A RescueTime feature you should know about: Alerts

Since joining the RescueTime team in January I’ve been learning about some of the RescueTime features I’d previously overlooked. I’ve already explored daily highlights, which let you keep notes about what you work on throughout the day. They’re great for adding context to your RescueTime data.

But today I’m exploring a feature that’s more proactive in helping you focus and work on what’s most important. Alerts are customizable notifications based on your RescueTime activity. Alerts are part of RescueTime Premium.


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What are Alerts?

Alerts are notifications that pop up on your computer screen or send you an email. You can trigger alerts based on a certain period of productive time, distracting time, or even a particular category.

So you could have an Alert pop up when you hit your productive time goal for the day, or when your productive time is large enough to suggest you’ve been working too long.

You can also use Alerts to let you know when you’ve been slacking off too much by racking up a large amount of distracting time.

Or you could use specific categories, and create an Alert to let you know when you’ve spent too much time on email, or you’ve hit your goal for time spent coding.

If you’ve set time filters in your RescueTime account, you can also use these for your Alerts. So if you have a time filter for working hours and one for non-work time, for instance, you could set Alerts to pop up during working hours but to leave you alone when you’re relaxing.

You can also customize the message in each of your Alerts, and if you use a popup on your computer then you can optionally choose to automatically block distracting sites when you get an Alert or to automatically open a website. You might set a regular Alert, for instance, that automatically opens up RescueTime’s daily highlights page to remind you to make a note of what you’ve been working on.

How do you create Alerts?

Premium RescueTime users can set up new Alerts on the Goals & Alerts page. Click on the “Create a new alert” button and choose email or a popup (or both) and when you want to see the Alert.


That’s it!

But you can also do more with your Alerts using Zapier and IFTTT. For instance, with Zapier you can share your Alerts on Twitter, send your Alerts via Pushbullet or SMS, or get notified about your Alerts in Slack. You can even get a phone call for each Alert, or save them to a Google spreadsheet.

IFTTT can notify you about new RescueTime Alerts, log them to your Google Calendar, or post about it on Facebook.

IFTTT Recipe: When an alert triggers for a particularly long day, vent about it on Facebook

IFTTT Recipe: Keep a log of when alerts are triggered on your Google Calendar

IFTTT Recipe: Send an IF notification when a RescueTime alert is triggered

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

IFTTT Recipe: Log my RescueTime alerts to a spreadsheet

Why use Alerts?

I asked some of our users why they use Alerts. Here are some of the best examples of how useful Alerts can be in different situations.

Stopping time on Twitter from getting out of hand

I use RescueTime alerts to “snap me out of it” when I get sucked into Twitter! I have one set for 15 minutes, one for 30 minutes, one for 45 minutes, and one for 1 hour.Adam Wolf

Achieving goals

I use the alert feature to let me know when I’ve met a goal–for example, spent over a certain amount of time doing a productive activity–or failed one, like spending over a certain amount of time on a distracting activity. This is a great way for me to be affirmed in meeting my goals the moment I meet them, and also gives me a quick view of my week when I review my productivity. It’s both a challenge and an affirmation, and it feels great to get the alert that lets me know I succeeded in my missions!Channah

For taking time to rest

I set an alarm every 30min to get up and stretch for a moment. After two hours I put in a longer break for meditation.Holger

To avoid bad habits

I try to use them to stop my distracting habits. I have alerts that warn me when I spend too much time on Whatsapp or Wikipedia: “30 minutes on whatsapp? why have you even come to the office today?”Elena

Regular check-ins

When I’m working I have an alert at 3hrs of productive time to remind me to write a quick blurb about what I’ve been doing to track my progress. I also have an alert at 1 hr to remind me if I’m being productive. If I’m really focused it’s a good reminder to tell me how much I’ve done in one hour (as a benchmark/reference for time spent). If I haven’t done much in an hour, the alert tells me that I’ve been working but that I should switch gears because I haven’t made much progress.Nathan Li

Staying accountable

I also like to combine the Focustime and Alerts features. If I spend over X amount of time on distracting activities, I’ll get an alert, and then Focustime will activate and block all distracting websites for a set period. That keeps me accountable and helps me establish a mental clock for how I’ve spent my time.Channah

Getting your day back on track

Automate it via IFTTT to trigger Focus Time when I have 2 hours of distracting time!Andrew Kalek

How are you using Alerts? Let us know in the comments. Or get started with Alerts now, with RescueTime Premium.

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Belle B. Cooper

Belle is an iOS developer, writer, and co-founder of Melbourne-based software company Hello Code. She writes about productivity, lifehacks, and finding ways to do more meaningful work.