How we use RescueTime, at RescueTime.

We built RescueTime because we thought it should be easier to make sure we’re spending our time the way we want to. It has opened up a whole new world of data for us, and we wanted to share some of the ways we make use of it around the office.

Forming a baseline lets us read the pulse of our team at a glance.

RescueTime lets us see how much time we’re spending on the computer, without having to keep time sheets or manual logs. By categorizing different applications and websites, we can get a pretty good sense of how much time we’re spending on productive stuff vs. unproductive stuff. That gets really cool when you have enough data for patterns to jump out. It also makes it really easy to see when something weird (not necessarily bad) happens.

Take the month of April, for example:

It’s clear that something is very different about the first week, and that it appears something odd happened on the last day of the month. Turns out two of us were out of town during the first week, and on the last day we were trying to make some end-of-the-month deadlines.

Working 9-5? Not us.

UPDATE: Here’s a post from our CEO explaining the “5-hr productive rule” in much better detail.

We completely got rid of having set working hours. After looking at a couple months of our data, we decided that 5 hours of productive time per day is a pretty good average. We set up an alert for RescueTime to let us know when we’ve reached that 5 hour mark, and use that instead of a set hourly schedule. This flexibility works out really well for us (especially considering we’re a semi-distributed team). We still make sure there are a few hours in the day that we’re all available at the same time, but aside from that it’s up to each person to decide when they want to work.

Meetings at exactly the right time.

We use RescueTime’s efficiency report and comparisons report to figure out what times we’re the most productive and then never schedule a meeting on top it. Since meetings can be a bit of a distraction anyways, we try to reserve meetings for the times of day when we’re already a little bit scattered to begin with.

Unfortunately, it’s not totally homogenous, some people are more focused in the mornings and others in the afternoon. Having that extra context is still a huge help, though. (For example, I won’t go near a meeting on Tuesday afternoons, which is when I’m the most focused.)

It’s not just for team-wide decisions, either.

Those are a few ways that RescueTime impacts our entire team. Individually, we use our RescueTime data in all sorts of ways. Here’s a few highlights:

Robby (Product Development / Design):

“I use the time reports along with some metrics from other systems to figure out how long it takes me to do certain things. For instance, I can pretty easily tell that I spend just over 11 minutes on each customer support request I deal with (on average). I’d really like to bring that number down, and its easier to do now that I have a visible baseline.”

Joe (CEO / does a little bit of everything):

“I find it invaluable being able to know how long I’ve been working on a specific task. By being able to search for an individual document, like “linux_extended_info_grabber_sqlite.cpp”, I can see that I spent 4 hours 16 minutes so far this week working on that coding that feature. In that same search, I can see how much time others in my group have spent on that same document. Being able to look back at this type of data is amazingly powerful for me. It helps me estimate times better, judge overall effort, and make better business decisions.”

Mark (Chief Architect):

“I find value in surprisingly specific ways. For example, sometimes I will compare time spent in terminal applications versus code editors, to confirm or dispute the emotional feeling that I’m dragging and thrashing due to too much incremental testing (evinced by excessive terminal / shell time). And, probably unlike others, I’ll sometimes respond to my communications / email category to being too little of my time, and force myself to re-engage some lagging communications efforts.”

Jason (Sales / Marketing)

“I love having the Offline time prompt. It is motivating to me to keep me working, and it allows me to enter valuable time spent on the phone or Skype with customers. By categorizing all of my time, even unproductive time, it provides me with a clear picture across the top on how I’m performing that day, versus my best day and how many hours a day I average.”

It’s probably worth noting that anything in this post could be applied in either a team setting or for a single individual.

How are you using RescueTime?

One comment

  1. That is awesome to see how you guys are using you own product.
    The only thing I would like to yet see on Rescue Time is the ability to add Goals easily, by identifying productive tasks and helping us to stay focuses.
    Although I love the reports, what I want the most is to be better and do more of my work, and I believe a notification and internet Blackout would help a lot.

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