Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. – Walter Bagehot
Out of all that we are tested on in college, one skill that we are continuously tested on but never really taught is time management. In this piece I will introduce you to one particular tool that has immensely helped me manage my time better, and I am confident will help you do.
Computers are central to most of the things we do in college, whether it’s studies or social networking, for research or for watching movies. The problem is that it is hard to quantify our productivity while working on our computers. RescueTime monitors all your computer use and informs you when and how you’re both productive and distracted. It’s compatible with both Mac and Windows, and can work across multiple computers.
RescueTime has two parts. The first is a small downloadable software application that you need to install on your computer. The other is the website that shows you your statistics and also lets you change your settings. The software works quietly in the background, but also lets you access a few settings without having to go to the site. All you have to do is right click on the RescueTime notification icon in the notification area of the taskbar. Here’s a Windows screenshot for the same:
After a while of having the software running, you can go to the website to look at your data. The dashboard gives you an overview of how productive you have been during the current week, month, year and even day. The information is visualized very intuitively. You can see your total time spent on various applications like itunes, chrome etc. as well as specific websites and websites grouped under various categories. Here are some of the views:
RescueTime by default categorizes websites/applications using its own algorithms. But you can also create your custom categories of applications and websites. This functionality can also be useful if you have a job that entails researching or working on particular websites, for which you get paid by the hour.
Another simple but surprisingly effective piece of information RescueTime gives you is an analysis of when during the day you tend to be the most productive. This can be very useful in helping you design your daily schedule based on when you are most focused.
The RescueTime button on the task bar also lets you pause the tool, for whatever reason you might want to do that.
While the basic version of RescueTime is free, it also has a premium version which has some cooler features that may or may not be necessary. I use the free version, and it is good enough for my cause.
A useful feature in the paid version is that you can enable “Get Focused” from the task bar which blocks all apps and sites that have been classified as distracting by you or by the software for however many minutes you specify. But if you don’t want to pay the extra money, you can use tools like StayFocused for Google Chrome (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji) and LeechBlock for Mozilla Firefox (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/leechblock/)
Another feature that’s available for the paid version is goals, which lets you set targets and limits on the amount of time you spend in any given app or category. Say you set a one-hour per day limit on the amount of time you spend using Facebook. RescueTime can alert you via an onscreen pop-up when you’re near the ceiling.
Here’s a very useful comparison of the paid and free versions: https://www.rescuetime.com/plans
You can download the free version from https://www.rescuetime.com/signup/solo/lite. Sign up, choose your plan and download. The paid pro version costs $9 a month, or $72 for a year.
RescueTime is a great place to diagnose your productivity problems, and then start your own time management plan.
Time Management is a holistic process, and has various parts to it. In college organizing your study materials and the plethora of information is also important. There are various tools out there that help you stay organized. One of the best tools that I have come across is Evernote. You can read more about Evernote in a previous post by former AT Fellow, Ammar Khaku http://sites.tufts.edu/atfellows/2012/04/10/techtuesday-evernote/