App Shows You Where All the Time Goes
Awareness can be a bitch. For example, it’s one thing to have an intellectual understanding that factory farming is bad based on articles and some statistics. It’s another to visit a factory farm or see one of those gnarly PETA videos. Unlike the heady intellect, awareness is visceral and far more likely to impact our behavior. Similarly–though far less horrifically–we can intellectualize how we fritter away time on activities that add minimal value to our lives, but until we see the cold, hard data, until we become fully aware of the impact of our time-wasting, those concepts will, in all probability, fail to inspire change. If you are committed to making the most of your time and life, if you want to see the truth–even if it’s a little or very uncomfortable–an app called RescueTime might help.
Many of us spend a good deal of our waking hours on computers. As we discussed the other day, some of that time is put to good use and a bunch of it is not. RescueTime promises to “Measure Your Digital Life,” giving us a breakdown of where exactly we’re putting our time when we’re on our computers.
Setup is easy. Just download the RescueTime app and enable it to monitor your computer’s activity (also available as a browser extension). RescueTime Lite is free and allows you to categorize which types of sites and applications are productive and which are not; for example, I listed “Design and Composition” as productive and “Entertainment” as not productive (it does not account for sites that start off productive, but devolve into unproductive, like Huffington Post). There are also neutral sites like Google.com. You can set daily time goals for each, e.g. a goal of logging five hours on productive sites and apps and a goal of limiting yourself to one hour on non-productive ones.
RescueTime also has a Premium version which gets more detailed about your time usage data. It can give you hour-by-hour reports of where your time goes. It will monitor your computer activity and if you take off for a while, it will ask you what you were doing and allow you to manually log your activity. It allows you to block distracting websites, it sends push notifications for various goals and statistics and features a host of other productivity-enabling features. It costs $9/month or $72/year.
RescueTime is available for OSX, Windows, Linux and Android operating systems. It’s available as a Firefox or Chrome extension as well. You might notice it is not available for iOS, which might be limiting for those who frequently use their iPhones or iPads.
As Ben Franklin once remarked, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of,” but many of us aren’t aware that we squander time or the extent to which we do. RescueTime helps us see where our time goes, thereby cultivating the awareness to make the behavioral changes that will put it to better use.