It started where it always does, with me wishing for more time. Since 24 hours a day is all any of us get, I’d need to be more efficient. Enter RescueTime, software that records, in a very Big Brotherish way, where you spend your time on your computer. As you use Word or Excel, shop at zappos.com, or play Farmville on Facebook, RescueTime is running in the background, mercilessly recording ever minute of it.
Initially I thought it was cool. The very first day, RescueTime awarded me a blue ribbon and told me I was in the top two percent of users—oh, the rush! But it turned out I hadn’t properly launched the program the day before, and those stellar results were only for the previous five minutes.
I have several computers I use throughout the day for different projects. Every time I returned to the computer on which I’d installed the software, RescueTime demanded to know where I’d been. The default responses include “Leisure” and “Other work” and the program allows you to customize. (I created a category called “Doggy management,” since I have a high maintenance dog.)
Often it was tough to be accurate. On a normal day, I might be away from my main computer for four hours, during which I’ve worked on a client’s project, thrown meat in the crock pot, and played tennis. There’s no way to log those activities individually, unless you remember to return to your computer between each one.
Furthermore, I sometimes found myself responding to the constant “where have you been, young lady?” like a recalcitrant teenager, clicking on the “None of your business (don’t log this time)” button, even when the time had been spent productively. While this tactic was personally gratifying, it did not help my productivity score.
To its credit, RescueTime did curtail my Facebook habit. I work alone and Facebook is to me what the water cooler is to office workers. RescueTime noticed when I lingered there too long (something you can set in the preferences) and notified me. I learned how to go to Facebook, skim my friends’ status updates, comment on a few, and leave. No more disappearing down the rabbit hole!
That worked great until a friend emailed me a link to Superwolf Ogles, a Facebook page written by a cat who is in an open relationship and has political leanings (Meo-ism).
Impossible to resist, right? I took a quick peek. Soon I was looking at a picture of a young woman named Steffani sitting on the Great Wall of China, and then at wedding photos of another complete stranger.
RescueTime waggled its Big Brother finger at me, but, already on my way to the video clip of Jim and Pam’s wedding dance (on “The Office”), I just sneered. The only one who can rescue my time is still me.