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Accurately Keep Track of What You Do on the Computer and for How Long With RescueTime

Bakari Chavanu 29-02-2012

track computer timeIf you spend a considerable amount of time working at your computer with no Corporate Big Brother to monitor what you’re doing, you may find yourself spending a bit more time than you should be tweeting, Facebooking, and procrastinating your day away. While there’s nothing wrong with good old leisure activities, the adage “time is money” means a lot if you’re reading mentions on Twitter instead of dealing with a work-related project deadline.


In this regard, a very useful program called RescueTime can act as your own little time tracking service, clocking what you do on your computer.

How It Works

All RescueTime requires you to do is a site registration, and to download and install its Mac Data Collector, which will monitor, in the background, all the applications you use, the websites you visit, and the files you work on throughout the day.

track computer time

RescueTime works like a sneaky spy taking notes of how much time, for instance, you spend on Facebook, how long it takes you to finish writing a report, and the amount of time you spend reading and responding to e-mails.

track computer time software


Knowing this type of tracking information may mean facing some hard truths that you’re only spending say two hours a day actual doing productive work, or it can be a great way to figure out which parts of the day you are most productive – the morning, afternoon, or evening. If you’re a freelancer, RescueTime could be useful in helping you keep track of how much time you’re spending completing projects.

The Dashboard

The Mac Data Collector icon rests in your menubar, which is a convenient way to click to the Dashboard of your RescueTime account page. There you will get an overview of all your related computer activities, which times of the day you are most and least productive, and an “Efficiency Summary” that reports a measure of the ratio of your productive time to distracting time.

track computer time software

All your computer activities are categorized under such items as E-mail, Design/Composition, News/Opinion, Business, Entertainment, Reference, etc..


track computer time software

Time Reports

You can dig deeper into Dashboard reports to get more detailed information for individual categories, productivity measures, individual activities, personal goals, and what time of day you are most and least efficient in your work.

keep track of time spent on the computer

Monitoring Yourself

While RescueTime may label your time spent on Twitter or MakeUseOf as a distraction, you can indicate otherwise. After you have spent several hours using RescueTime, you can click on Categorize Activities, under the Settings menu, and set which activities you deem as “very productive,” “very distracting,” or somewhere in between.


keep track of time spent on the computer

So for example, when I visit MakeUseOf, I want RescueTime to report that time is always “very productive.” Likewise, when I’m working in TextEdit A Closer Look At The TextEdit Word Processing Program [Mac] Read More and Dragon Dictate Stop Typing: Better Learn To Dictate Text with Dragon Dictate for Mobile Devices [iOS] Nuance's iPhone apps, Dragon and Dragon Search have been available for free download for over a year now. Since then, the company has added a few other similar voice to text apps to its line... Read More , those activities count as +2 productivity. However, when I’m chatting away on Yahoo! Messenger or spending time on TweetDeck Why Twitter's TweetDeck Is Worth A Second Look In the last few months, Twitter has become my favorite social networking hangout, mainly because I find it less time consuming than Facebook and Tumblr, and I can certainly update it quicker than I can... Read More , that time is counted as a “distraction,” though both activities break up the monotony of my day.

keep track of time spent on the computer

Some activities you will indicate as “neutral”, and that time will not be counted for or against your productivity efficiency rating.


Likewise, you can also manage and customize assigned categories, labeling exactly what you’re doing when you’re using particular applications or visiting particular websites.


Under the Activities page, you can also select to delete individual activities or have RescueTime completely ignore a monitored and reported website or application all together. For example, I have RescueTime ignore Facebook (which Rescue, by default, labels an “distraction”) because I never visit the site, but my daughter does.  To locate the delete/ignore button, you have to hover your mouse cursor near the listed time for the activity in order for it to appear. It can’t be seen otherwise.

track computer time

The developers of RescueTime are very generous with their offerings in the Lite version of its online service, providing some very significant and useful information about how you spend your time on the computer. The Pro version of RescueTime however offers specific activity details that give reports on specific documents, webpages, chat windows and much more. It also provides other features for tracking offline time, receiving time alerts related to productivity goals you set, and helping you block distracting parts of the Internet. Based on my first week of using RescueTime, I plan to subscribe to a few months of the Pro version just so I can home in on how effectively I’m using my time management better.

RescueTime is similar to a formerly popular time tracking site called, which is still running on my Mac, but the site itself no longer seems to be updated with new features and services. And it is not as detailed in its reporting as RescueTime.

Let us know what you think of ResecueTime and how you’re using it. For other ideas about time tracking services, check out “6 Useful Desktop Time Tracking Software.” The 6 Best Time Tracking Software and Apps It's vital to track your time if you want to get the most out of your day. Here are the best time tracking apps you should try. Read More

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  1. Luciano Cosby
    April 19, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I cannot thank you enough for the blog. Awesome.

  2. PCGUY
    March 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Does it work for PC?

    • PCGUY
      March 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

      WINDOWS 7*

      • Tina
        March 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm

        It's a web app, so yes it does!