How to use the new RescueTime IFTTT channel to stay focused and productive

IFTTT (If This Then That)

Big news! We launched a channel on IFTTT this week, and it opens up a bunch of different possibilities for using your RescueTime data with your favorite apps and devices.

If you’re unfamiliar, IFTTT stands for: “If This Then That”, is pronounced like: “GIFT”, and is a service that lets you take actions in one app in response to actions in another. Since you spend so much of your time plugged into your digital devices, there are a LOT of actions you can take.

IFTTT channels have two parts.  The first are Triggers – things that happen in your app than can cause things to happen in others. Second are Actions – things that can respond to a Trigger in another app. The combination of a Trigger and an Action is called a Recipe.

The RescueTime IFTTT channel has four triggers…

…and two Actions.
... and two Actions.

You can connect our channel to any of the hundreds of other channels on IFTTT (although some of them make a lot more sense then others). IFTTT has channels for business apps, smartphones, social networks, even home automation devices.

The possibilities are nearly endless, but here are a few of the Recipes we really like:

Silence your phone while in a FocusTime session

IFTTT Recipe: Mute phone when a FocusTime session is started connects rescuetime to android-device

IFTTT Recipe: Unmute your phone when a FocusTime session finishes connects rescuetime to android-device

Use Google Calendar to start a FocusTime session…

IFTTT Recipe: Schedule FocusTime sessions in advance by marking off time on your calendar connects google-calendar to rescuetime

…or add a do-not-disturb note when FocusTime starts

IFTTT Recipe: Add a 'do-not-disturb' event to your calendar when a FocusTime session starts connects rescuetime to google-calendar

Set up a productivity light

IFTTT has several channels that will let you control a light (or a set of lights). You can use the Recipes below with the Phillips Hue, ORBneXt, and Blink(1) channels.

IFTTT Recipe: Turn on a 'do-not-disturb' light while in a FocusTime Session connects rescuetime to orbnext

IFTTT Recipe: Turn off your do-not-disturb light when a FocusTime session ends connects rescuetime to orbnext

IFTTT Recipe: Flash Blink(1) when a RescueTime alert is triggered connects rescuetime to blink-1

Adjust your thermostat while in a FocusTime session

If you want to give yourself some extra motivation, set your Nest thermostat to something really comfortable either while you are in a FocusTime session, or after you’ve completed a few hours of productive work.

IFTTT Recipe: Set the temperature to something really comfy when you are in a FocusTime session connects rescuetime to nest-thermostat

IFTTT Recipe: Reward yourself by turning the thermostat to something more comfortable after working for a while. connects rescuetime to nest-thermostat

Use alerts to post messages to Slack

You can use RescueTime alerts as an automated way to humblebrag (or publicly shame yourself) to your coworkers.

IFTTT Recipe: If a RescueTime alert is triggered, post a note about it in Slack connects rescuetime to slack

Get a phone call whenever an alert is triggered

This one is super effective for getting me to stop working when it’s late at night. I have an alert set up for “more than 30 minutes of productive time between midnight and 4am”. When my phone rings in the middle of the night, that momentary “who the hell is calling me at 1am?!?!” feeling is the BEST way to knock me out of the workaholic hole I’ve fallen into.
IFTTT Recipe: Call my phone when a RescueTime alert triggers. connects rescuetime to phone-call

Save daily summaries in a Google Sheet

This one is great if you just want to pull some specific data over time into a spreadsheet. It’s perfect for Quantified Self projects where you’re tracking one metric (say, hours of productive time) against another data source (like your daily exercise or sleep).
IFTTT Recipe: If new daily summary is available, log a row in a Google Sheets spreadsheet connects rescuetime to google-drive

We’re particularly excited about the FocusTime Triggers and Actions, which let you tailor your FocusTime experience in some really powerful ways. You can read more on that over here.

What recipes have you come up with? Share your favorites in the comments!

Introducing the new FocusTime


Today we’re launching an exciting new version of FocusTime to help people be less distracted at work.

We’ve added integrations that let your apps and devices take actions that support a positive work environment. This makes it easy to create the best conditions for focus, on demand and at the right times.

For example, when you are in a FocusTime session, you can:

  • Silence your phone, including notifications
  • Set your Slack presence to ‘away’
  • Post a do-not-disturb note to your calendar, group chat, or company social network
  • Block access to distracting websites

Everyone’s work situation is different so we’ve added integrations that connect to a lot of different services so you can find the right combination of actions that works for you.

New integrations that support your productivity

FocusTime is now connected to IFTTT (If This Then That), Zapier, and Slack. We expect to add more integrations in the future, but here’s an overview of where we are right now.

IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT connects hundreds of apps and devices together. Combined with FocusTime, it can do some REALLY interesting things to set up a good environment for sustained focus. Their support for devices and home automation is particularly interesting, enabling things like silencing your Android phone, dimming your Philips Hue lights, even adjusting your Nest thermostat so you’re more comfortable while you’re focusing (which can be a nice bit of motivation on it’s own!)

I have an ORBneXt light sitting on my desk that glows blue when I’m in a FocusTime session. It’s a nice way to let other people know I’m in the zone, and it’s also a subtle reminder to me to stay on track.


Zapier is similar to IFTTT in that they both connect multiple services together, but Zapier has more of a focus on business applications. If you want to post a do-not-disturb note to your coworkers, Zapier has support for Slack, HipChat, Flowdock, Basecamp, Yammer, and many more.

I have a Zap set up connecting Trello and FocusTime that’s proven to be really useful for me. I manage the things I’m working on in Trello, but I have a special list for really high-priority tasks that are “On Fire!”, like critical bugs. Whenever a new card gets added to that list, a FocusTime session automatically kicks in so I can devote my full attention to the problem.


Seems like Slack is a common fixture in most offices these days. It’s really great at keeping people connected, but it can be a bit of a monster when you’re trying to focus. We added a Slack integration that will automatically set your presence to ‘away’ and optionally post a note in the channel of your choice letting people know you’re stepping away for some concentration, and when to expect you back.


Are work distractions really that big of a problem?


Multiple studies have shown that it can take between 15-30 minutes to fully return to a task after an interruption (that’s not counting tasks that are completely abandoned). The problem with even the most optimistic of those numbers is, most people get some kind of interruption roughly every 5 minutes This is a huge deal, because it basically means no one can get into a solid state of flow.

So essentially no one is working at their peak potential. Why aren’t more people up in arms about this? I’m not  sure, but I think it’s because after a while, that level of distraction starts to feel normal. And the alternative – simply unplugging – doesn’t feel very good. We’re conditioned to be ultra-responsive, and that’s become a general expectation in many offices. But the levels of interruption are clearly reaching unsustainable levels.

We’re connected to all these apps and devices that constantly spew information at us, but they have no awareness of whether or not we actually WANT that information at a given time. That seems like something that should be fixable, so that’s what we set out to do. My hope with FocusTime is that we give people a way to disconnect “just enough” so they can get back to more solid levels of focus.

What we’re launching today is a really good start, but there’s a lot to explore in the future, and I’m really excited to see what other ways we can find to turn down the noise, and get people prepped for focus.

I’d love it if you’d give the new integrations a try and let us know what works well for you, and what you find missing that you wished was included.

Come Join us at the Quantified Self 2015 Conference!

We’re excited to be sponsoring the Quantified Self 2015 Conference & Expo, June 18-20 in San Francisco. If you haven’t been to a QS Conference before, they’re awesome (more on that below). This year, we’re doing a collaborative data tracking project that should be a lot of fun. Basically, we’re exploring the combined digital activities for people who have opted-in to a special QS 2015 group, looking for interesting statistics and visualizations showing how the group as a whole spends time at a conference like Quantified Self 2015. These reports will be displayed on a live updating display at our exhibitor table, and group members will receive a special report showing how their individual time contributed to the larger group.

If you’re attending the conference, we’d love for you to join the experiment! Sign up now.

You should consider attending if you are in the area. It’s an amazing gathering of passionate self-trackers from around the world who have come to share their stories about what has and hasn’t worked for them as they’ve tried to improve their lives through data. Check out the trailer for this year’s conference:

We’ve got free tickets to the Expo! (while supplies last!)

This year, the conference is changing up it’s usual format and turning the last day into a public exposition that will be a great way for people who are more casually interested in the Quantified Self to learn more. The Expo will be a day of “how-to’s” with packed sessions on how to track, learn, and reach personal goals using methods emerging from the Quantified Self movement.

We have a limited number of free passes to share with the first 50 people who register. Please follow this link: to register and use code: rescuetimefree. Just make sure you swing by our table and say hello!

Can’t make it to QS 2015? Here are some videos!

The conference videos usually go up a few weeks after they are filmed. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite talks from previous years.

David El Achkar on Tracking Time
David uses a homegrown, spreadsheet-based system for tracking his time. It’s intensive, but he is able to learn some really interesting things about himself.

Laurie Frick: Experiments in Self-tracking
Laurie is an amazing artist who’s work is based on her self-tracking experiments (she currently has a show at this gallery in NYC, if you happen to be on that side of the country). Here she is talking about her process and how her self-tracking experiments inform her art.

Paul LaFontaine: Heart Rate Variability and Flow
Paul examines his heart-rate variability to understand his work efficiency, especially getting into a state of flow, where he’s absolutely absorbed and focused on what he’s working on.

Steven Jonas: Memorizing My Daybook
Steven experimented with spaced repetition to boost his memory with some impressive results.

Robby Macdonnell: Tracking 8,300 Screen Hours
Finally, (and a bit of a shameless plug) here is a video of me talking about what I’ve learned from several years tracking my time with RescueTime.

The data is in, I’m a distracted driver.

Image source

Anti-texting sign in Nashville, TN (Image source)

I have a confession to make, and it’s not easy. I’ve been driving like a jerk. I just found out and I feel horrible about it.

I don’t speed. I don’t tailgate. I don’t run red lights. At least, not that I’m aware of. The problem is I’m distracted by my phone… a lot…  and I didn’t realize just how bad it is until I analyzed some data about myself. I wanted to believe the data was wrong, but after triple-checking and turning the data over numerous ways, it was clear.

23% of the time I’m in my car I’m doing something on my phone.

How I figured it out.

RescueTime’s Android app gives me a record of the time I spend doing things on my phone, and I had recently been working on an integration with Automatic (a mobile app and device that plugs into a car’s diagnostic port and gives data about driving time). I was hoping to find some interesting stats showing how the time I spent driving compared to my time on the computer (“do I spend more time driving or doing software development?”, for example).

It occurred to me that I could also cross-reference the time I spent in the car with my other activities to see if there was any overlap. This would show me the time I spent doing things on my phone while my car was running. I knew that I occasionally check my phone while at a stoplight, and I sometimes make calls when I’m behind the wheel (hands-free through my car’s bluetooth, of course). But I figured that time was minimal, and looking at the data should validate that. At worst, I thought I’d see something that I could use to humblebrag about how, while I might not be perfect, I was certainly a hell of a lot better about it than the people I have a habit of judging mercilessly whenever they weave into my lane while obviously doing something on their phone (an unfortunately common thing in my neighborhood).

Snapshot: Driving time vs time doing something other than driving.

Snapshot: one day’s driving time vs time doing something else, while driving.

I was totally unprepared for the results I saw. It looked really bad. My immediate reaction was that my math was wrong, or that some bug that was over-reporting my time. But it certainly couldn’t be correct, could it? After some more analysis I was able to find a couple patterns that I could legitimately exclude (I tend to spend a minute or so futzing with my music app at the very beginning of trips looking for a song I want to listen to, for example). Maybe it wouldn’t end up being that bad.

After multiple passes through the numbers looking for false positives, I still ended up with 23% of my time for the month of April was distracted. Nearly a quarter of the time my car’s ignition is on, I’m doing something on my phone. There’s still SOME noise in there that’s impossible to untangle with the data I have (time spent at stop lights, trips where I’m actually a passenger in the car, etc), but the overall numbers are uncomfortably high.

Some of the things that just couldn’t wait until I was done driving. Ugh, there’s even a website called “distractify” on there.

Some of the things that just couldn’t wait until I was done driving. Ugh, there’s even a website called “distractify” on there.

It’s dangerous, and embarrassingly hypocritical

Bouncing back and forth between all those different activities puts me in a state where I’m paying less attention to everything, and when one of those activities is operating a moving vehicle, that can be really bad. Driving while texting is equivalent to driving after drinking four beers, and distracted driving is responsible for upwards of 25% of all accidents in the United States. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’ve been putting people around me at risk, needlessly.

That realization stings extra because it’s something I already agreed was a problem… when other people do it. As a pedestrian, I’ve dodged my share of distracted drivers and I’m rarely shy about letting them know exactly how I feel about it. I’ve had numerous conversations with friends about how “drivers around here are just the worst! None of them can keep their dumb jerk eyes on the road!” Oof. I’m surprised by the disconnect. Why did it never occur to me that I’m doing the thing that I get mad at others for doing? Maybe it’s that checking my phone has become an unconscious habit and I’m not even aware of it, like this 2012 study discovered? Or perhaps I just assume the things I do on my phone are ok, because of course they’ll just take a couple of seconds and won’t add up to much. Obviously, there are some flaws with that thinking, as it only takes a couple of seconds for something to go terribly wrong. But the more glaring issue here is that it’s clearly rarely “just a couple seconds.” 

So what now? How do I fix this?

It feels really bad to learn something like this, but there is a silver lining here. I was able to discover this about myself by looking at rows on a spreadsheet, rather than after crashing into something (or someone). I feel lucky, and hope it will be a wake up call. Now I can take action to change my behavior. Even better, I have metrics I can use to prove to myself I’ve changed. Here are a few things I’m doing to respond to it.

I turned off non-essential notifications on my phone

Push notifications are one of the most sure-fire ways to take me out of the moment and pull my attention elsewhere. I really don’t like them when I’m working, and do my best to silence them. But it’s easy for me to convince myself that I need them, or I’ll miss something important. Really though, there’s very little real benefit to 90% of the beeps and buzzes that come out of my phone. I’ve gone through all my apps and turned off all notifications except for things that are actually really important. This will also help me at work, when the notifications will pull me away when I’m trying to concentrate on something.

I’m trying to drive less

This might not be the most practical choice (especially since I moved to the suburbs a few months ago), but the easiest way to combat my fidgety nature while driving is simply to remove the car from the equation altogether. I’m trying to walk more (where having my head buried in my phone can still be dangerous, but much less so), or ride a bike, where my hands are occupied.

I’m talking to people about it

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have much to compare my data to. I have no clue if I’m an extreme outlier here or not. Rather than keep it all in my head, I’m telling people about what I’ve learned, and hoping that I can get some better context around it. I’ve also built some reporting into RescueTime so others can look at similar data for themselves. I hope that with more people having a data-driven conversation, we can all start to come up with smarter ways of dealing with it.

If you’re interested in tracking this data about yourself, all you need is a RescueTime account (the free one will work just fine), an Android phone with the RescueTime app installed, and an Automatic Adapter (which costs $100, but you can get 20% off with this link).

Don’t judge me too harshly, ok? Please?

This was sort of a hard post to write (“Hey! Look at me! I’m awful!” posts generally are), but hopefully it helps people be a little more thoughtful about their time behind the wheel. If you have any thoughts or experiences with your own driving time, please feel free to share in the comments.

New integration with Automatic: Track your driving time like your computer time


Today we’re launching a new integration with Automatic that will make it possible to track your driving time just like you would any other application or website. There are SO many interesting questions that can be answered here, like: “How does your commute relate to your time at work?”, “Do you tend to log most time in the car around rush hour?”, “If so, does shifting your time one way or the other help you spend less time in traffic?”

What is Automatic?

Automatic is a mobile app and small adapter that works by plugging into your car’s diagnostic port. It fits on nearly all newer cars and gives you information about gas milage, check engine notifications, and your driving efficiency. Read more about how it works over on the Automatic web site.

How Automatic works with RescueTime

After setting up Automatic and connecting it to your RescueTime account, all future trips will be logged in RescueTime as “Driving”. These will fit into your existing RescueTime reports just like any other application or website, and you can categorize them however you like. You will also unlock a special driving report that will give you details about when you drive, how it relates to the other time you log, and what other activities you might be logging while you are driving (be careful out there!).


Some of the things you can do with this integration:

  • See the overall amount of time you spend driving per day, week, or month.
  • Set an alert letting you know when you’ve been in a car for more than 2 hours in a day (reminding you to go for a walk to balance things out)
  • See how much time you spend working vs. driving to work.
  • See how much time you spend driving compared to other categories of activity. How do you feel about the balance?
  • See activities that are logged while you are driving. If you have the RescueTime Android app installed, this will give you a valuable look into how distracted you may be while driving.
  • If you are a RescueTime premium subscriber, you can categorize your individual trips, allowing you to separate out your commute from the rest of your driving time, for example.

For a real-world example, check out this post about some of the unsettling things I learned about my own driving and phone use habits.

How to link your accounts

Once you have Automatic set up in your car, visit our integration page and link your account. You can unlink it at any time if you decide you want to stop logging your driving time.

If you don’t currently have an Automatic car adapter, you can get one for a 20% discount here.

We’re really excited to open up this new data stream into our reports, and can’t wait to see what insights it generates. I hope you enjoy it! Please let us know what you think!

Two new integration updates for GitHub and Gyroscope

We’re launching some new integrations this week, giving you new ways to keep track of your time and tell interesting stories with your data.


A weekly report from Gyroscope

Log highlights for your code commits directly through GitHub

github-iconSeveral weeks ago, we launched support for logging your code commits from your Git projects. It’s been pretty popular, and we’ve logged thousands of commit messages since launching the feature. We did, however, get some feedback that the setup could be simplified. Today we’re launching an alternative way to log commits for your projects that are hosted on GitHub. Instead of configuring and installing a post-commit hook, you can just connect your RescueTime account to GitHub and select the projects you would like to track. From then on, whenever you push code to GitHub for those projects, all your commit messages will be logged.

Learn more on the GitHub integration page

The original post-commit hook method is still available, and should be used for projects that are not hosted on GitHub, or for projects that you do not have admin rights on the repository.

Use Gryroscope to see beautiful reports for all your different data streams

Gryroscope is a new lifelogging aggregator that combines several streams of data into beautiful reports. Combine your Tweets, Foursquare checkins, Fitness trackers, and RescueTime productivity data. Each week you’ll get a gorgeous infographic report summarizing all your activities.

Learn more on the Gyroscope integration page

More integrations coming soon

We’re working on some more integrations and hope to have new things to share soon. Keep checking back on our integrations page for the latest and greatest.

Do you have any other services you’d like to see RescueTime work more closely with? If so let us know in the comments.

February updates: Smarter website categorization, video tracking, email preferences, and more!

We’ve pushed a bunch of new improvements out this month. We’ve been able to boost performance, add new features, and address some of our most long-standing support requests. Happy slightly-late Valentine’s day, everybody! :)

Subdomain categorization / scoring

We often see some form of this question in our support forums:

I see a lot of subdomains in my uncategorized time report. Can I create a rule somewhere to auto-categorize any site that matches the pattern “*”?

Many sites have subdomains that all show up as separate activities in RescueTime. It’s a pain to have to categorize all of them, and that’s a problem because it leads to a LOT of websites being uncategorized. Having a lot of uncategorized time really reduces the value of your reports. We just changed our categorization logic so all subdomains automatically inherit from their root domain. This instantly makes our default categorizations a LOT better across the board. You can still override the defaults just like before, should you find a sub-domain that doesn’t fit the domain default.

This is a huge help for things like…

  • Reference sites: *, *
  • Local classified sites: *, *
  • Major blog platforms: *, *, *
  • Local development servers: *.localhost, *.localhost:8080

MUCH more accurate video logging

video logging

Another common support request is better handling for video. RescueTime uses mouse and keyboard interaction to determine if you have left the computer, and stops logging after a period of no activity. This has an obvious flaw when it comes to video, or any other hands-free application or website. We added some special handling for known video websites and applications, so your logs will be much more complete and meaningful.

You can now have a MUCH more accurate record when you binge watch the new season of House of Cards in a couple weeks!

For this first version, we’re supporting: VLC, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube. We have plans to expand this list in the future.

Choice of delivery date for the weekly summary report

Your "Start of the Week" day will determine when your weekly summary arrives.

Your “Start of the Week” day will determine when your weekly summary arrives.

In your preferences section, you can set your preferred day to start your week. Some people prefer it to be Sunday, others Monday. But regardless of your preference, we used to send out all weekly summary emails on Sundays. We’ve just split the summary emails out into two different batches for each preferred week-start date.

Track your Github commits as Highlight events


We recently added API support for RescueTime Premium’s Highlight Event logging. We’re working on several ways to automatically get highlight information into RescueTime, and we just added support for Git commits via a post-commit hook you can add to your Git projects.

Read this blog post to learn more.

Day-timer windows now show the elapsed time in the window title


You can open a day-timer window for any category, productivity level, application, or website and track where your time is going throughout the day. The only problem is the timer windows take up a lot of space. One of our users recently made a suggestion in our forums to add the elapsed time into the title bar, then the timers can be placed in a tab. It’s an amazing reduction in screen real-estate and lets you keep your stats right in front of you as you work. (Thanks Michael!)

RescueTime for Android can receive alerts as push notifications

We released an updated version of RescueTime for Android that features better reports and the ability to receive push notifications for your alerts. We are going to be doing a lot of work on our mobile apps over the next few months, so expect this to just get better and better.

Lots and lots of performance improvements and bug fixes

In addition to the features above, we made several major performance improvements to make everything faster and more reliable.

We also fixed an early front runner for the prestigious “most ridiculous bug of 2015” award: FocusTime was broken on OS X if you were using Firefox AND had the Caps Lock key on. (our reaction when we discovered it)

I hope these updates help make your RescueTime experience better. We’ve got a lot more on the way so stay tuned!