RescueTime for Work and Life – A Request for Ideas

RescueTime was initially imagined as a way to capture and evaluate data from the computerized workplace – essentially an online-activity meter. The core logging functions of RescueTime are meant to provide a precise measure of active time spent on the computer, with an eye towards maximizing productivity and efficiency. Our application retains this functionality, but it has been expanding its boundaries as the product develops and user demand dictates. It has become evident that users desire a broader spectrum of time-recording functionality with RescueTime, one that can include various activities spent outside of or away from work. Accompanying this demand is an increase among users in the use of measurement tools for these various life activities. There has been increasingly broad adoption of devices and applications recording various aspects of personal life, such as calendars and and health monitors (exercise, diet, sleep, etc.), and the wish for a way to include these details in RescueTime metrics. There are some engineering and future planning decisions that we face here at RescueTime as a result of these two, possibly competing viewpoints – work, in isolation from the rest of life, and work, incorporated into a holistic picture of a person’s activities.

Here are two examples of situations where we are faced with development decisions.

1. Logging active vs. passive device usage
RescueTime works by recording the window titles of whatever application, document, or webpage currently has focus on a computer or mobile device. This recording is of active use, defined as regular keyboard or mouse input. After five minutes without such input, RescueTime times out and stops logging until there is input again. The result is a very precise record of “active” computer use, meant to capture user activity. But what if someone wants to record activities usually considered not to be work – watching videos, for example? Currently, RescueTime does not record extended use of most video players, but users generally expect it to and are surprised when it does not.

• Should RescueTime record all computer usage as inclusively as possible or retain a focus on work only?
• How should it include other non-work activities?

2. Offline time activity support
For Premium users, RescueTime does have the means to provide details about time spent away from the computer or not otherwise registered by the application. There are two options here – a time-away popup that asks users to categorize the time spent since the computer went idle, and the Enter Offline Time page, where users can select specific spans of non-categorized time and allocate them as desired.

• Are there ways that this functionality could be improved to better include life activities?

Users have suggested several ideas here: more options in the time-away popup; integration of calendar data from an external source; the ability to create new top-level categories to accommodate these types of activities.

• What can RescueTime do to better serve users here?


Introducing the New RescueTime

If you are an individual RescueTime user you have probably noticed that your RescueTime Dashboard looks a bit different!

I am very excited to introduce to you the combined product of many years of user feedback and many months of development efforts – the New RescueTime.  This is a quick blog post to go over the highlights of what you are about to experience with RescueTime in hopes that the transition from old to new is quick and easy and you can enjoy the site improvements as soon as possible.

This new version of RescueTime has given us the opportunity to use feedback we’ve received over the last few years to provide a better experience for our existing users.   It will also make it easier for new users to become acquainted with the RescueTime product.  With these changes we have undergone a huge technical upgrade replacing aging components and bringing our entire stack to modern and in some places bleeding edge technologies.

A lot of the changes you see were driven by the meteoric rise of mobile device use we’ve seen in the last few years.  The RescueTime dashboard and reports will now work just as well on phones and tablets as they do on desktops and laptops.

dashboard

New Feature Highlights

We have packed over 30 new features into this latest version of RescueTime and we will have a follow-on blog post [future link here] that goes over them in more detail, but I’m too excited not to mention at least a few of them!

  • A completely rethought dashboard, based around common use cases
  • A ‘spotlights’ section giving you a better sense of your daily patterns and things that have changed over time
  • An ‘insights’ section that highlights notable information about the current day / week / month
  • An Achievements block showing your lifetime total time logged, top productive day, and some other really cool information, especially for our long time users
  • Reports have a new “daily patterns” view that shows you what time of day you tend to spend more time on particular activities, categories, or productivity levels
  • Reports have a “changes over time” view that shows you how the current time period compares to the several days/weeks/months prior
  • You can now set goals for applications (previously you could only set goals for productivity or categories).
  • You can now compile a list of “highlights” about a given day.  It’s a great way to remember what you accomplished
  • New “What work did I get done?” view that shows you a filtered view to jog your memory about the productive work you spent time doing.

Old Features Missing

With all of the changes that were made, there were a few features that have been removed or are not yet ready for release.  If there is something gone that you need, “Don’t Panic!” - you can still access the old site for a period of time, see the end of this blog post.

  • The Projects feature as it was originally developed is no longer available in the new version of RescueTime.  Our plans are to develop a much better replacement, but I can’t give you any time frames as to when that will be yet.
  • Custom Reports AKA Saved Searches are not yet available in the new version.  We will have saved search capabilities released soon. (update: it’s in the new version, but has been renamed “keyword filters”)
  • The Document and Details report is not available in the new version.  You can still access all of your document details by first going to the Application & Websites report and clicking on specific applications to view the available documents.
  • The Customizable Dashboard is no longer available in the new version.  (Our new dashboard is perfect!  So why would you want to customize it!? ;) ) Seriously, though, the customization features were a lot of technical overhead that really didn’t get a whole lot of use, so we decided to go with a more structured approach.
  • The Comparisons Report is no longer available as as single report. We’ve taken some of the things we learned from that report and applied them across the site. We will be adding even more new ways to view your data soon.

What does all this mean?

For the time being, the new version of RescueTime is only available to our individual users (both free and premium).  If you are part of a Team account, a Research Project, or actively use the Projects feature, you will be automatically redirected back to the older version of RescueTime.  The data is seamlessly shared between the two versions of RescueTime and will be for at least the next month or two.

If you are currently viewing the new version of RescueTime and want to switch back to the old version, you can do so by clicking the “old version” link at the top of the RescueTime Dashboard.

If you are an individual user and are currently viewing the old version of RescueTime, you can switch to the new version by going to the “settings” link on the old RescueTime Dashboard and selecting the “Click here to switch to the new interface” link on your Account Settings page.

Team users don’t despair, we’ve got some nice shiny new love coming your way soon.

We hope you love the new version of RescueTime as much as we do.  We’re going to have a few bumps over the next couple of days, but we’ve got all hands on deck and will be addressing issues as they arise.  I encourage you to take a bit of time to wander around the new site, take a tour of the new features and then come back and give us some feedback!


We’re redesigning our dashboard, and we’d like your feedback

dashboard-question-mark

Understanding your time should easy and enjoyable. The two main ways people interact with RescueTime today are through the weekly summary emails and the dashboard. We recently put in a lot of work on improving the overall design and experience with our weekly emails, and now we’re turning our attention to the dashboard. The current dashboard is ok. It gives a decent overview of how you’re spending your time across several dimensions, and it’s certainly served us well for quite a while.

But we feel like it could be so much more. So, we’re thinking through some ways we could improve it, and we’d like your feedback.

Here are a few of the specific things we’d like to address:

Today the dashboard gives you a lot of facts – We’d like it to tell a story

The dashboard is pretty good at giving you a lot of trivia about yourself, but it falls down when it comes to providing context around those data points. We’d like to include more ways to highlight interesting changes, answer questions, and do a better job of pointing out interesting insights.

It doesn’t mobilize well

The overall presentation doesn’t lend itself to a small screen. We’re investigating some responsive design options that will allow the information to be more accessible across a range of screen sizes. Also, those Flash graphs that drive pretty much 90% of the content on the dashboard aren’t going to work on many mobile devices, so we’ll need to address that as well.

It isn’t a very satisfying experience for brand new users

One of the most troubling points of the overall user experience is the moment when someone first signs up, but hasn’t logged much time yet. We want the dashboard to do a better job of leading new users into the app and educating them about how to get the most from RescueTime.

It just feels a bit dated

The whole UI is in need of a dust-off. We want to give it a refresh and make the whole thing feel a bit more contemporary. Your data is telling you a pretty interesting story, and it deserves a beautiful presentation.

dashboard-sketches

Some of the piles of concept sketches we’ve been doing

So, we’re exploring several new ways we could present your data to you. We’re not rushing it, and we want to be careful, as it’s the page on our site that you are likely to interact with the most. To make sure we cover all the right bases, we’d love to get some feedback from you during this process. We’d love it if you could answer some of the following questions in the comments:

  1. When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn?
  2. Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to?
  3. Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they?
  4. Do you have any other thoughts that you think might be helpful to us as we think through this process?

Thanks for your feedback! We plan on keeping everyone in the loop as we work through it.


Building a Better Knowledge Worker, While Improving Your Team’s Productivity

Hi my name is Jason Grimes and I’m the VP of Product Marketing and Sales here at RescueTime. Not long ago, I hosted a webinar about how we can Build Better Knowledge Workers, While Improving Your Team’s Productivity. Quite a few RescueTimers, reporters and thought leaders attended. In this post I’ll cover some of the basics of the talk and for those that prefer the full length video it is included at the bottom of this post - http://youtu.be/kSVIfoT7lZ8

What Is a Knowledge Worker?

Dilbert Comic

Hopefully, when you think of knowledge worker, Dilbert is not the first thing that comes to your mind. For those of you unfamiliar with the Dilbert computer cartoons he is a character who experiences extreme productivity challenges in trying to achieve his every day work. Instead, what I’m picturing for a knowledge worker is someone who spends several hours in front of a computer performing their daily activities both online and off. Could be anyone from a Internet marketer, Software Engineer, Graphic Designer or Salesperson.

And as managers and business owners you already know that their time, is your money – SO

Imagine, Instead of having a team with 1 or 2 star performers you could encourage the use of a toolset that will enable your entire workforce to improve their efficiency, job satisfaction and help them gain an understanding of how they spend their time.

Let’s take a look at this further and see if RescueTime can help you.

What Is RescueTime?

RescueTime is a service that helps people understand how they spend their time on the computer and make changes based on that information.

What is RescueTime?

Why Is Understanding Your Time So Important?

It’s really important, because it gives people the proper information to make good choices and helps them ask a really critical question “Am I really spending my days the way I’d like to?” Once people start asking that question, a lot of fantastic things can fall out of it. People become better at self-managing. They get better at spotting inefficiencies in their day. Ultimately, they learn how to make measurable changes to impact their time in a positive way.

How to Build Better Knowledge Workers

So, knowing what a knowledge worker is and RescueTime’s purpose – How do you build better knowledge workers?

In any scientific experiment where you want to measure change you need to have or create a baseline. If you sign up for RescueTime and use it for approximately 2 weeks you should have an accurate baseline of how your teams are performing.

But graphs and baselines are not enough – you need to provide a digital toolkit with features like Productivity Dashboard, FocusTime.

By providing continuous feedback through the use of weekly emails, goals and alerts. We can provide these feedback loops that help knowledge workers improve their time management.

Now let’s examine each of these points.

Your Productivity Dashboard

Each of your team’s knowledge workers is presented with a customized Productivity Dashboard where it specifically looks at the following information:

RescueTime Dashboard

Starting from across the top:

  • Total Time – per time period (in this case a week)
  • Average / day in hours and minutes
  • Your employees productivity
  • Their most productive day.

With any of our RescueTime products you get this dashboard that will allow you to zero in on the information you want to see and you can print it, or export it to a CSV for further analysis.

Where Is Your Team’s Time spent?

This is often the most asked question from RescueTime users and managers – how is all of my time spent and in what categories?

Where is my team's time spent?

If I zero in on one of the important reports in the Productivity Dashboard, the All Categories report and It’s hard to see the graph at scale, but it shows approximately 10 hours of time spent on email and scheduling that have been recorded for the week posted. That’s valuable data – it shows where the bulk of my time is being spent and can provide business owners and managers with a high level of detail on how their employees are spending their time.

When Is Your Team in the Zone?

Note this is my data taken from our RescueTime team account, with myself selected as the employee.

Efficiency Summary

You may think you know everyone’s schedules and have a guess at their productivity – now you don’t have to guess. By looking at the schedules below you can quickly see when each employee is the most efficient – morning, afternoon, during the week or over the weekend – and you can have all of this measured against the Team’s average.

Taking a closer look at my schedule – I am most efficient in the morning. Why is that? My son is a rooster and I get up around 5:30am each day and start working not long after that. So mornings are my most productive times.

The take away from this slide is: Block your team’s most productive time out during the day and reserve it for their most important tasks.

FocusTime

This is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your employees productivity.

FocusTime

Start timeboxing your activities using RescueTime’s FocusTime feature. Free yourself from distractions and have laser like focus for periods of time. Most of our customers utilize this tool when they are under a deadline for a manager or studying a particular topic – and they use the heck out of it.

Weekly Email Summary

Our Weekly email summary is one of our most popular features

Weekly Email Summary

This email provides your team’s knowledge workers with the following level of details: (Looking from top down)

1.Total Time spent during the week
2.Versus the avg RescueTime user
3.Discusses your top categories and activities
4.And my favorite, seeing how you did against last weeks goals
Goals and Alerts within RescueTime
Goals and alerts are a valuable part of the feedback loops we try to provide our users and managers to make their teams more efficient while still accomplishing their daily work.

Goals

Let’s take a look at setting up some common goals and alerts within RescueTime.

5 Hours of Productivity – This is a goal we practice internally at RescueTime and it encourages us to work at least 5 hours of Productive time per day. We all know that we will all be at a desk 8-10 hours a day, but 5 of those hours should be downright productive!

Another alert is trying to keep time spent on email to less than 1.0 hour per day and social networking below 30 minutes. This keeps teams focused on their daily tasks and reminds them to stay on target.

Comparisons (Average)

Another great RescueTime feature is our Comparisons tool. It takes 30 days of data before it can show the calculations.

Primarily a tool used by your Team Members. This is a peek at one of my colleagues account data for the past 60 days using our Comparisons tool. Let’s take a look at the data that is presented.

Comparisons Average

At a glance you can easily see:

How our lead developer was performing on an Average Day, What were the top categories and activities.

It also allows you to see the same data when you can flip between An Average Day, Your Most Productive Days and Your Least Productive ways.

This provides team members with incredibly powerful data about their work patterns.

Here is a report showing data for our lead developer’s Most Productive Day.

Most Productive

Here is a report showing data for our lead developer’s Least Productive Day.

Least Productive

What Do Employees Get Out of Using RescueTime?

So you’ve seen highlights of some of our most popular features in RescueTime, but you still may have some questions for example – What do employees get out of it?

  • Be able to make positive changes
  • Greater sense of self-awareness and control
  • Know that they are spending time on the right things
  • Compare themselves to others
What Do You as an Owner or Manager Get Out of Using RescueTime?
Now as a business owner or manager here’s what you can expect from using RescueTime as part of your daily routine.
  • Know that you are getting the most out of your team
  • Ensure your team isn’t getting bogged down in communications or meetings
  • Understanding the overall flow of your team
  • And potentially increase billable hours

Building a Better Knowledge Worker is Possible!

So more than anything I want you to know that YES, it is possible to build a better knowledge worker!

  • Protect your most precious asset – TIME
  • Create a basic understanding of how your team operates (baselines)
  • Use RescueTime and all of its features to make better choices of how to use your time
  • Continuous improvement through feedback loops (dashboard, emails, goals, alerts)
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RescueTime Mobile v2 – Your feedback + collective brainstorm = Great app

(updated) v2 is now live in the market– blog update coming soon!

RescueTime for Android v2 is here– and it will serve as the template for all our mobile products. Try it out, contact us, and we’ll give you extra free Pro time.

Highlights:

  • Fully re-designed, native interface, works offline too
  • Manual / offline time tracking, fast and easy with voice input
  • Landscape and tablet friendly
  • Home screen is “hang on the wall pretty” productivity meter
  • Tap meter to switch day / week. Long tap for forced refresh (automatic periodically).
  • Send data over wifi only option

Version 1 was a proof-of-concept to show we could bring the same automatic tracking you expect from RescueTime for your computers to your smartphones. We’re happy to bring you version 2 now as a slick, full-featured, easy to use mobile app. Leaving the automatic tracking intact, we’ve overhauled everything else from the ground up with an emphasis on user experience and feature value. Chief among the advancements is simple and easy offline time tracking that can be voice driven.

Fixes and Improvements

  • Call log now honors “pause” status
  • Detail report moved to Android browser, for better scrolling and seamless experience
  • Syncs with your desktop and website RescueTime settings (schedule and offline choice list)
  • Can be re-registered without a re-install if your SIM changes
  • In-app help
  • Tweaks for memory and cpu efficiency
Instructions for beta app install here:
Download the app here:
Let Mark know you’ve installed it for free Pro upgrade / extension.

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Note: the “choose productivity” option in the tracking screens is not yet functional. Everything else is.

RescueTime Android App 2.0: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

(updated) RescueTime Android 2.0 is live in the marketplace– check it out.

tldr; Animated productivity meter, offline time entry tool (with optional location sensitive suggestion wizard!), more reporting views and basic graphs, fix call log honoring pause feature, update with wifi only option…

Here’s a teaser screen shot from the working alpha version; the color gradually shifts from red to blue as you cross the 50% percentile into productive land; this will also be shrunken to a widget size for your home screen:

Android V2 teaser: the active color sweep meter

Hi Folks,
We’ve got a bit over a month under our belt with our Android app in the wild. We’ve been juiced up with Google IO awesomeness. We’ve got about 1000 mobile users trying us out, and climbing. Our first goal was to satisfy people clamoring for basic automatic mobile time tracking, but it’s time to start on what’s next!

You’ve been great about feedback, and we’ve had some ideas of our own. Top of the list is of course “When iOS?!!”. Well, the on-device app activity tracking has particular challenges on that platform, but we see RescueTime for Android 2.0 as an opportunity to prove the case of a general purpose tool that complements RescueTime and adds new capabilities unique to mobile devices, and can feel the same on all platforms. This allows us to progress on a parallel iOS project while tackling app tracking separately.

Key among the new features will be:

UI Redesign We’ve gone back and rebuilt the interface from the ground up to get the best performance and user experience out of Android, based on what we’ve learned.

Tracker: This tool will be a handy way to more precisely track offline or away-from-device, or whatever-you-want time. It will have a start-stop button, and way to assign what it was that can be entered as text, spoken using voice recognition, or (optionally, turn it off if you want!) “suggested” based on location data.

Better Data Views: We’ll have a Launcher widget productivity meter. We’ll be cacheing some data app-side, so you can see some results even when offline– this will also improve speed. Additionally, improvements to the UI will add more reporting perspectives.

New Preferences: You can tell RescueTime to only update data over WiFi, if you want. Also, you can decide whether or not to let us use Location information to remember offline time options (note: even when enabled, this data won’t leave your device, it’s only used locally to help out).

Errata Fixes: Call log history will now honor your pause status (calls made during pause periods will not get reported, up to a reasonable point in history). The current “update frequency” control only affects repeated updates while the device is on continuously– every time you turn your phone off, or open the dashboard, in the current design an update is sent. In v2, it will honor the frequency control here as well.

This is some of what is in the plans right now (some of it’s already coded!), not a guarantee of what’s delivered of course. Let us know what you think! Also, I’ll be posting for those interested in beta access in a week or two.

–Mark Wolgemuth


Google IO Follow Up: Why candy is good for you

tldr; Innovation gets easier, loots = better apps sooner, look for substantial feature adds on RescueTime Android and full featured Chrome version.

Well, we’re back from Google IO. I can say, having been there three times running now– this one was rampant with the nerd herd stampeding from one awesomeness to the next like no other place on earth. Like squirrels in a nuthouse. Android momentum is, as they say, “off the chain”. Alright, I’m done with the memetheme, here’s the meat:

The best news is the claimed effort to de-splinter platform branches across all types of devices with Android, Chrome and the Chrome OS. This really will make the world easier, for a company like ours. This includes the drive for Ice Cream Sandwich release to bring phone, tablet, tv, and whatever Android device under the same tree. It lets us programmatically adapt to device capabilities inside one version of RescueTime rather than building from separate branches to separate targets. And that means you get our app on your device sooner, and likely more bug free. It also encourages us to think outside the box, by making funky lateral product spread easy, like maybe a realtime team pulse dashboard for your office lobby? or automatic coupon credits to your mobile dev for hitting goals in RescueTime?

As to the Candy Store at the Chocolate Factory: the practice of showering uberloots on attendees has its detractors, but my (possibly biased, heh) opinion is that this makes perfect sense: I was able to track down an issue with RescueTime on tablets that the emulator couldn’t help me with, in about an hour, thanks to having a tablet to test with in hand. Developers using Google tool kits get updates out faster than other platforms by virtue of Google sponsored test platform access.

Even more exciting is the chance to work on a full featured Chrome / Chrome OS version of RescueTime that will work online + offline on the browser and upcoming chromebooks. Using HTML5 and Chrome APIs *should* let us provide a seamless experience in both browser-only and full OS systems. When imagining this kind of dev effort, there’s a big difference between planning out your strategy, functional item in hand, chatting with the Google project manager and engineer who worked on the APIs, than sitting at a desk hunting StackOverflow and waiting on user group posts. It’s the fast track for good apps that a submit-a-form-lottery wouldn’t provide.

What do we expect next year? There’s an obvious collision course for Android and Chrome, I expect there to be news on that front. This kind of collapse-of-complexity innovation lets companies like us focus on what we’re trying to be best at: using data to help you understand yourself better, helping people get more done and hopefully getting them more quality play time while we’re at it, rather than tracking down the latest reason for some client feature to fail on some variously-patched desktop system on some archaic OS.

What would I ask from Google for next year? Let’s have more deep dive technical sessions. Maybe some more on linking between platforms and services (eg Chrome OS -> AppEngine). Most important for you to compete with Amazon to get the start-up pool? You need to provide some kind of migration path or toolkit for those of us with monstrous and complicated data mines. Smart, funded early startups are already past the prototype stage and can ill afford much platform layer costs. Finally, the idea of the Developer Advocate is great- build on that, and spread out geographically to get face to face outside the valley.

– Mark Wolgemuth FIRSTNAME@rescuetime.com