RescueTime is an app that can help users understand how they are using their time on their laptop. It can be used in a lot of different ways, but here at ISB we want to focus on empowering students and teachers to take control of their usage and to strive for intentional, balanced and productive use of technology.
To get started, you need to do three things:
- Download and install the app from Self Service (or from the RescueTime website).
- Create an account for the free/solo/lite. If you are a student, I suggest you use your school email address.
- Once you’ve installed the app, be sure to sign in from the menu bar at the top of your screen.
Once RescueTime is installed and running, it will start collecting data on how you use your computer. This includes websites you visit, documents that you are working on, and other programs that you use (like PowerPoint or Photoshop).
Setting Up Categories
Part of the way that RescueTime works is by categorizing the sites and apps that you use. It has some default categories (like Communication, Social Media, Design, Entertainment) and default values (from Very Productive to Very Distracting) built-in. RescueTime may not recognize some of the sites and platforms that we use at ISB and might consider them as “Uncategorized” and/or might consider them to be “Distracting”. As a user, you can create and manage different categories as well as change its productivity value.
For example, I have created a sub-category in “Miscellaneous” for the different ISB Platforms like DX and OneDrive and have rated that time as “Very Productive”:
Once your categories are set up (and I would not recommend spending too much time doing this! You can always refine your categories as you go…), you are ready to take a look at some of your reports:
The Dashboard is where you get started with RescueTime. This will give you a quick overview of your time for the day. You can also quickly jump to some activity reports for more details.
The Productivity Report
The Productivity Report shows your “pulse” based on the different values that have been assigned to different sites and apps:
You can click on each level to see how much time you spent on different sites and apps:
The Applications & Websites Report
You can also view your usage data sorted by app and site. Because we use the free version, there are some limitations to the amount of data that we have access to. A very interesting view in this report is the “All Activities by Hour” view. This helps you see when and how you were using your laptop throughout the day (and night!):
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using RescueTime.
The first is that users can disable RescueTime tracking at any time! It can be turned off (quit) or paused; it can also be set to NOT start automatically. Because our focus is on awareness, understanding, and empowerment, it does you no good to turn it off! But, if your RescueTime reports aren’t showing as much data as you were expecting, check to make sure that it isn’t being turned off on accident (or on purpose!).
The second issue that you may find is that RescueTime is not collecting individual web page data. First, your Mac must be on Mojave in order to collect this information. All students should be running this OS; most teachers will be. Second, you need to make sure you grant access to allow RescueTime to collect this information. In order to do this, you can follow the instruction here.