time account. Once logged in you are able to view your data as well as edit your settings for your account. Although the tool comes with a solid built in category class for various tasks it does require a little customization to what you consider to be productive.
One example that comes to mind for me is the use of Amazon.com. By default, the tool will log any time spent on Amazon.com as unproductive in its online shopping category. As I live in the United Kingdom the time I spend on Amazon.com is for product research for my affiliate sites so I edited the tool to now log this time as a productive session whereas Amazon.co.uk remains logged as unproductive online shopping.
In addition, the tool will not have any stored data regarding your own custom sites by default so I login my account, navigate to the categorize activities tab as shown in the below screenshot.
Once loaded you will be able to customize how your account will log the data gathered by the tool, for this example I will use my blog as an example site.
As you can see, by default it has been added to the “Uncategorized: Uncategorized” category while assigned a neutral productivity value. Clicking on the category dropdown gives the user a number of options to categorize the site with most having a secondary category as shown in the screenshot below.
Although this blog is not strictly a project management tool I am thinking of sharing a regular journal type post covering the various things I have been up to with my projects so for now at least, I will add it to the project management category. Due to being added to business category Rescue Time has automatically assigned a productivity value of very productive to the task.
If you wanted to downgrade the task you can, the only way I currently know to do this is to open a daily breakdown where you have time logged for the task and selecting the edit button near the task as shown in the screenshot below.
Downgrading the productivity value may be useful for applications such as Slack where the overall goal is to be productive and communicate but you may have joined groups based around discussing hobbies meaning productivity may drop off during usage.
Show Me The Data!
Once you have your account set up and have ran the local app the tool will start auto uploading data to your account where it will become viewable in your accounts dashboard.
Now let me just clarify, this was an extremely rare day and it is unusual for me to spend almost 17 hours a day online. I am currently on leave and ill so I spent the day in bed feeling sorry for myself while typing stuff up for this blog as well as doing some work with GSA Search Engine Ranker on my VPS’.
As you can see from the screenshot, the data is simplified and displayed in an easy to understand format so you can see how the day was spent at a quick glance. You can see the total time logged, how the time was logged on an hour by hour basis along with an overall productivity pulse pie chart as well as the category breakdown of time to the right-hand side.
If we click on either of the categories on the right-hand side we are taken to the specific category breakdown for that category for that day as shown in the screenshot below.
As you can see the category breakdown will display the percentage of total time as well as the total time in hour:minute format, the name of the activity as well as the category and productivity level assigned to it.
Another little feature I like about Rescue Time is its lifetime data breakdown, unfortunately, a few weeks back I was messing around in the settings pane and accidently reset my lifetime data but it still provides a nice little breakdown of how I have spent my time so far as shown below.
Who Is Rescue Time Useful For
In my honest opinion, this is an essential tool for anyone who either earns their income online or wishes to track their online habits. I believe there is also a business version of the tool where business owners are able to pay to have a business account that lets them install the tool on all of the machines their business owns to provide the business management a method of tracking what their employees are doing on their machines in works time.
Turning It Up To Eleven
Even though I consider Rescue Time and excellent standalone tool there are a few things you can do to take the tool to the next level.
The first is its IFTTT integrations, for those unfamiliar with the tool, IFTTT is another free productivity tool that lets you set up custom applets that are essentially macros built around when one integrated produce does this, then get another integrated product to do that.
I use the above applet to pull my overall productivity breakdown once per day from my Rescue Time account and then push the data directly to my ToDoIst account so when looking at my daily tasks for the day I am presented with a breakdown of the previous day meaning I don’t have to take the time to login everyday for my breakdown. This is just one of potentially thousands of integrations.
Although I have not set any social media accounts up for the blog yet I also plan to use IFTTT to automatically pull my Rescue Time data and then push it to the Twitter account I will use for the blog so my followers are able to see my productivity breakdown for the day.
Then I mark my Pocket app as productive time and will read that specific article in my Pocket app to increase the accuracy of the data provided by Rescue Time.
Free Or Premium
I have only ever used the free version of the service and I do not plan to upgrade to the premium version as the tool does exactly what I require with its free capabilities. One thing that I do like about the premium version is the ability to add your own task timings.
For example, say you are reading on your kindle or in a business meeting, you can then manually add that time to your account and mark how productive you feel it was. To date though I haven’t saw the need to upgrade just for this one feature.
As I previously touched on, if you are a business owner and wish to use Rescue Time to track the productivity of your workforce then the premium account will be the best way to go as to my knowledge it is the only way to get a time breakdown from multiple users to one master account.
Wrapping It Up
I can’t recommend this tool enough guys, it is free and as I have previously mentioned in the post it helped me take my time from only 50% productive up to a massive 80% productive! For ease of math lets say you spend 10 hours online per day five days a week, this improvement alone could get you up to 780 extra productive hours a year!