If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
RescueTime is a hybrid desktop application-web service that monitors how you spend your time on the computer and generates reports and analytics for you. You install the tracker on your computer, where it monitors and tracks what application has focus – i.e. which of the 30 applications I’m running is the one I’m actually using. It sends that information to a server, which turns the data into interesting reports.
RescueTime has done a great job of classifying different applications (Total War: Rome shows up appropriately as a game, as does Tower Defense) and websites (espn.com, alabama live’s Alabama football section, and si.com all get grouped into a ‘sports’ category) into the right buckets. I now know that I spend a staggering amount of time on sports websites, more time than I should gaming, and less time on Twitter/Facebook/RSS than I expected.
But even more valuable, RescueTime tells me how the productive time when I’m being “good” breaks down as well. I know how much time I have spent on developing the CSS and HTML for Baydin.com’s new homepage redesign, how much time I spent QAing Boomerang, and how long it took me to record our shiny new demo video. I know exactly how long I spent in Visual Studio for each of the last three weeks, and how email grows to suck up however much time it possibly can (seriously, between Outlook and Gmail, the number is terrifying).
That’s not to say that I’m doing fantastic job of working harder since I installed it. I haven’t been especially more productive, but at least I know how I’m doing. And I think I have a better handle on what kind of bang-for-the-buck I’m getting out of each activity. I’m going to try very hard to spend more time coding and less time writing long emails that nobody’s going to read anyway.