Rescuetime. To the rescue.

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I would like to share some informations about one of the tools I’m using to keep the track of my progress on my ‘Run Pigs Run’ project.

As an introdcution: I think that this description of some ‘productive’ evenings can sound very familiar to many of us.

The story.

You’re reserving the whole evening to work on something. On Your hobby project (‘Dajsiepoznac’ project, maybe?), on Your homework etc. You’ve already refused Your friends to go out, because ‘sorry, I’ve got work to do’. And You start. Editor started, music playlist chosen, coffee ready… You’re really pumped up, this will be a productive evening. Start. It’s going pretty well, until the first problems occur. You’re suddenly not so very enthusiastic and it’s not a nice feeling: it appears that You have to do some extra work to push Your progress further. Maybe extra research is needed, maybe using new programming tool requires to read some documentation, maybe a bug appeared and You even have no idea how to start to fix it. So to forget about all that, You’re switching quickly to Youtube/FB/whatever to ease the stress. After 15 minutes You’re coming back. Working 5 minutes to make some progress… good, You’re feeling better. Maybe a little reward: switching back to entertaining article/video. Back to work. And so on.

Maybe I’ve described this in a bizarre way, but this is how it looked a lot of times in my case. Nowadays I’m more aware, but still similar situations happen. I had always asked myself: how much of this evening was really productive? And many times I was terrified, realizing that probably If I was more focused and more willing to sweat, I would do the same work in about 2 hours. Of course I’m generalizing, but I gained a real enlightenment on how much sugar is in sugar, when I started o use Rescuetime.

The solution.

I don’t think You’ll find a better tool to measure Your productivity. Rescuetime gathers information about which program is currently active and measures time You’ve spend on it. Using RT for a half a year now, I can say it’s a quite accurate tool. Programs and websites are categorized into ‘Very Productive’, ‘Productive’, ‘Neutral’, ‘Distracting’ and ‘Very Distracting’.

In the end of the day You can see (in a form of nice graphs) on what really You’ve spend your time. And it can be quite surprising, when reality appears to be different than what we sometimes define as a ‘productive day’.

Focus

Rescuetime provides also ‘Focus Mode’, which will block any distracting websites in Your browser for some period of time. Popup is displayed, when focus time is over. So You can browse documentation, read tutorials and so on, but e.g social networking sites will be blocked. Omitting this function, ‘Focus Mode’ is just a time measuring tool. But this is a key to a real productivity: just turn on the clock with an attitude ‘I’m really focusing right now’. It can be surprising how much can be done in just 30 minutes of uninterrupted work. It’s a good idea to organize programming session in this way: 30-40 minutes of hard work, break, repeat. And when the popup ‘Focus Session is over’ appears… it’s a really nice feeling. And sometimes focus session is going so well, that we will naturally want to extend it.

Make goals (the best part)

Rescuetime allows to create goals, e.g ‘X hours a day on activities in category Y’. If You want to measure Your time spent on a software development, create category ‘Software Development’ and customize list of programs/websites which are falling into this category. For my current project things in ‘Software Development’ category are: ‘Sublime’, ‘Tiled’, ‘Umlet’, ‘http://127.0.0.1/runpigsrun/’, ‘Emacs’ (for taking notes).

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And now You can honestly tell Yourself: ‘I’ve spent X hours on a software development’.

written in Emacs with org2blog mode

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