Think you work hard? Think again.

UPDATE: This article generated over 5,000 page views in under 24 hours, so I’ve posted a follow-up interview with Tony Wright, RescueTime’s Founder & CEO.

I’m participating in a closed Beta of and installed the software on Sunday. Yesterday sat down at my desk for 10 hours and then hit the site. Here are the results:

All I can say is, I was floored that after 10 hours I’d used less than half my time effectively.

Rescuetime lets you tag apps, so the graph above is a graph of apps that I’ve tagged as work, personalblog, etc. The rest of the time is distributed among random websites, apps and other distractions.
Here’s the breakdown of my top apps and websites:

I got into a flamewar with someone on which blew away more than an hour of my day. Most of my work is in an SSH session using an app called PuTTY. I hack my hosts file when I code and use our corporate blog for testing, so and are also tagged as work sites and grouped into the ‘work’ graph above. The time spent on was writing personal blog entries. I’m a huge fan of Brad Feld’s blog, hence the time on

So I’ve canceled two meetings this morning and have severely limited my personal blogging time today to try and get at least 7 continuous hours of REAL work in before I head to the naked truth panel and party tonight at 5pm.

I think Tony Wright and the guys at Rescuetime are on to something potentially huge. I’m watching these stats as obsessively as I watch my Google Analytics stats.


22 thoughts on “Think you work hard? Think again.

  1. I started using rescue time since a month ago and was shocked to see how much time I spent working. It’s also wound up motivating me with the Goals widget on it that allows you to monitor if you have spent enough time on it successfully. Just wrote a post on it for my two faithful readers 😛

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  3. Can you have different websites marked as different activities? For example, when I’m at my school’s library site or one of the many databases they send me to, odds are I’m on task (occasionally, I still manage to find an off-topic, but still cool article(s) to check out), but if I’m at or lifehacker or or, well you get the idea, I’m not on task.

    @Justin George – Yes, it is more important to get the work done, instead of just tracking time worked. For me, some nights I spend an hour on task, but the rest of the time is still productive (e.g. reading off-topic, but field relevant articles) and I don’t mind the off task time. However, a lot of nights (if it’s not obvious, I’m nocturnal) I realize it’s 6 or 7 in the morning and I haven’t done anything productive. Having some type of service that (a) tracked where I’m my least productive and (b) when I had spent a specified amount of time in an unproductive way it would prompt me to get back on task, would be useful. If at the prompt, I decide that my current activity is productive, even if it’s off task, I can chose to continue the off task activity, or choose to get back to work. Yes, timers can provide the same functionality, but if I’m actually being on task productive, I don’t want my concentration interrupted by an unnecessary alarm.

  4. That’s interesting. I’m actually doing a thesis (once school starts) on how time tracking applications and being aware of how you spend your time can change your behavior.

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  6. You are a huge loser. Who cares? What you want to work on a factory floor where every second sorting widgets by hand is not wasted?

    Don’t rock the boat. The news you get and time learning, writing don’t hurt your productivity. They help it. C’mon man really.

  7. I’ve read from Joel Spolsky that you can only expect to get 5 real hours of work done in an 8 hour day.

    When I’ve put more in the hours/day column of my schedules, they’ve often been wrong (for me and others).

    I’ve found I inch up to 6 or even 6.5 per 8 at home, which is better, but still astounding to me.


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  9. Measuring time spent instead of measuring how much you got done is pretty silly.

    I could care less how much time I spend reading Reddit if I end up having a few good ideas that day.

    This kinda reminds me of the old ‘efficiency experts’ who would shave a few seconds off your day by making you brush your teeth in the car: it’s premature optimization.

  10. Keeping track of your time is not a new concept. I think it is suprising how many people can benifit from data like this. I use a product called jettask ( which does the same thing. It works as a desktop app so your data is not stored in someone elses database.

  11. Hi Brad,

    LOL. They do, it’s in the second graph. Looks like I spent about 20 mins on the site in total. I guess I was a little obsessed with the app checking back every hour.

    I’ve given Tony & co a heads up that you’re interested.

  12. Glad you are a fan. Rescuetime seems fascinating – I just signed up for the closed beta (hopefully they’ll invite me soon so I can see how much time I waste commenting on blogs…) Is it recursive (e.g. do they track the amount of time you spend looking at your Rescuetime data? Erg.

  13. We’ve seen a bit of demand for Linux… And Linux users represent about 6% of the visitors to the site…

    The data collector talks to a web service, so we’re kinda hoping that SOMEONE in the Linux community will build one if we make a public API.

    If no one steps up, we’ll certainly get around to it (but it’ll probably be a while… :-( ). Too much to do, too little time!

  14. Wow, that is a great idea. Occasionally when I notice I am procrastinating too much I will set up a timer to go off every 15 minutes and record what I am doing. I always thought it would be cool to build an app to analyze the data to figure out how productive I am being, but RescueTime goes one step further by recording the data automatically. I can’t wait to get my invite.

  15. I agree, but it’s going to be hard to port because most work happens in a xterm window which may be running screen and may be ssh’d to another workstation which may also be running screen etc…

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