Category: Websites


RescueTime

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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Remember the Milk

Lists are my friend.

I create lists for everything, because they’re fun.  I usually have a number of lists on the go: ideas for Christmas presents, gym workouts, creative ideas, movies I want to see, movies I think I should see, housekeeping chores, etc etc etc (the list goes on).

One thing that I did in the New Year, as part of my last attempt to get my procrastination under control, was to sign-up for a free digital list-making app: www.rememberthemilk.com.  There are a bunch of different to-do list websites out there, and I looked at a few of them, eventually selecting remember the milk (RTM) because it’s free and because it’s simple.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a digital to-do list.  You can start with the most basic features, creating a to-do list.  It’s really easy to use.  But the beauty is that it has many complex features that are entirely optional, and you can explore them as you please, some of the features include:

  • making multiple lists (as many as you want)
  • creating deadlines for your tasks
  • making tasks repeat on any interval you’d like
  • tagging your tasks for easier searching or sorting (there is a tag cloud built into the site too)
  • prioritizing your tasks
  • creating “smart lists” that show a collection of tasks based on the search criteria you set up
  • sharing your lists with other users

The best thing about this site is that the developers seem to be focused on keeping it simple.  For example, you can only prioritize your tasks at three levels (or no priority at all).  This is great, because I don’t want a complicated system – I just want to know when things are high priority (red) or low priority (light blue).   Because their software is simple, it forces me to keep things simple.

As far as my success in using this.  It helped me a bit.  It’s been great for keeping me on track with financial payments.  I used to procrastinate paying bills simply because it is unpleasant, which meant that I would often pay my credit card bill after the due date.  I KNOW that this is stupid, and that it kills my credit rating.  But I would still do it.  But this small reminder on my RTM account is keeping me more honest, and I’ve been paying my bills on time as a result.

But I’ve also had trouble with it.  If I have a lot of overdue tasks (they turn bold and underlined) then I’m more likely to avoid checking my account.  It gets a bit overwhelming.  I just need to be better at using it.  RTM is just a tool, I’m the one who decides what to do with that tool.

Final words: Remember the Milk is a great little piece of software.  And it’s free!