“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
The first step in time management is time tracking. We need to know exactly how we spend our time in order to make better future choices.
Becoming aware of our habits can be difficult though. Since 45% of our behaviour is unconscious you may not realise where half your day goes.
Imagine that: we already spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, then we also sleepwalk through half our waking lives. This is why it’s so important that we use our time well.
Fortunately we have time tracking apps which can expose our tendencies. One type of these are passive time tracking apps where the app sits in the background and records your habits automatically.
They are very useful because they give you a ton of insights about yourself effortlessly. Just download the app and it does all the work for you, including generating easy-to-understand graphs and reports on how productive you are.
So what’s our best options?
This is one of the most popular time tracking app available for both computers and mobile devices. What makes RescueTime so brilliant is it’s beautiful reports which allow you to easily identify where your time goes.
Each website and application you use is automatically categorised and given a productivity score from very productive to very distracting (though you can redefine these if desired). This makes analysing your productivity quick and easy even for a beginner.
Another great feature are the reports on your productivity rhythms daily, or all the way up to yearly. Now I know I’m most productive in the afternoon I schedule my most difficult tasks for then.
I also learned I procrastinate the most in the evening. In the evening now I choose to do enjoyable activities away from my computer that meets other goals e.g. martial arts, reading books, socialising, etc.
With a premium account you can also create custom alerts for goals based on the number of hours spent on an activity. This could be praise or a reminder to focus whenever you spend too long on a category or website.
You can even link these alerts to automatically turn on Focus Time, a feature which allows you to block all distracting websites. Perfect for avoiding hours wasted watching cat videos on YouTube.
I’ve found RescueTime to be extremely beneficial especially with discovering my productivity rhythms. It’s an excellent tool that I’ve used for a long while and I recommend it to everyone who wants to start improving their productivity.
For time management I no longer use it anymore now though. I now rely on active time tracking apps and I’ll explain why in another post. However I still use this next app along with it.
I don’t need all of RescueTime’s reports right now, but I still want to know the top websites and apps I spend time on. ManicTime is great for this even though it may at first appear complicated. It has a load of features, but really I only look at the Timelines on the main ‘Day’ display.
Whilst RescueTime excels in weekly/monthly reports, ManicTime takes the lead for daily reviews.
By dragging any selection of hours in the Zoom bar you can see exactly which document or website you were viewing at the time. This makes it very easy to reflect on your day and analyse areas for improvement.
Also since I rely on active time tracking now I need to record when each activity starts and ends manually. ManicTime works superbly with this as it highlights whenever I change activity or step away from my computer to take a call.
Another advantage is that ManicTime doesn’t require being online to generate reports. And of course these reports show you the most important part of time tracking – which websites and programs you use most often.
All in all ManicTime is great time tracking app for minimalists. Unlike RescueTime it doesn’t have a productivity scoring system or a mobile app. But if all you want is some basic record of what you get up to all day, then it’s perfect for that.
Take back your time today
Your time is irreplaceable so it’s surprising how many people throw theirs away without thought. Don’t be one of them.
Start by downloading one of these passive time tracking apps now. Without doing anything you’ll gain useful insights and your behaviour may even improve by itself.
Awareness is the first step for change, so begin today.