RescueTime for Project Time Tracking (finally!)

[edit: Important note!  This is a new feature and (like most brand new features we release) might have a bug or two that we'll be ironing out over the coming day or two. ]


Recent Updates

[edit] On Nov. 16 we improved the offline time entry in the project editor.
[edit] On Nov. 17 we added support for query by project name to the data API.
[edit] On Nov. 18 we changed the project time editor to offer 24 hour schedule.

It’s Friday the 13th- a pretty auspicious time to do a major software release, eh?

For a few months now, we’ve been pretty focused on our users who are trying to regain focus and enhance their own productivity.  We’ve tuned up goals and alerts, added the ability to block distracting sites for brief periods of focus, and in general have tried to be the “nagging angel on your shoulder” when it comes to your productivity.

But we haven’t forgotten that lots of RescueTime users track time to help have an understanding of how they are juggling the projects in their lives.  RescueTime heretofore hasn’t been great for tracking projects…  But that’s about to change!

Introducting RescueTime Pace

RescueTime Pace attacks a very different (but complementary) business need than we’ve been attacking.  Every day people painstakingly (and inaccurately) fill out project timesheets so that they, their clients, and bosses can understand:

  • how much time projects are consuming
  • which clients need to be billed and how much
  • how each project is broken down.  Are projects humming along?  Are they bogged down with excess communication?
  • Are projects on track to finish on time?  On budget?

It’s occurred to us (and quite a few of our users– thanks to all for prodding us on this!) that RescueTime is already tracking individual tasks.  All we really needed to do to allow project tracking is give people the ability to assign blocks of time to a project in a given day.  With a few cues that RescueTime can offer, entering your time no longer has to be a painful memory exercise.  Not only can we suggest which project we think you were working on (via smart keyword matching), but you can mouse over blocks of time and RescueTime will tell you what you were doing during that time.

Here’s a screenshot of what entry looks like:

blog_project

We’ve also enhanced offline time on the assumption that once you start tracking project time, you need the ability to add and edit more granular tasks that might be away from your computer.  The offline popup (if you use it) has more options and an optional detail field.  You can also add/edit offline time with the project time tool shown above.  Here’s what the new offline popup looks like:

blog_timepie

project-nav2Once you have assigned project time (accurately and in a fraction of the time a normal timesheet), you then have project specific reports about how project time breaks down, what the totals are, and how efficient your project really is.  The reports should feel pretty familiar to existing RescueTime users.  For groups, you can easily jump to an hour-by-hour (or day-by-day) timesheet for any user in the system with a handy menu.  Screenshot of the new navigation to the right.

What about Existing RescueTime Customers?

This feature set is a standalone product built on the RescueTime foundation.  It’s available by itself or bundled with the great productivity features that you’ve hopefully grown to love.  Our existing paying customers get the bundled version free of charge … But because these features could be pretty noisy if you don’t want them, the project tracking features are turned off by default.  You can turn them on here.  Existing Solo Light (free) customers don’t get it for free, though if you mention this blog post in an email to me (tony@rescuetime dot com), I’ll try to wrangle you a discount on the upgrade at very least.

What’s Next?

As with all things at RescueTime, this is just a beginning.  The next (and most important!) step is to hear what you have to say.  What’s confusing, what’s missing, what would make it great for you?


24 Comments on “RescueTime for Project Time Tracking (finally!)”

  1. Chris R. says:

    I sent an email about this already but I noticed from other blog posts that you often like feature requests to be public. I am interested in using projects but, unfortunately, I can’t justify a subscription until there is individual-site browser support for the Mac version of Google Chrome:

    http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/eula_dev.html?dl=mac

    • Tony Wright says:

      hey Chris- I replied via email but for the benefit of others… This is high on our list. From Joe (our godlike mac developer):

      “no eta at the moment, I tried all of our existing methods and none of them worked with the latest beta release. I’m a bit hesitant to spend a whole lot of time on it until it is closer to releaseing, since they seem to be changing core applescript support”

      We’re all Mac folk here and I’m personally itching to use Chrome… So we’ll get there eventually!

  2. manbeer says:

    I’ve been using the enhancements for the offline time briefly and I love the idea of the enhancements.

    But in practice, I don’t understand what purpose the details serve. I enter details yet after rescue time updates the data I can’t search for the details and see it recorded anywhere among activities. The time spent during that offline period is still labeled by that general option tab though any other information I’ve added in the details doesn’t appear.

    Am I missing something? Are the details meant to correspond with category labels or project labels (which i tried)?

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hrm– it SHOULD show those details just like it shows documents for some apps. So if you had an offline entity called “meeting”, you should be able to see the various named meetings when you click on that activity for some detail. It’s also useful for keyword matching. So if you have a project called “projectX” and you name a meeting “Scoping out ProjectX”, we’d know to match that time to projectX. If you’re not seeing meeting detail anywhere, drop us a note with your account and we’ll see what we can learn!

    • Mark Wolgemuth says:

      Hello all. Yesterday we identified and fixed a bug with the offline time and details reporting entered through the projects editor. You should now see this showing up in your reports. Sorry about the bug!

  3. Tim says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! 8-) There is a dog and she likes me (and all of us who can use this new functionality). Did I say thank you?

  4. Tim says:

    BTW, adding clients might make projects even better. The ability to create Client A then assign Project 1, Project 2, and Project 3 to that client. I have half a dozen active clients and a dozen or more projects that I try to use RT to help track time. Projects will help a great deal but the ability to roll up projects into specific clients would be even better. If you have nothing else to do…

  5. Ian says:

    I will have a play with it. I still think in some cases it will lack detail required to bill. For example I may be dialled into the terminal server for 6 hours. On the terminal server I do several things, possibly on more than one project. The only answer is to have RescueTime on the Customer TS. Sometimes the application does not indicate what you were actually doing – not good enough for a time sheet.

  6. Christoph says:

    Hi – sounds great, is there a chance for a time limited test/trial for free users? best regards, thank you, Christoph

  7. Jason Comely says:

    I just now finished subscribing for a full year (I purchased the bundle). Obviously, you should now know I love RescueTime and it is one of my fave apps :)

    But there is one issue, and it’s a fairly significant one I hope you guys solve: support for Linux. Linux users are your market as well. They will happily spend good money on quality apps for that os. Please don’t overlook them (er us, me).

    Okay, off to work I go.

    Continue success!

  8. Kevin says:

    I Love that you’ve added more options for the offline time popup, but what would be best would be to simply make a pick-list so that I can add say 20 different values (such as client names) and give the users highly granular control.

    • Tony Wright says:

      The free text field is how we’re (hoping) to handle this. i.e. you can click on “Meeting” and type in the client name… This is a little more typing intensive, but ultimately a lot more flexible than managing a whole mess o’ buttons. What do you think?

  9. Ivan Kirigin says:

    You could automate this by having a daemon that watches for which branch of git you’re on. That’s only for software development, but it would be a near 100% automated solution for time tracking.

  10. jorgusch says:

    Hey, great – this is a great tool, I hope :-) I cannot tell yet, but it sounds and looks goooodd…
    Small reminder, you forgot to add students as a status…

  11. jorgusch says:

    (maybe join it with my prior message a minute ago).

    One thing is missing, I cannot see or understand how to stop a project. Important because of the keywords – for instance the word essay or certain authors will appear quite often and I guess rescuetime can get confused for a good reason.
    But, right now the projects are running ;-)

    • Tony Wright says:

      Right now, keyword matches only allow rescuetime to SUGGEST a project. We scan URL, document name, etc for matches. If it matches for two projects, that’s fine– RescueTime will happily tell you that the time might match two different projects. So when you choose a keyword, it should be as project-specific as possible to minimize false matches. If there is a false match, you can ignore it and assign the time wherever you like.

  12. jorgusch says:

    mmh..I am looking now two minutes where to download the new version of the tracker. Maybe you add a button to the menu in the tool itself or the homepage.

  13. Jorge Suarez says:

    Hi Tony!

    Hey.. this is looking awesome!

    The teams approach feels great. Hey.. we use scrum, so for every project we have different assets that go through different “phases” in their design.

    We have got to record those phases in order to calculate the total amount of time the whole “asset” took to be built. We have a budget for each phase, so that’s the real goal for us.

    I see that you have some import options for projects from basecamp and ms project.. is there any chance we can have it imported from excel? google docs/calc option? inserted via text and indentation? or what are your suggestions for teams that use scrum?

    Keep up the great work guys.. congrats! You are DEFINITELY adding value to the customer and its experience! (That now-a-days.. its really weird.. so double congrats!)

    Y.

  14. Hi Tony,

    I suggested this feature a couple of weeks ago and Mark W replied saying you were already working on it. And now, here it is, great work! As you seem like an organization that actually listens to its users, I’d like to tell you how RescueTime could work more effectively as a productivity improvement tool for me.

    In my experience attempting to improve anything begins with the establishment of an inspect and adapt loop, like this:

    * To deliver the largest overall improvement, which specific area should we attempt to improve?
    * How should it be improved?
    * Improve it.
    * How effectively did we manage to improve it?
    * Repeat.

    This is the process I want for my productivity: I want to know where I’m being least productive, why, come up with a way of improving it, try it, and see how well it worked.

    With the recent changes RescueTime is now, very effectively, providing me with all the raw quantitive data to make these judgements, which solves the hardest part of the inspect and adapt. But strangely, the easier part hasn’t been addressed: RescueTime hardly provides any mechanism for recording *qualitative* data. RescueTime isn’t giving me anywhere to record my thoughts on how productive I’m being; no place to write “Got a cold today, I don’t except to be very productive, but that’s OK”; no place to say “Start of attempts not to use Twitter this week”.

    Without this sort of data, any attempts to improve productivity lack context. The goals feature helps, for sure, but this is quite different from that.

    Implementing support for this could be as simple as a new menu item under the dock item “Add Note…”, which would display a text field where a single thought could be entered. Later on you could see the notes plotted on the productivity charts. Some users may only use this feature a couple of times a week but that would make the data so much more meaningful. Little notes like this would act as memory triggers for what you were doing and feeling at the time. This is the sort of stuff that’s invaluable for making good assessments.

    It’s possible I’m weird (I like to analyze everything!) and I know I could just make these notes myself. But I think an integrated solution, like the one I’ve just described, would be really powerful and help make RescueTime into a must-have productivity tool that I’d joyfully suggest all my friends try.

    Think about it. And if you think this won’t help (it’s always possible I’m wrong or ill-informed) please let me know! I like to learn.

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hi Ollie-

      I re-read your comment and wanted to toss out a few thoughts.

      We love the idea of notes– thanks for the feedback. While it’s a feature we’ve discussed before, the idea of doing it in the context of the installed app (rather than the web app) didn’t occur to us… Love it!

      My thinking is that notes would literally be a point in time. So your note would be assigned to the exact time when you logged it (10:37am)… Do you think that’d be sufficient? Or would you need the ability to assign a range for a notes like “fuzzy headed all morning” or “really focused this afternoon”?

      Hrm, we could also consume notes already being entered via services like Twitter or Yammer.

      Anyhoo, thanks again for the thoughtful feedback. Good stuff!

  15. Ed says:

    Great feature, the Project Tracker.

    I’m not sure if this is intentional, but adding an editor finally makes offline time workable for me, for offline things like sport, music, etc.

    Why?

    Because with the old offline time I could never enter any time with any granularity — if the PC is off and I go and do an hour sport then there was no way of adding this time without it adding all the time I used to switch off the PC, get ready, walk to the gym, do sport, come back, switch on the PC, etc. Now, with the Project Editor, I can add this time precisely. That’s great, because now my non-PC goals actually have a chance of being realistic.

    One point, though: is it *really* necessary to make this “offline/online/idle” time distinction?

    Being warned in the Project Time Editor that “there’s some idle time in this section” is a bit weird.

    Can’t we just call it the “Time Editor”, period? :=)

  16. Tony Wright says:

    That’s actually a cool idea. I’ll talk it over with the team!

  17. Hi Tony,

    I’m glad this idea has sparked your imagination in the same way it did for me!

    I also envisaged notes being time-stamped in the way you described. You could have ranges or even note tags but both these ideas strike me as nice-to-haves. Truthfully, I’ve never been able to see notes linked up to detailed quantitive data so I don’t know exactly how I’ll use it. I think that’s part of what is great about the idea, though: it could have so many uses! How does one respond to such an uncertain situation? It has to be experimentation. Just let users play with the notes feature at its most basic and see what trends/thoughts emerge.

    As for services, I love that idea! I’ve not used Yammer but for a Twitter implementation I think you’d want to look for a particular tag (“#productivity”, or something?) to keep the signal-to-noise ratio as high as possible. Another idea that springs to mind is to have a global keyboard shortcut that brings up the note-entry text box so you don’t even have to take your fingers off the keyboard.

    I’m really excited now. Thanks for listening.

    Ollie