“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
RescueTime is a great tool for keeping track of how you’re spending your time on your digital devices. And while knowledge is power, sometimes we need a little help to keep us on the right track.
Researchers have proven that willpower alone isn’t enough to change our behaviors. We need reminders to help us do the things we want to do and stop doing those we don’t.
Which is why we developed RescueTime Alerts.
What are RescueTime Alerts and how do you set them up?
Alerts are nudges that help you stay on track with the goals you want to hit.
Each RescueTime Alert is tied to a specific goal or habit change you want to make. For example, they can let you know if you’ve hit a daily time goal (like writing/coding for 3 hours) or if you’ve spent too long on distracting sites. They can even trigger actions like blocking unproductive websites or logging events.
RescueTime Alerts take the guesswork out of where your time is going and give you real-time feedback on your actual behaviors so you can be aware, stop, and adjust.
Think of them like guardrails for your motivation.
To set them up, simply navigate to the Goals & Alerts page. Click on the “Create a new alert” button, choose email or a popup (or both) and when you want the alert to be active.
That’s it! If you’re looking to break a bad habit, or build better new ones, RescueTime Alerts are one of the easiest ways to help get you there.
Alerts are a feature that’s only available to RescueTime Premium accounts. Check out our plans here and see what works best for your time management needs.
9 Creative RescueTime Alerts to help you be more productive
To get you inspired to make changes with how you use your time, we’ve put together some of the most creative RescueTime Alerts you can start using today.
To set them up in your personal RescueTime account, click the links below to see a ‘recipe’ for each alert. You can add each alert to your account with one click. And can customize the alert to suit your needs before you save it.
Before we dive in… we suggest only picking a few Alerts to get started with. Trying to take on too much change at once is a recipe for failure
Perfect your morning routine: Start your day off right with a FocusTime session
There are few things that can improve your productivity like crafting the right morning routine. Yet mornings are also incredibly vulnerable. According to a recent Deloitte report, 89% of smartphone users look at their phone within an hour of waking up.
It’s too easy to get caught in distractions or read a piece of upsetting news first thing in the morning. So why not set yourself up right with an automatic FocusTime session?
With this Alert, distracting sites, like news and social media will be automatically blocked on your computer for 30 minutes at the start of your day, giving you a chance to get started on the right foot.
If you’re using the RescueTime Android app, your phone’s do-not-disturb mode will kick on for the duration of your FocusTime session as well.
Know if you’re working on the right task: Get an alert after 1 hour of productive time
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he said this. It’s so easy to spend all day feeling productive when you’re answering emails or Slack conversations and hit the end of the day and say: What did I actually do?
This RescueTime Alert gives you a quick reminder after an hour of time spent on productive tasks to make sure you’re working on the right thing. You can even set another one for 3 hours (or any other time) to keep you on track all day long.
Feel free to customize the message that comes up to whatever makes sense for you. I’ve found a simple “Are you working on the right thing?” is enough to keep me in check.
Limit your social media use during working hours: Set a daily quota for social media (and block it afterwards)
The internet is filled with distractions. However, few seem to have as powerful of a grip on our attention as social media. And while many of us use social media for our jobs, it’s probably a good idea to set a limit on how much time you spend on it during working hours.
With this RescueTime Alert, you’ll automatically go into a FocusTime session and block distracting websites once you hit your quota for social media use during the work day.
You can choose the hours that this Alert (and any other one) is active for. So if you work weird hours, or want guilt-free social media use during any specific times, simply change when the Alert is active.
Get a virtual high-five when you’re killing it: Get notified when you hit a daily work goal
While Alerts are great for stopping you from bad behaviors, they’re also great ways to reward you for good ones.
When you’re trying to build a new habit, it’s hard to get feedback that you’re on the right track. But with this RescueTime Alert, you can let yourself know when you’ve hit a daily milestone.
For example, here’s what my alert looks like for 3 hours spent on writing:
You can customize the activity to whatever you’d like (coding, design, etc…). The key here is to let you know when you’ve done a good job at focusing on your core work.
Give yourself a weapon in the fight against inbox overload: Show a reminder if you’ve spent too long on emails or IM
We spend a lot of time on email and instant messenger. In fact, from our own research looking at close to a quarter billion hours of productive time, we found the average person checks email every 7.5 minutes during the workday. No wonder we have so much trouble getting real work done.
This RescueTime Alert lets you know when you’ve been sucked into the trap of your inbox for too long.
And what does ‘too long’ mean? Well, that’s up to you. For me, I’ve got mine set for 30 minutes (I’m trying to be aspirational here!)
Beat the afternoon slump: Get an alert when you spend too much time on distractions post-lunch
Distractions can sneak up on you at any time throughout the day. However, most of us are especially vulnerable in the hours after lunch.
The initial spike of energy from the morning has worn off and we’re ready to dive into YouTube, social media, or generally reactive tasks. Before you know it, the whole afternoon is wasted.
This RescueTime alert tracks those all-important hours and lets you know if you’re slipping into distraction.
The recipe is set up to alert you if you spend more than 1 hour of distracting time during the afternoon. However, you can change that number to whatever makes sense for you.
Keep track of your progress: Set a reminder to log the work you did yesterday
We’ve written before about the power of tracking your progress. Researchers have found that reflection is one of the most powerful tools for keeping us motivated, productive, and happy at work.
This RescueTime Alert reminds you to take a moment at the end of your day (or first thing in the morning) to write down the work you’ve done. These Highlights can give you great insight into how you’re working and show you whether or not you’re staying on track with hitting your goals.
If you want to learn more about RescueTime Highlights and how they can help you keep track of what you’ve done, check out this blog post.
Save yourself from burnout: Let you know if you’ve done too much good work
Productive work is great. But too much productive work is a recipe for burnout. It’s easy to feel like you should be hitting hours upon hours of good work. But meaningful work means being in it for the long haul. Not burning yourself out every single day.
This RescueTime Alert will let you know once you’ve hit your max daily time for productive work. Whether that’s 5 hours or 7 or more is up to you. However, it’s good to have a reminder to take a step back.
If you want to take it even further, you can set up this Alert to send you somewhere away from work (like puppy photos on reddit.com/r/aww. Dumb, but effective.)
Stop yourself from working overtime: Get an alert for when you’re working out of hours
At RescueTime, we’re all about finding a healthy work-life balance. Which means trying to stay away from emails and work when the work day is over. Yes, sometimes it’s impossible and things need to get done. But being aware that you’re working when you’d rather be spending time with friends, family, or Netflix is a good start towards building better habits.
This RescueTime Alert will let you know once you’ve done 30 minutes of productive work outside of your normal working hours (or whatever hours you’d like).
If you want to take it a step further, you can even connect this Alert to an automated phone call to tell you to stop working. (Our CEO, Robby does this if he’s working after midnight to scare him into going to bed).
What else can you do with RescueTime Alerts?
I hope this gives you a good idea of just some of the ways you can use RescueTime Alerts to keep you on track all day long. But this is just a starting point.
RescueTime Alerts are flexible enough that you can set them for whatever specific habits you’re trying to make or break. (Not to mention what you can do when you connect them to other services using Zapier or IFTTT. But we’ll get into those another day!)
Play around and let us know your favorite Alerts in the comments below.