I found RescueTime a while ago, and signed up for the free account.  More recently I upgraded to the Pro solo account, which costs 6 USD a month.

What it does for free
Tracks your computer usage, including websites and programs.  The productivity levels of all your computer use is then scored on a scale from -2 to 2.  It then displays a bunch of different charts on a page called your “dashboard” to summarize your activities in a variety of different ways.

What I payed money for
The best feature of the Pro account, in my opinion, is the RescueTime blocker.  I can set my account to “Focus Time” and the website will block all of my “Very Distracting” sites (scored as -2 on their productivity scale).
Other paid for features include being able to track specific documents, and being able to log time that was spent away from the computer.

Complexity as a Double-Edged Sword
RescueTime is endlessly customizable.  These are a few of the ways you can personalize your account:

  • Set the productivity levels for each activity, or use the default values.
  • Group activities into categories, including categories that you create.
  • Designate blocks of time (or activities) that were spent on certain projects.
  • Change which charts show up on your dashboard.
  • Look at different timescales: current year/month/week/day
  • Set goals.
  • Change the hours of when this program is on (to match your workday perhaps?)
  • etc etc etc

This is all great, making the program more relevant to the user – but they also require your time to sort through different activities and adjust the various settings.  Also, the dashboard can be a bit overwhelming, it slices and dices your data in so many different ways!  It takes a bit of time to explore the charts and figure out what they are really telling you, and what you really want to know.  Overall, the complexity is a good thing, but the program isn’t very intuitive, I really think that the user interface could be much improved.

Does it improve productivity?
Sure. but…  …only if you use it in a way that works for you.

For me, the rescuetime blocker is worth it  – but first I have to honestly list my distractions as -2 productivity, and then I have to actually turn on the blocker.  (Currently I’m bribing myself to turn it on every day.)

The rest of the site is interesting too.  I think it’s helpful to see exactly where I waste my time, and how much time was wasted – but I then have to interpret that data and use it for my goal setting or other planning activities.

 

Final Word
RescueTime starts off as free, so I recommend that everyone try it out.
As for the Pro account, I recommend that you think before buying, as it’s probably not for everyone.
For me, I’m glad I bought into it.

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