I like Data Analytics! I like it even more when Data analytics is used to extract insights that you can act upon! One such example in the space of time management/tracking would be a great app that I have using for the past six months now called – RescueTime; I see this app as a platform to carry out “data analytics” to increase my productivity. I called it a platform because it “collects” how I am spending time on my computer/web and whenever I want I can login to their portal/dashboard and analyze how I spent my time – And then I act upon the insights I get from their platform. I’ve shared one example at the end of the article but before that – let’s learn more about RescueTime and how it can help YOU too; Quoting from their website:
RescueTime is a tool that allows you to easily understand and optimize how you and your team spends their time and attention. One of the most important things about RescueTime is that there is NO DATA ENTRY. You install a small application on the computers at your company and we magically track what software and which web sites are actively being used
Now. here are the Five things that I like about RescueTime. Note that I am an individual user using the Free version of RescueTime:
1. weekly summary email:
I like receiving weekly summary emails – It gives me the high level overview how I spent my week. Few things metrics I like: Total Time (broken down by categories), How productive I was (in %) – for e.g. it would tell me that I was 62% productive during the week, lists the top activity and my productivity breakdown.
2. “Productivity By Day”chart:
Nice Data Visualization! you can quickly see which day was the most productive day for you:
3. Time Spent by Category/Tags
A nice report on Time Spent by Categories is shown in the Dashboard. Every activity logged by RescueTime is automatically grouped into categories. Examples of few categories are: Software Development, Social networking, writing, Email, Entertainment. And this brings me to my next point:
4. Customize how activities are “categorized”.
By default, RescueTime puts all our activities in categories but sometimes it doesn’t do it the way you want. So for instance when I open Excel – I want this activity to be categorized into “business” but it gets logged as “writing”. In such cases – you can change the category of an activity and next when the same activity is logged then it gets the latest category that you had specified.
Also RescueTime divides each activity logged into buckets of “very productive”, “productive”, “neutral”, “very distracting” – you can change the productivity category of an activity too. Note that this is used in #2 “Productivity by Day” chart
5. No manual data entry – it’s automated
It just works. Though it has an disadvantage that you can not control how it categorizes each activity while it is logging the activity and if you do spend time in reviewing what it did – then reports that you’ll see might be skewed. But when you find time, you’ll have to spare few minutes (only initially as a new user) to tune the categories and productivity tags as the way you want. But once you have done it – it works well. No hassle – it runs in the background and does its work of logging each activity!
And lastly as promised, An Example of how I used the insights made available by RescueTime:
I decided to reduce the time that I spent on social networks by 50% after I saw that I use to spend about 350 minutes weekly! So now – I am saving at least about 2 hours each week! This is the report I created based on my past “summary emails” to show the Trend about Number of minutes per week that I spent on social networks:
That’s about it for this post! check out RescueTime if you want to save few hours of your time and increase your productivity! And if you already track your activities – how do you do it? Do you use RescueTime or similar app? Start a discussion in the comments section!
UPDATE 27 Nov 2012: I got one year of RescueTime Pro in return for posting my views about RescueTime. Thanks RescueTime!