RescueTime Review

RescueTime Review
4.2
4.2 of 5 stars 1 review
  • Pricing
    (5)
  • Features
    (4)
  • Support
    (3.5)

Summary

RescueTime gives you the stats on you. It collates your online habits to tell you exactly where you spent your time. Depending on your plan, you receive detailed weekly or daily reports. You can then analyze the data to figure out how to calibrate your time.

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Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Light, and unobtrusively runs in the background
  • Once customized fully, settings changes are rare
  • Data displayed graphically, very easy to understand
  • You can set multiple goals
  • Easy to block distractions
  • Data available for a wide variety of periods and categories
  • Collates data from all your devices
  • Saves daily highlights and milestones
  • Productivity Pulse gives the score at a glance
  • Goal setting works brilliantly
  • Base version is free forever

Cons

  • No invoicing
  • Cannot link activity to projects accurately
  • Does not track team or individual tasks
  • Mobile dashboard not as detailed as desktop
  • Best features require payment
  • No 24×7 customer support

ABOUT

Ever felt like you’ve worked a lot, but haven’t accomplished as much? Yes, a lot of us feel this way at times. For instance, at times, a task as mundane as buying a packet of cornflakes can take an hour.

The primary factor stopping us from achieving our goals is usually the lack of focus. When it comes to devices, distractions scale up exponentially. There’s a lot of information out there, and often the most interesting bits are not the most productive. A Stanford study showed that people considered ‘media multi-taskers’ accomplish far less than those who focus on one task at a time. Arguably, the best way to tackle this is to reduce the amount of information coming in, so that you can prioritize where your time is spent. RescueTime is one such tool that works in the background, collating data on what you’re up to online. Once you get this information, you can work on removing the chaff from your online life.

RescueTime was founded by Brian Fioca, the quintessential serial entrepreneur. A graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, he founded his first company, Jobby, in 2005. A job posting site, Jobby was acquired by Jobster in 2006, and so began a career that has seen nine startups, with two companies incubated at Madrona Venture Labs, where he currently works.

A busy day two years later, Brian, along with a group of friends, were wondering where their time went, wishing they had an hour or two to spare each day. The result of that discussion was RescueTime, which came to fruition through the celebrated Y Combinator accelerator program. Rescue Time was built to help others like them work smarter; the app helps you cut out distractions and has done so in the millions. Its popularity is evident from the fact that it has more than 13,000 downloads, and a million-plus website visitors a month. The app has helped more than 2 million people optimize their productivity and logged in 1.37 billion hours of screen time. Unlike other time management software that function mainly as a billing tool, this app focuses sharply on productivity.

A success story on the website highlights how RescueTime can set things right. Despite working 12 – 14 hours at a top tech firm, Jonathan White wasn’t able to meet his productivity goals. Using insights from the app, he surprisingly started to deliver more work in less time. How? He discovered when his peak productive hours were, and also realized that he was spending a lot of time working when he was at his most distracted. So he reworked his schedule, cutting out all online distractions when he was at his most prolific. Now that’s something we’d all call a happy ending!

How Does It Work?

RescueTime gives you the stats on you. It collates your online habits to tell you exactly where you spent your time. Depending on your plan, you receive detailed weekly or daily reports. You can then analyze the data to figure out how to calibrate your time. You can find out which websites and apps hinder your productivity the most and can identify your most productive hours. Because it works across all your devices, you get a comprehensive overview, and you can optimize your schedule to increase productivity.

Initially, you will have to teach the app which activities are very distracting, distracting, neutral, productive, or very productive. It then runs in the background on your devices, keeping track of all activity. The dashboard then displays it smartly, allowing you to reschedule and prioritize. Based on whether you opted for the free or paid version, you will receive weekly or daily reports, respectively. You can even access historical data, which stretches to the beginning of time in the premium version. There is also a version for organizations that focuses on optimizing productivity at the team level.

One feature of RescueTime that stands out is that the free version is free forever, which can be especially helpful for students or a startup founder working from his parents’ garage.

PRICING

Plans

Free

Lite

Organization

Price/Month

$9/month

($6/month for an annual subscription)

$9/month per team member

($6/month per team member for an annual subscription)

Free Trial

15 days

30 days

Track Time

Yes

Yes

Yes

Set Goals

Yes

Yes

Yes

Reports

Weekly

Daily

Daily

Historical Data

3 months

Unlimited

Unlimited

Track Time Offline

Yes

Yes

FocusTime Distraction Blocker

Yes

Yes

Real-Time Alerts

Yes

Yes

Daily Highlights

Yes

Yes

Custom Work Hours

Yes

Yes

Faster Data Processing

Yes

Yes

Team-Level Productivity Trends

Yes

Key Tools Reports

Yes

Uncover Inefficient Processes

Yes

FEATURES​

  1. Time Tracking
  2. Dashboard Reports
  3. Goals and Alerts
  4. Distraction Blocking with FocusTime
  5. Offline Time
  6. Productivity Pulse
  7. Daily Highlights
  8. Customized Reports
  9. Team-level Insights

Time Tracking

The time tracking dashboard is clear and straightforward, with clever use of graphics to present a summary of how productive you’ve been. Fifteen minutes after you set up, the dashboard starts displaying the online activities that occupied your time. You can observe the data under broad categories, like say reference and learning, business, and more. You can also get into the specifics of applications and sites used. The dash can reflect daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly data (three months only in the free version). In other words, daily data shows activity by the hour, the weekly information by each day, and so on. The data is presented very smartly in color-coded bar graphs.

Easy To Decipher Data

One look, and you instantly understand how time you spent online and where the bulk of it was spent. If it’s mostly blue, you did well. If it’s more red than blue, you were wasting time on activities you could have avoided. You can also click for a more detailed view and observe which sites and applications you’ve used.

By toggling between daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly data, you can discover your useful hours, days, and months. Friday saw red dominate blue? Well, your mind was perhaps too occupied with your weekend plans. You then realize it’s better not to schedule intensive work just before the weekend. Perhaps, that hour after lunch is probably best spent at a standing desk if possible. As for the yearly data, it gives you a long term view of where you’re heading at work.

Fully Customizable Categories

The customization of categories and subcategories further enhances the app’s versatility. By default, every site or application falls under a subcategory. You can change the subcategory of any website if you wish to. Further, you rank different sites under the same category differently. For instance, LinkedIn can be productive, while Facebook can be very distracting.

Dashboard Reports

For a more detailed view of where you spent your time, just click the reports tab on the dashboard. It shows you which applications or sites you spent your time on. You can observe the same data under broader categories like search, video, social networks, and more or under specific applications. The dashboard also gives you a better overview over wider ranges like entertainment, design, etc. Want the bigger picture? Just check out your productivity reports and voila! You can see the time that was very productive, productive, neutral, distracting, or very distracting by day, week, month or year, so you know at a glance if you’ve been making progress, and by how much. A more detailed report is also mailed to you every day if you’ve opted for a paid version. Otherwise, you receive it once a week, which is still very useful. One issue with the dashboard is that it’s viewed on your laptop because the mobile app does not display as much detail.

Goals And Alerts

The goals you’ve set are also the goals on which you’ll be judged. As with all the data, you can check how well you’ve been achieving them by day, week, month, or year. Initially, you get three pre-set goals that the software decides based on the information you’ve offered about yourself. Once you start using the app, you can set more specific goals. For example, you can allow for less than an hour per day on social media during work hours. Or, you can aim to spend more than 2 hours on reference and learning during weekends. The dashboard and reports track each of these goals and indicate how well you’ve been doing.

The premium and organization versions take goal setting to its logical conclusion by sending you alerts. You get notified when you’re about to go over any limit you’ve set, or if achieved your goal. Alerts can either be a pop-up or a less obtrusive email.

Besides, RescueTime’s most significant plus point is its integration with Zapier.com, which allows for more than 2000 web applications to be automated, including Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook. For example, you can add fresh rows in Google Sheets with the daily summary reports or receive the same reports in a Slack message.

Distraction Blocking with FocusTime

Distraction Blocking is the DND version of RescueTime. This feature comes as a boon if you have a low attention span, are prone to procrastination, or are just hooked onto social media. You can set FocusTime to block individual sites or activities at specific times. For instance, you can set FocusTime for 2 hours, starting now, blocking social media and email. Or, you can also schedule it in advance by connecting your calendar to the app. Further, you can set time limits for the use of certain apps and websites to ensure interruption-free time when you need it most.

There are three levels of site blocking – (i) Normal, where only sites in the very distracting category are stopped, (ii) Intermediate, for both distracting as well as very distracting websites, and (iii) Strict, which only allows access to productive sites. You can further customize this feature by allowing unblocking, or if you want to be more stringent, by disallowing any unblocking during this period. However, blocking is available only in the premium and organization versions and works in conjunction with third-party services, like Slack, Zapier, IFTTT, and more.

Offline Time

Offered only with the paid versions, the app asks you what you’ve been up to when you were offline for a while. These activities can also be put into categories and ranked. Real-world events like meetings, calls, and a snack break can all be monitored. Conversely, you can also choose not to account for this time.

Productivity Pulse

Productivity Pulse is simply a number that indicates how productive you have been on a scale of 0 to 100. For example, if you have spent most of your time on neutral sites and applications, your score will be 50%. But, if you were on very productive sites all the time, your Productivity Pulse will be 100%. While it is not a precise metric, it can help you notice trends. You’ll know in an instant which times of the day are most productive for you. It can also indicate when you should switch off because you’re not accomplishing as much as you should. Your Productivity Pulse can even uncover the efficiency of a new process or recent change you’ve made. For example, if you’ve recently decided to take a short walk every hour, your productivity score will tell if you should stick with it or go back to a slightly longer walk every two hours.

Daily Highlights

Available in the premium and organization versions only, Daily Highlights let you make a note of achievements. A deadline overcome, a bug fixed, or a deal clinched. All of these milestones can motivate you when you look back, and can even be shared – maybe with your manager. You can set up prompts to enter highlights, say at the end of the day. Further, you can even automatically login from other systems you are using and enter a highlight when you feel you’ve achieved something.

Customized Reports

Beyond the reports available in the free version, the other options come with other reports that give you deeper insights into how you’ve been managing your time. Some of them showcase daily patterns, changes in productivity over time, or comparisons of time spent on desktop and mobile. What’s more, you can create reports that filter out certain activities, or only focus on certain parts of your day.

Team-level Insights

Team-level insights are delivered in the organization version and are aimed at improving productivity at the group level. Productivity and key tool reports help discover and improve upon inefficient processes and help you notice trends that appear over time. You can identify patterns from the data, enabling you to increase efficiency and optimize the team’s time. Do note that the app is certainly not an employee monitoring tool, and there are no intrusive features like zooming into screens or live tracking.

INTEGRATIONS

In addition to the apps mentioned below, RescueTime also offers APIs for tech developers. Besides, its integration with Zapier means there are more than 2000 apps with which you can link RescueTime.

Here’s the complete list of integrations:

  • Slack
  • Google Calendar
  • Office 365 Calendar
  • Visual Studio Code
  • Zapier
  • IFTT
  • Git
  • GitHub
  • Exist.io
  • Gyroscope
  • Beeminder
  • Zenobase
  • Automatic

More About RescueTime

Setup

The setup is so simple that even a school student can accomplish it with ease!

After registering on the website, you can download the very light application and start customizing it. First, you have to inform the app about yourself. Here, you fill in details like whether you’re a student or a professional, and the size of your company. Then, you must specify what your role or field of work is. For instance, you may be an executive, manager, coordinator, or entrepreneur, and you could be working in areas like IT, design, arts, or healthcare. This information helps the app define which activities are productive or distracting.

For example, spending time on email is productive if you’re a coordinator, but neutral or distracting if you’re a healthcare professional. You also set your primary goal, choosing from options like tracking time spent on projects for clients, achieving work-life balance, and more. Based on this, you get a choice of goals to set, with which you can agree or disagree. So if you’re a writer, ‘writing goals met’ is likely to be one of them.

Well, that’s about all it takes to get started. The setup strikes a delicate balance between simplicity and customization. You can choose to be monitored all the time or during specific periods. You can also opt to track your activity on all websites or just some. Window and document titles can also be submitted to receive insights on where your time is utilized within specific applications. Unfortunately, this is only a premium and organization feature.

Device Compatibility

Desktop

Windows

macOS

Linux

Mobile

Android

iOS

Browser Plugin

Chrome

Firefox

Customer Support

Fast customer support is a crucial service RescueTime lacks. You can send an email or use a website chatbox, but both seem to work only during office hours.

Online Security and Privacy

Catering to Fortune 500 clients means that the app meets exacting security standards. Your data is hosted at Amazon’s top-notch EC2 facility, which comes with foolproof, audited physical and network security. On top of that, there’s also logged, auditable operations interfaces, feature-targeted firewalling, two-factor access methods, as well as privilege separation and controls. All your information goes through SSH and HTTPS tunnels.

RescueTime also uses sound web development practices, along with strict logical data separation, audit trails, adaptive response, and real-time monitoring, with a capability system plan in place. The mobile app is fortified by Andriod’s and iOS’ own tried and tested security systems.

For an app that monitors every second of your activity, privacy is critical. The company promises to never disclose your personal information in any manner, with or without personal identifying information. RescueTime also guarantees that it will never share anonymized selections of individual data. You can determine what kind of data can be collected in the privacy settings and delete your data manually or close your account at any time.

PROS AND CONS

PROS

  • Easy setup
  • Light, and unobtrusively runs in the background
  • Once customized fully, settings changes are rare
  • Data displayed graphically, very easy to understand
  • You can set multiple goals
  • Easy to block distractions
  • Data available for a wide variety of periods and categories
  • Collates data from all your devices
  • Saves daily highlights and milestones
  • Productivity Pulse gives the score at a glance
  • Goal setting works brilliantly
  • Base version is free forever

CONS

  • No invoicing
  • Cannot link activity to projects accurately
  • Does not track team or individual tasks
  • Mobile dashboard not as detailed as desktop
  • Best features require payment
  • No 24×7 customer support

CONCLUSION

RescueTime essentially helps you manage your time, understand if your priorities are reflected in daily life, and reset if necessary, all to achieve that elusive work-life balance. Its user-friendly interface, convenient and customized setup, and noticeably tangible insights certainly make life easier.

For an app that solely aims at increasing productivity, it’s hard to find fault with it. But, if RescueTime wants to be the top dog in time management, features that enable billing are a must. Further, RescueTime is still primarily a desktop app that also tracks your mobile, which remains an essential area for improvement.

Short of a personal coach, it is perhaps among the best online tools to help you attain your goals. It costs nothing to start with and is child’s play to set up. Because the base version is free forever, you can use it for a while and upgrade if the results are worth it. As an organization, you can even try out the 30-days free trial for starters.

All in all, if you’ve got time management or productivity issues, or if you simply want to reflect on what you’re up to all day, there’s no excuse for not trying out this app. It’s also light, unfussy, and efficient. With RescueTime, your day could well look the same!

Check out our list of the Best Time Tracking Software companies

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