How a time analysis tool helped me to improve my work productivity and myself

8 minute read

Foreword

The was a period in my career when I was not able to fully concentrate at my work. There were days which I spent on doing anything but work. I would read articles, books, check and write emails, check feeds on social platforms, shopping, etc.

I am not going to describe how I ended up there. It is possible that one of the reasons was dissatisfaction with my topic. It bored me a lot. Yet, I knew it was important to stay professional and deliver your work as soon as possible, no matter if your personal preferences changed.

There were days when I was able to get some work done, but it was never consistent. Back then I was wasting my time on useless activities. Lots of time. It was obvious to me that I had obtained some bad habits that took control over my work life and prevented me from growing bigger professionally.

I wanted to change my bad habits into good ones. I tried few things that are supposed to improve one’s working focus. Among them, it was a RescueTime tool that was the most effective. In this blog post, I will provide an overview of the tool, give some numbers of my current working efficiency and tell about what good habits I earned to replace my bad ones.

RescueTime

Overview

The first time I heard about RescueTime was on a certain news site. It immediately caught my attention and in 10 minutes I was subscribed for my free account. The idea of time tracking in order to analyze where your time goes seemed a life changing. And indeed, it changed the way I work today.

One of the great advantages of RescueTime is its simple usage. No need to spend much of your time on figuring out how to install it and use it. On day one it starts tracking what exactly you are going. By providing some user input, you can tune certain parameters and help the software to classify what activities are considered to be time wasting or productive for you.

As someone who does lots of software development and research, I was happy to learn that certain development activities were recognizable and were already classified into categories, for example, using Vim falls into software development category. The same was also provided for certain web-sites such as stackoverflow, Qt’s doc which would fall into reference and learning category.

For the rest of unclassified data, I tried to spend few minutes every couple days or so. As a result, I started to get my precise working charts in a matter of a week. The first statistical data gave me an initial overview on how I spend my time, and it also provided me an insight of how efficient I was.

That is what gave my first motivation boost. Knowing there is something watching over me and counting what I do, made me want to work better. But I did it rather for myself, so that to feel better about myself and be proud for the work I do.

Main features

When installed and running, RescueTime is collecting application usage statistics and then it sends, processes and displays your data on a dashboard which is a your account web page on RescueTime website.

Whenever I go my dashboard, I see my daily statistics data:

RT-dashboard

From that quick overview, I can already tell how well I perform compared to the previous day. The big number in a circle indicates a productivity pulse which is a percentage measure of your productivity. In my case it is about 82%. That number starts to make more sense as you learn about your weekly productivity.

It is also possible to see statistics over several month or even years (for that, you would need to upgrade you account).

RT-dashboard

RT-dashboard

Another interesting feature is statistics over tasks. It will provide you an insight what activities take most of your time:

RT-dashboard

Hopefully, by now you have a basic idea how visually appealing and convenient the tool is. There are many more features that could be useful, and I will name few of them:

  • Automatic email with weekly statistics and other alerts
  • Time range for monitoring options
  • Software development reporting by connection your account to github
  • Available for different platforms and is very convenient if you use several machines (e.g. at work and at home)
  • Premium account features such as offline time tracking, focus time and more

New good habits

Besides becoming more productive and disciplined at my work, I acquired couple more habits that I consider to be good.

At first, I stopped being dependent on social media platforms, emails and shopping web-sites. I almost stopped using sites like Facebook which I consider to be a step forward even in personal life.

Previously, I could spent at least an hour each day on social media platforms. One hour per day might not seem that much until you start to count how many hours per year it is and what you could have done with that time instead. That wasting time is now replaced by other activities - not only at work, but also in free time. I feel like my quality of life has improved.

At second, I started to feel more confident about myself. Our work is a very big part in our lives, so it is very important to have a pride in your job because it influences other parts of your life. Nowadays I feel much more confident about what I do and how I do it. I feel much more professional as well. The best part is that other people feel that change too, and they start to treat you differently. And it may lead to new opportunities and as a result - improvement of your life’s quality.

Afterword

From my experience, I found there are two components of the most fruitful work. The first is to chose an interesting topic to work on, and the second one is time tracking and anlysis. While at times it can be challenging to always end up with the most exciting topic, the second factor is something that is totally your responsibility, always.

After trying different time management options, the most effective to me had happened to be RescueTime tool. The main idea of RescueTime is to provide a weekly overview on how you spend your time while at the computer. It helped me to identify time-eating activities which are not essential for my work such as constantly checking emails, social platforms, reading tech-related news and opinions. From the very beginning it helped me to better motivate myself and aim for higher productivity.

I believe if you do software development, it is a must to track your time. And you don’t do it for your boss, but for yourself. In my case, the tracking did not only improved my productivity, but also allowed me to become a better version of myself internally.

Interested to try RescueTime?

If my personal example motivated you to try the RescueTime, why not use my referral link: sign-up for RescueTime account? While it can change the way you work, your sign-up would give me a 30-day of premium rights. While I do not find necessary to use the premium features for the moment, it would be a little pleasant bonus for me. Thank you.

More curious stats

When I started working at the full speed of my productivity, I always wondered if I could achieve more. My average pure-development activities would rarely surpass 6 hours, and some days would be around 4 hours per day. Apparently, those numbers are pretty normal (other factors may influence them such as company size and years of experience).

See the answers on link below on some average numbers:

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