One of my big goals right now is building deep focus and eliminating habits of distraction from my workday. I want to come in, kick ass for eight hours, and go home happy. And just like budgeting money, it’s hard for me to know if I’m ahead or behind if I don’t have an objective picture of where I am.

Yesterday while browsing a productivity blog (oh the irony!) I stumbled across the time-tracking tool I’ve been searching for: Rescue Time. It’s a lightweight application that logs what window is in the foreground, and for how long, and uploads this information to the cloud. You assign ratings to various programs and websites as ‘productive’ or ‘distracting’ and it reports back exactly where you spent your time at the computer and how productive you’ve been, hour-by-hour, or month-by-month. SWEET. (And of course it has a variety of options for scrubbing data you don’t want tracked. Ahem.)

Rescue Time productivity report

Rescue Time productivity report

Better still: it can be set to nag or praise you based on goals you set, and you can tell it to enforce focused work by blocking certain sites or programs for a set period of time. Perfect for helping me exercise my focus muscle.

The Enforcer

A few years ago I spec’d out a tool that would do most of this but I never had it built. Rescue Time’s implementation is way better than what I envisioned. It’s beautiful and easy to use. Right now I’m using the free version to see just how much I am in love with this tool. I’ll almost certainly upgrade to the paid version eventually, which stores your data permanently as opposed to two month’s worth, tracks individual files as opposed to applications, and–oh–it appears the goals and blocker tools are part of the paid version as well; I’m just on the free trial of the paid version at the moment.  Well, I expect they’ll be getting my money soon.

There is a version for teams, too, with project tracking tools.  They suggest trying a fully-open workplace, where everyone can see everyone else’s time track. That would be an interesting exercise in radical transparency! I wonder if I would be brave enough to host a widget on this blog that would show my productive hours on a daily basis?