Welcoming Belle B. Cooper to the RescueTeam!

belle_avatarWe’re excited to welcome Belle B. Cooper to the RescueTime crew. She’ll be joining us part-time as a content marketer and copywriter. You’ll be seeing her around the blog and she’ll be helping us generally improve the conversations we have with the RescueTime community.

If Belle’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s done some really awesome things. She’s been published all over the place, and has written a ton about productivity, freelancing, and thriving in the modern workplace. She’s also one half of Hello Code, a startup that, among other things, makes an awesome Quantified Self app called Exist that finds correlations between the data in all your fitness and productivity apps. (hint hint, check out the Exist integration with RescueTime 😉).

We’ve been big fans of Belle’s writing for a while. In fact, as I was writing up the job description for this position, her name kept popping into my head as someone who would be a perfect fit. I reached out to her thinking there probably wasn’t much chance she’d be available, but might be able to refer someone. Turns out, the timing was just right, and we’re so happy to have her officially on board!

This is also a small milestone for us as a company, as Belle is the first person from outside the United States to join the team. Organizationally, it will be fun to figure out how that works. I’m really looking forward to learning how to work effectively across a 17-hour time difference. 😀

Welcome, Belle!


How I scare the crap out of myself to avoid feeling like a zombie the next day

office-zombie

Working late at night is sort of great. There are no distractions, fewer obligations, it even feels sort of weird to send someone an email once it gets too late. It’s a fantastic time to focus.

But if I get carried away with it, I really end up paying for it the next day. The satisfaction of a late-night work binge is a lot less awesome when I’m dragging through work like a zombie. Sleep-debt is real and it hits me hard.

But I’ve found a great way to make sure I don’t let myself get completely consumed with work late at night.

I scare the hell out of myself with an automated phone call after I’ve done more than 30 minutes of productive work after midnight.

“Hi! RescueTime has a message for you: What the hell are you doing working so late! Go to bed!”

The phone call works because of the timing. Phone calls during the day, whatever, kind of annoying, actually. But a phone call in the middle of the night is really jarring, no matter what. It freaks me out. “What the hell? Who’s calling me? What’s wrong!? Oh yeah, It’s just me working too late.” Even though I snap back to reality and realize what it is pretty quickly, it’s just enough of a jolt to knock me out of the hole I’ve fallen down.

It’s scary, and that’s why it works. 😈

You can set this up for yourself pretty easily. You’ll just need a RescueTime Premium account, and an account with either Zapier or IFTTT.

Step One: Set up the alert on RescueTime:
rescuetime

You can set the specific details to suit your needs. This is your rational self sending a message to your preoccupied future self, so adjust the message accordingly (My personal message is more aggressive than the one in the template 🙂 ).

Step Two – Option A: Use this Zap on Zapier

Step Two – Option B: Use this Recipe on IFTTT
IFTTT Recipe: If a RescueTime alert goes off, deliver the message with a phone call. connects rescuetime to phone-call

Hope that helps those of you with workaholic tendencies spook yourself into less long nights! Happy Halloween y’all!


Updates to our Zapier Integration!

zapier-logo

The RescueTime app on Zapier helps you connect your time to hundreds of applications, letting you make updates in other apps based on your time and logging important actions that happen outside of RescueTime. We recently added some new features that we’re really psyched about: offline time logging, actions and weekly report exporting.

If you’re unfamiliar with Zapier, it’s a service that makes it easy for non-developers to connect two (or more) different web applications together. It’s a great way to automate tedious parts of your work so you can focus on other things. You create Zaps, small workflows that chain two or more applications together to accomplish a task. It’s one of the tools we get the most mileage out of around the RescueTime offices. It’s a fantastic Swiss-army knife of a tool that just seems to get better the more I use it. Every week or so I stumble on something really valuable to automate.

Here’s how RescueTime works with Zapier

You can log offline time

Offline time shows up alongside your other activities

Offline time shows up alongside your other activities

You can connect any other app that exports events with a start / stop time – such as your calendar – and automatically log that time in RescueTime. Lots of people have requested this feature and we’re really thrilled with the number of services that Zapier makes this possible with. You can track workouts with RunKeeper or MapMyFitness, meetings with Google Calendar, or import time logged with Harvest or Toggl.

One thing to keep in mind: Calendars can be tricky, noisy messes, and if you aren’t careful, you can accidentally log inaccurate or useless time. Zapier’s advanced filters really shine here, though. You can use them to weed out the noise from your calendar and only log the activities you really want.

You can export weekly & daily summaries
Every week, a new summary is available with details about how you spent your time. You can use these summaries to construct your own custom email reports, log a note in Evernote, update a spreadsheet, or post a status to Slack or HipChat.

The logic you can add within a Zap comes in handy here. You can get really fancy with it if you want. For example: If a weekly summary comes in, you can check it to see how much productive time you logged, and if it’s an absurdly high number, you can post a message in Slack bragging about it, but silently do nothing if your time that week was less flattering. 🙂

Zapier's filters let you act on data only if it meets the right conditions

Zapier’s filters let you act on data only if it meets the right conditions

Other apps can respond to your RescueTime alerts
RescueTime alerts keep you informed in real-time about how your day is shaping up. They can also trigger actions in other apps. You can brag to your co-workers on Slack when you’ve been super-productive (or to your friends on Facebook, for that matter), track your alert times in a Google Sheet, or update a goal on Beeminder. My personal favorite is the Zap I have that calls my phone when I’m working too late at night and tells me to knock it off.

You can automate your FocusTime sessions
Sometimes, really important stuff happens in other apps that you need to respond to with your full attention. Or there are times you just want to focus and not be disturbed. FocusTime and Zapier are your best friends in those moments. When Pingdom alerts you that your website is down, you can automatically start FocusTime so you won’t be distracted while looking for a fix. If you use Toggl for time tracking, you can automatically start FocusTime whenever you start a new timer so you can devote 100% of your concentration to getting the job done.

You can log data points from other apps as Actions

examples of actions logged from other apps

examples of actions logged from other apps

Actions in RescueTime are a new-ish feature*. They automatically collect data points from other applications so you can see what you’re accomplishing alongside the time you’re spending on different activities. Any trigger from another app can automatically log an action in RescueTime. You can log actions for blog posts in WordPress, completed cards in Trello, tasks completed in Todoist or Asana, or even checkins at coffee shops in Swarm.

*actions used to be a subset of Daily Highlights, but they’ve been upgraded and can now be categorized and scored just like time logs. You can still use Zapier to log daily highlights as well.

For more ideas on how to use the RescueTime integration, check out some of the popular RescueTime Zaps on Zapier.

 


Connect RescueTime to hundreds of apps with our updated IFTTT channel!

IF_Recipes_-_IFTTT

We just made some exciting new updates to the RescueTime IFTTT channel. You can now use weekly summary reports in your Recipes and log offline time from other apps (like your Google Calendar).

IFTTT is a service that connects hundreds of applications via simple connections that let one application respond to actions in another. You can use the RescueTime IFTTT channel to connect to hundreds of apps to automatically log time, export data for reports, respond to alerts, and add daily highlights. You can even use it to control your FocusTime sessions!

Here are some of the things you can do:

Log Offline Time

This is something a lot of people have asked for. You can connect your Calendar (or any other app that exports events with a start / stop time) and automatically log offline time.

IFTTT Recipe: If new event from search starts, Log offline time. connects google-calendar to rescuetime

IFTTT Recipe: Log your sleep as offline time in RescueTime. connects fitbit to rescuetime

Export Weekly / Daily Summaries

Every day at midnight a new summary is available with details of your time. Use this to construct your own custom email reports, log time in a spreadsheet, or update a personal dashboard.

IFTTT Recipe: Keep a running log of your weekly time on the computer in Evernote connects rescuetime to evernote

IFTTT Recipe: If new daily summary is available, log a row in a Google Sheets spreadsheet connects rescuetime to google-drive

Control FocusTime

FocusTime just got a LOT more powerful. Mute your phone, or post a do-not-disturb note on your calendar. You can also control FocusTime from other apps. Like starting a FocusTime session when you park your car at the office in the morning.

IFTTT Recipe: Turn off distractions for one hour connects do-button to rescuetime

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

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

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

Respond to Alerts

Whenever your RescueTime alerts are triggered, you can respond by taking an action in another app.

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

IFTTT Recipe: Call my phone when a RescueTime alert triggers. connects rescuetime to phone-call

Log Daily Highlights / Action Datapoints

Daily Highlights and Actions help you keep track of your accomplishments. Any trigger from another app can automatically log a highlight or action in RescueTime.

IFTTT Recipe: Track the completed items on your to-do list connects todoist to rescuetime

IFTTT Recipe: Track your trips to coffee shops connects foursquare to rescuetime

Check out the RescueTime channel page on IFTTT.com to learn more. There are literally thousands of possibilities. Please let us know your favorites in the comments!


Remember to allow space for high-impact work

I was just checking out this week’s episode of Create & Orchestrate, a video series of entrepreneurial insights by Nashville-area startup vet and investor Marcus Whitney. The episode focused on the idea of effort capacity, which is essentially the amount of time and energy you are able to put forth on a given thing at a given time. It struck me as a good way to think about time management because it forces you to make a distinction between high-impact and low-impact work and consider if you’re making enough room for the former. If your capacity for making effort on the really meaningful stuff is not very high, your chances of doing anything but treading water aren’t great.

RescueTime is a great tool for wrapping your head around your current effort capacity and making changes to increase it over time.

Understanding your effort capacity

Start by taking a look at your RescueTime productive activities report (requires RescueTime login) for the past month (maybe even add a time filter so it’s just Mon-Fri during work hours). Try to identify activities that are really key to pushing yourself forward. Most people find a lot of the productive work they do is tactical day-to-day stuff that, while necessary, may not be the thing that will break them through to the next level. Churning through emails, meetings, customer support, bug fixes or status reports can all easily fall into this category (obviously there are always exceptions). Subtract those activities from your time, and you get a pretty good idea of how much time you actually have  for more high-impact strategic work. Far too many people assume they have 40 hours a week to do solid meaningful work. The actual number is often a fraction of that.

Adjusting your effort capacity

Once you know how much time you have, the game becomes all about finding ways to maximize it. There’s going to be all sorts of possibilities for this. Some really easy low-hanging fruit, but also some things that require tinkering and experimentation.

Here are a few of my personal tactics for squeezing more availability into my day:

  • An automatic 30 minute FocusTime session every weekday morning when I get started to keep me from getting lost in rounds of catch-up on news, blogs, & social media.
  • I have FocusTime linked up to my Slack account so I’m not interrupted during times that I want to focus.
  • An alert that goes off after I’ve been in our support portal for more than 1 hour, reminding me not to let it take up my entire day. I have similar alerts for time spent in email, Google Hangouts, etc.
  • I have specific goals set up for design, software development, and strategizing. I review them in my weekly summary emails and make adjustments as needed.

What tricks do you have for increasing your capacity for meaningful work? Here’s Marcus’s take on it which got me thinking about it in the first place:


Can the right app make you read 400+ words per minute?

iStock_000060478288_Large

Before reading any further, take a look at the clock. Jot down the time. I know, it’s a weird way to start a blog post, but it will make sense in a bit, I promise.

How much time do you spend reading news articles or blog posts? If you’re like most people, you spend at least a few minutes per day catching up on current events or what your favorite blogs are writing about. One way to check is to look at your RescueTime report for News and Opinion – last month I spent over thirteen hours on it. It may or may not take up huge amounts of time for you, but wouldn’t it be nice to get some of that time back for other things? What if you could read twice as fast and still retain the same amount of information? Seems great, but I’m not sure I want it quite enough to invest the effort in learning to speed read.

That’s why I was really intrigued to see a presentation at last month’s Quantified Self 2015 European Conference. Kyrill Potapov gave a fascinating talk about his experience with Spritz, a new technology that promises to make it easy to dramatically increase your normal reading speed. That’s normally a marketing claim I’d be skeptical of, but one of the great things about Quantified Self talks is that they generally come packed with data.

Kyrill Potapov sharing how he increased his reading speed to 400 words per minute using Spritz, a speed reading app. #qseu15 #productivity #speedreading

A post shared by RescueTime (@rescuetime) on

Kyrill doesn’t work for Spritz – he’s a secondary school teacher in London – but he was interested enough in increasing his reading efficiency that he sought out the tool and tracked his progress as he used it. And the results were dramatic. He was able to increase his average reading speed by nearly 100%, up to over 400 words per minute. The best part was, it didn’t seem like it took all that much effort on his part. No special training, no exercises, just start reading using the app.

The method Spritz uses is called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)  and it works by reducing the amount of distance your eye has to travel while reading. Instead of scanning back and forth across lines of text, the words are presented in a rapid continuous stream one at a time. There is technically more to it than that, but that’s the main thing you will notice when you try it. As far as I can tell, this makes reading faster in two ways. First, you shave off the fractions of a second your eye usually spends moving from word to word – or line to line. Second, as words are only displayed once, you are forced to pay attention or you will miss out. It’s a different experience than reading normal text, but not an unpleasant one. In fact, the need to pay attention was so apparent that I found it easier to tune out outside distractions.

There are several apps that use the Spritz technology, so in theory it should be easy to start using it. In practice it was a little harder than I wanted it to be. Many apps involved copying and pasting large blocks of text into a text field, which is more cumbersome than I will probably use and felt like little more than a fun demonstration. That said, there is a Chrome extension called Readline that seems to work really well. When I’m on a page I want to read quickly, I just highlight the text, right click and select “start Readline”.

I’m currently reading at about 400 words per minute, and I feel like I retain most of what I read. There are a few places it completely falls apart – like reading a long news article that has ads mingling with the content. But so long as I’m careful about which text I select, it seems like it really helps. There is some debate about whether or not Spritz enables anything more than skimming, but when I’m reading news or blog posts I’m usually not extraordinarily invested in the content in the first place. In fact, in a context like that where I’m likely skimming anyway, Spritz actually makes me absorb more by forcing me through the whole post linearly.

So if you are looking for an easy hack that can save a few minutes each day, give Spritz a try, and let us know in the comments what you think of it.

Oh, one more thing. Remember when I asked you to look at the clock at the start of the post? Check the time now. How many minutes did it take you to get here? This post is about 800 words, so if you were reading with Spritz set at 400 wpm, this post would take you 2 minutes. 🙂


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…
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!