The past few months have been really busy and exciting over here at RescueTime! We recently launched a completely redesigned version of the RescueTime.com for our individual users with over 30 new features and improvements. We’ve received a lot of great feedback and made a few changes to address some issues that have come up, and will continue to work to improve RescueTime for all of our users.
Here is a list of the features and improvements:
A mobile-friendly, responsive design
- The website is fully responsive and supports multiple screen sizes and layouts. We also no longer use Adobe Flash for our charts and graphs meaning that you can now use the RescueTime.com website on a much broader base of devices including mobile phones and tablets.
The RescueTime dashboard
- The dashboard has been completely reimagined – based around the most common ways our users interact with RescueTime. This gives you the information you need with fewer steps and in a more readable format.
- The default view is now the current day (was current week), making it easier to keep an eye on the current day’s activities, which are more actionable.
- There are several new visualizations, including a ‘spotlights’ section showing your daily patterns and comparisons with past time periods.
- Observations about the current day / week / month are available to help you make sense of the data in the graphs.
- Achievements block showing the lifetime total time logged, top productive day, and more.
Time and productivity reports
- You can pop out a live timer to keep an eye on the time you are logging for any report
- Reports show richer information about how an activity (or type of activity) fits into your entire day. (Example: You spent 3h 19m in Photoshop, that’s 5% of your total time this week, and 36% of your time spent in design & composition)
- It is now easier to categorize or edit an activity, or delete time that you’d rather not include in your reports.
- Most reports have a new “daily patterns” view that shows you how what time of day you tend to spend more time on activities, categories, or productivity levels.
- All reports have a “changes over time” view that gives a historic perspective on how you are spending your time.
- You can share the results of a report by email or Twitter
- You can get notifications when you exceed a goal line via email or pop-up.
- Goals can be created directly from a report page, making it easier to spot things you’d like to change and take action immediately.
- Goals were previously for categories and productivity levels only. Now you can set a goal for individual applications and websites as well.
- All-time goals allow you to keep track of the total time you spend on the computer each day.
- Redesigned goals reports. It’s now easier to track your progress over time.
Alerts & Notifications
- You can add a personalized message to alerts (example: ” 5hrs of productive time today! Congrats! You’ve earned yourself a break”)
- Distracting websites can be blocked for a configurable time after an alert is triggered. Great when you need an extra nudge to get back on track.
- An alert can be created for just about any metric we track (examples: “total time logged”, “all communication & shcheduling”, “very productive time” or just simply “Gmail”)
- You can now keep a running list of your accomplishments. It’s a great way to remember what you got done each day.
- There is a filtered view of your activities to help you remember what you worked on for days in the past.
Offline Time – track time away from the computer
- Offline time now has a mobile-optimized view so you can easily enter time while you are away from the computer.
- It’s now much easier to delete offline that you’ve entered by mistake.
Focus Time – Block distracting websites
- You can now disable a website during a FocusTime session, after waiting through a ‘cool-down’ period.
- FocusTime sessions now show an alert when they expire, allowing you to work in intervals.
- FocusTime now works on all major web browsers.
API / Integrations
- New “Ways to use your data” page showing you other services that you can use to do interesting things with your RescueTime stats. Currently we have integrations with Beeminder, Geckoboard, and Panic Status Board.
RescueTime for Android
- You may now track web sites on Android. Before, you could only monitor time spent in individual apps. This is an opt-in feature that requires enabling accessibility features on your Android device. You can get RescueTime for Android in the Google Play Store.
And a lot of small tweaks throughout the site…
- System health prompts: lets you know if you need to update the RescueTime application, or if you are building up a lot of uncategorized time.
- More configurable time display options for countries where the 12-hour time format isn’t used.
- Many, many usability enhancements.
Over the next few weeks we will be diving into more detail on some of the RescueTeam’s favorite new features. If you don’t already have an account and would like to experience it for yourself, sign up for a RescueTime account today.
(Firefox users: up vote this if you want support on Firefox for Android: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=908224)
We just pushed an update for our Android app that adds the ability to report on time you spend browsing on your phone or tablet. Get it here:
To do this, we needed use Android’s Accessibility services, and this requires an elevated privilege you will need to manually enable. Our app will walk you through this when you click the “Enable website logging” option. However, here is a brief explanation of the process:
1) Open up the RescueTime app and click the settings button (the gear icon). Click the “Enable website logging” option. This will automatically take you to the system Accessibility Settings screen, if it needs to be enabled.
2) Find RescueTime in the Services list on the Accessibility settings screen and select it. On older devices you may already see an “on/off” switch for RescueTime here, just select On and you are done.
3) After tapping it, on newer devices it opens the screen for enabling the service for RescueTime that has a description of the service. Click “On” to enable it. This automatically signals RescueTime to begin looking for site info in browsers.
4) Achieve success! Supported browsers are: the stock Android browser, just called “Browser”, the Nexus series stock browser (a version of Chrome), Chrome (the version in the app store), Chrome Beta, and Dolphin. Not supported: Firefox and DolphinMini.
The RescueTime productivity score is a way of looking at your time based on the productivity level you’ve assigned to the various activities that you’ve logged time for. It’s a way to boil your time down to a single metric, so you can get a quick understanding of how you’re spending it without having to dig into the more detailed reports.
But, it sometimes generates a bit of confusion, so I wanted to dig into it a bit and see if I could clear up some of the misconceptions.
How exactly is the productivity score calculated?
First off, it helps to know exactly what that number means. RescueTime lets you assign any activity or category a productivity level. There are five options, ranging from “very distracting” to “very productive”.
If you assign a productivity level to a category, it will filter down to all activities in that category, unless you explicitly add a productivity level to an activity, in which case it will override the category productivity level.
Your overall productivity score is calculated as an average of the time spent on each productivity level. If you spent all day on activities marked as “neutral productivity”, you’d have a 50% productivity score. If you spent all day on something marked as “Productive”, you’d have a 75% productivity score. All day in activities marked “very productive”, you’d have a score of 100%.
Misconception: “My productivity score should be as high as possible, right?”
- The average productivity score across the entire RescueTime user base is 67%. While obviously I haven’t talked to all of them, I can tell you these aren’t a bunch of slackers. They’re smart people who are very thoughtful about how they spend their time.
- Around the RescueTime office, we’re averaging around 79%. We think about this stuff a lot, and I think we’re pretty well optimized for productivity.
Occasionally I see comments from users that suggest that they think they should be shooting for a productivity score of 100%. I can understand the sentiment, if you’re really efficient and getting all my work accomplished, it seems like the number should reflect that, right? Honestly, if we were rebuilding RescueTime from scratch, we might choose a less charged label than “productivity”. But the bottom line is that the productivity score doesn’t tell you anything about what you actually produce. It’s simply a number that can give you an interesting baseline of where your attention is, but doesn’t tell 100% of the story. It’s a way to understand your patterns, and not a prescription for how you should be spending your time. Moreover, there are some pretty compelling reasons why you shouldn’t shoot for a super-high productivity score.
Let’s look at another metric for context, shall we?
If you were tracking your Body Mass Index, you might want it to be lower, but you’d never want it to be zero! Through a lot of research, there are some accepted guidelines, but the scale itself doesn’t make an implication about an absolute measure everyone should shoot for. What it does, however, is give you a number that becomes important context for your physical activity. If you’re exercising more, you’ll likely see your BMI drop. If you’re eating a lot more, you might see it rise.
So, what’s the “healthy” range of productivity?
Since how you spend your time on the computer hasn’t received the same amount of scientific scrutiny as BMI, there isn’t such a clear recommendation. It’s really contextual. What may be the ideal mix of activities for you might not be for someone else. It’s also important to remember that just because something that’s classified as “distracting” doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. But it’s a good generic measure of where your attention is focused.
Some tips for using your productivity score
Change it to suit your needs: It’s important to remember that we try to make RescueTime as customizable as possible, so you can change the productivity levels to match what YOU consider to be productive or distracting.
Don’t think of it as a judgement. So many factors enter into your time that it’s impossible for a system to say definitively how you should be spending your time. The best we can do is give you a measure that you can use to make your own judgement. Work-life balance is different for everyone.
It will fluctuate, and that’s ok. The changes mean just that, something has changed. Not necessarily good or bad. See how it changes over time and you’ll have a better understanding of your natural patterns.
Downtime is good and healthy. No one should be expected to be 100% productive all the time. In fact, there’s a big pile of science that says it’s bad for the quality of your work, your creativity, and your well-being.
The score is a helpful metric when you’re trying new things. If you’re trying to optimize the way you work, the changes to your productivity score baseline can give you an objective measure of the impact of your changes. For example. I tried an experiment and turned off all notifications on my phone and computer. Just that change alone caused a 9% rise in my productivity score.
Hopefully that helps paint a clear picture of the productivity score and how we think it can be valuable. If you have any questions or thoughts, let us know in the comments!
Have you ever wanted to keep a closer eye on the time you’re spending in a specific category or activity throughout the day? This week we rolled out a new beta feature that makes it easier.
If you have beta access enabled (see below for how to do this), you can turn any productivity, category, or activity report into a live-updating timer widget, simply by resizing the window small enough. You can then place this widget off to the side (or on a second monitor) and continue about your day. As you build up more time, the widget will update and show you your current status. You can create several widgets and position them however you want to create ad-hoc productivity dashboards.
Some things you can do with these widgets:
- Keep an eye on your time spent in email throughout the day
- Compare two metrics, like time spent on software development vs. time in meetings
- Turn your productivity score into a game, how high can you make it go?
Enable beta access: To try it out, you’ll need to make sure you’re in our beta channel by going to your account settings page and checking the “Beta features on” checkbox.
Once you’ve enabled beta features, just go to any report page and do the following:
The update frequency is the same as the rest of the RescueTime reports. If you’re a RescueTime Pro user, the widgets will update every 3 minutes. If you’re a free user, it’s every 30 minutes.
Isn’t this a really weird interaction model? Yes. It is. We’re eventually going to find another way to make it more discoverable. These widgets are a brand new way to interact with RescueTime, and we’re still playing around with several of the details. In that sense, the easter-egg treatment feels fairly appropriate.
All the standard beta feature disclaimers apply. It’s brand new. And there might be some bugs we haven’t caught yet. We’ll also probably change this up a bit over time as we get a better understanding of how people are using it.
We’d love your feedback!
What do you think of this new way of keeping an eye on your time? Does it help? What things are you using it to keep track of?
One of the best things about RescueTime is it’s ability to help people make smart choices about their time. We think that self-directed, creative workers in the information economy should have the best tools to be able to manage themselves effectively.
No one likes to have their time micro-managed, and to be perfectly honest I’ve never met a team leader who actually enjoys micro-managing people. Giving team members the right information to manage their time on their own frees team leaders up to think bigger, on more strategic ideas.
We know from experience and feedback that executives and team managers can make better choices and provide not guess-driven, but rather data-driven decision making if we can bubble up the most compelling summaries of team trends and activity. Bringing these two concepts of individual independence and team metrics together is a challenge we now answer.
We’ve recently rolled out a new dashboard in our Team version that simplifies the life of managers who want a better understanding of the team’s overall time-resources. We think it answers some high-level questions allowing managers to be more strategic. Have a look…
We had several goals with this new Dashboard:
Answer important questions about the team rather than the individual
This dashboard doesn’t attempt to be a malleable, pivotable, power-user Swiss Army knife of information. Rather, it’s focused on telling a story about the group’s time, in as straightforward a way as possible. The top section covers the questions “How much time have we spent working this week?”, ”How productive have we been?”, “What types of things were we doing?” Below that, you’ll get some running totals showing progress towards team-defined goals for the week. Then finally, there’s a configurable section at the bottom showing details about the various categories that time can be spent in, to answer any follow up questions raised by the other sections of the dashboard.
Give managers the pulse of their team, not a full MRI
We’ve found that too much data can easily become just noise. Team leaders getting lost in details can cause more harm than good in many cases. What are they supposed to do with all these numbers? We think having access to *actionable* data is the important part, and feel we’ve struck a really good balance here between simplicity and a rich level of information.
Respect the trust between managers and other team members
Nowhere on this dashboard will you see information about a specific individual. It’s all aggregate rollups, generally at the category and above level. We wanted to provide a good amount of high level information, while at the same time providing some insulation to individual users. We think it’s well optimized to spot opportunities for systemic improvements, while leaving the more detailed, tactical, individual decisions to the individuals themselves.
If you have a team of people and you’d like to try out RescueTime’s team version, click here.
For a while, RescueTime Pro users have had the ability to log short amounts of time via our offline time prompt. This works great in many cases. It’s automatic, has a small cognitive load, and is quite accurate so long as you’ve only left your computer for a single activity.
But, there are also some times where it doesn’t work so well. Some examples:
- You need to log more than one activity at a time, like if you go directly from a meeting to lunch.
- You want to log time when your computer isn’t on, such as your morning commute.
- You’d like to fine tune the start and stop times.
- You rather enter offline time when it makes sense to you, rather than immediately when you return to your computer.
We just rolled out an alternative way to enter offline time through our website. This new format can be used alongside the original offline time popup, or by itself.
Here’s a video showing how it works
You can get to this new page in a few different ways:
- There is a green button labeled “Enter offline time” in the sidebar of any page on RescueTime.com (if you’re logged in with your RescueTime Pro account).
- Clicking the new “more options” button on the automatic offline time prompt.
- There is a new menu item if you click on the RescueTime icon in your Windows System Tray (or OS X toolbar)
We also added another small, but useful feature. You can now dismiss the offline time prompt for an hour at a time. We heard from several of our users that the popup can inconveniently rear it’s head during a meeting or presentation. This allows you to “mute” the popups for a while.
While we generally have a bias towards capturing time automatically, we feel like these additions are a great improvement and really open up the opportunities for capturing those important blocks of time that the RescueTime Robot can’t get on it’s own. Like the original offline time tracking, this feature is for RescueTime Pro subscribers only.
If you’re on the free plan and would like to upgrade, click here.
If you’d like to sign up for a new RescueTime account, you can do that here.
p.s. Special thanks to everyone who helped us test and refine this feature. We were able to use the feedback to make some valuable changes. If anyone else would like to be on our beta tester list, you can sign up here.
p.p.s. The changes in the automatic offline time prompt will be going out as an automatic update shortly. If you don’t want to wait, however, you can download the update version here.
2012-08-12: Import your Wakoopa data to RescueTime
Dear Wakoopa Social Users,
We wanted to take this time to introduce ourselves as a potential home for previous Wakoopa Social users. When we launched RescueTime in 2007, we hadn’t yet been aware of the work Wakoopa was doing. We learned about Wakoopa soon after launching, and we’ve always viewed Wakoopa as kindred spirits in the domain of personal analytics.
We are saddened to hear that Wakoopa has shutdown their Wakoopa Social product – Wakoopa Social Shuts Down but we were happy to hear that they are making data exports available to all users. We are currently working on our Wakoopa data importer tool, and will have that ready for use by next week.
We ask that you take 30 seconds to watch this video and if this sounds like RescueTime may be a great way to jumpstart your new relationship with your time, we will work to make the transition as easy as possible.
Joe Hruska, CEO & Co-Founder – RescueTime
Note: For more about email overload, check out this post, where we discuss some of the root causes and several strategies for dealing with it.
We’ve known for a while that communications can be a huge time-sink. Many people treat their various input streams as something that needs to be on all the time. There is constantly some sort of Pavlovian bell ringing, be it an instant message notification, new email indicator, or a buzzing mobile phone. They’re really difficult to tune out when you’re trying to focus on something else, and as such, they’re one of the largest contributors to people looking up at 5pm and not having a clue where their day went.
Turns out, they also may not be that great for your health. A recent study at the University of California at Irvine found that people who frequently checked email were more scattered and had an elevated heart rate, keeping them in a constant state of high-alert, which is linked to all sorts of health problems.
We think about that stuff a lot here at RescueTime, and this week we whipped up a report that you can use to gauge your own level of communication overload, and decide for yourself whether or not communications are playing too large a role in your days.
Click here to launch the Communications Overload exploration.
Here’s a snapshot of what part of my personal report looks like:
If you are a new user and can’t see the report yet, you’ll have to wait a week or so until you have enough data built up for us to give you any interesting insight.
If you’re not currently a user, but would like this information about yourself, sign up for an account. You won’t be able to view the report for a couple weeks, but you’ll get lots of other great information about how you’re spending your time in the meantime.
With this report, you’ll be able to find out:
- what percentage of your time is devoted to communication
- what types of communications activities you’re spending the most time with
- what hours of the day you are the most active with communications
There is also a handy calculator to raise some questions about your time in email. And finally there are a few tips on how to start getting things under control.
We put it together rather quickly, but hopefully it’s a useful view into your data.
What do you think? Do email / instant messaging / phone calls / etc make up an overwhelming amount of your day? What are your favorite strategies for dealing with it?
Update: Here are some more details on how you can use RescueTime to manage communication overload.
Ever have times when you need to hunker down and focus on something, but can’t seem to pry yourself away from online distractions? For our RescueTime Pro subscribers, we have a feature that can help with that. It’s called Focused Time! and here’s how it works:
You can select the period of time you want to get focused for, pick as little or as long as you’d like. We recommend short bursts of 20-30 minutes. Enough time to make some progress, but not too long that you’re locked in for hours and hours (taking breaks is good for your sanity!)
For the amount of time you select, all websites that you’ve visited in the past three months that have a productivity score of “very distracting” will be blocked. If you want to have a look at which sites would be blocked for you, check out your distracting activities page. If you see anything on that list that doesn’t seem like a site you want to block, you can simply change the productivity score to remove it from the block list. Over time, this list will grow, so if you just started using RescueTime, expect it to get more comprehensive as you log more time.
When is the best time to use Focused Time?
Obviously, any time you feel like you need to buckle down and focus is a good time to use Focused Time! Cramming for exams, working on a big deadline, etc… You can also get a sense of when you might be more prone to distractions by reviewing your efficiency report, and looking at the times of day when you are less productive. (Mid-mornings are when I have the hardest time with distractions.) You may also want to look at your productivity comparisons report to see what days you are more unproductive. Those times might be a good time to use Focused Time. Of course, it only makes sense for those times when you personally feel like distracting sites are actually a bad thing. It doesn’t make sense to try to have FocusedTime! on all the time.
Note: Focused Time! is only available for RescueTime Pro subscribers. If you have a free RescueTime subscription and would like to try out Focused Time!, you may upgrade your account on your account settings page.
We’d like to introduce you to a new idea we’ve been playing around with for the past few weeks. We want to make RescueTime even easier for discovering interesting insights about your behavior. Today, we’re launching the first version of our comparisons dashboard. It’s a way to quickly understand the differences between your most productive days and your least productive days.
Essentially, it analyzes all the time you have logged over the last 60 days, then ranks your days by your productivity score and splits your time into the top and bottom 30%. Then it averages those buckets to form a composites of your average productive day, and your average unproductive day. You can use the tabs at the top of the report to toggle back and forth between the two states, and see how your activities change.
You can see it for yourself at www.rescuetime.com/comparisons and here’s a video explaining it:
A couple notes about this report:
- Because this report analyzes your past data, it’s only available to people that have logged been active RescueTime users for at least 30 days. If you have just recently signed up, you’ll have to build up a little more data before you can see it.
- This report requires a modern browser. We’ve tested it on the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Older versions of Internet Explorer will be prompted to install the Google Chrome Frame plugin or upgrade their browser.
We’re pretty excited about it, and we hope you find it useful too. It’s just a first attempt, and we’ll be expanding and improving it over time. One thing we’re working hard on is a way to compare other metrics besides productivity. There are a LOT of possibilities there.
We’d love to get your feedback on this. Is the comparisons report useful for you? Did you learn anything surprising? Is there something else you’d like to see? What types of comparisons would you like to see?