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The Best Ways to Protect Your Time
Time passes all too quickly. Answer a few emails, take several phone calls, rush into a meeting, and before you know it your work day is gone with little to show for it. Often your time goes to even less productive things: a push notification from Facebook leads you to a hilarious cat video, which reminds you of another video you wanted to share, and you've wasted an hour without even noticing it.
The internet's a distracting place, and even smaller work tasks can distract you from the larger projects and goals you need to accomplish. Worst of all, it's hard to notice where your time's actually gone—all you know is that it's the end of the day, and your to-do list is still packed with things to finish.
That's what time tracking apps are designed for, and RescueTime is one of the simplest to use. Instead of making you remember to turn on a timer when you start working—and log the time whenever you switch to another task—RescueTime just watches what you're doing on your computer throughout the work day. When you're answering emails, writing articles, crunching numbers, coding—or perhaps wasting time on social networks and news—RescueTime quietly takes note. It then decides which sites and apps are productive, and which are a time waste, and shows you a graph of how your time was spent that week.
It's an ingenious way to keep you more productive throughout the work day without taking any extra time to use. You'll just install the app and forget about it, then at the end of the week RescueTime will email to tell you how productive you've been. That should prompt you to be more productive next week, and cut out the sites and apps that are keeping you the most distracted.
RescueTime's classifications of apps and websites may be wrong; it might accidentally decide your company's website or collaboration tools are distracting when in fact it's the primary place you should be spending your time. If so, you can go through RescueTime's lists, marking your work apps and sites as important and tagging them with their purpose. Your logs will immediately reflect the changes, giving you a better picture of your productivity.
You'll get all of that with a free account, enough to help you see where your time is going and get inspired to do better next week. With a paid account, RescueTime can also block your most distracting websites and apps, to force you to be more productive during work hours. It'll also let you get a daily update on where your time has gone, and will let you add in details of how you spent your offline time—a great way to quantify the 2 hour gap in your work time for a meeting or client appointment.
Few of us are perfectly productive all the time. We each have our vices, those things that distract us from the real work we should be doing. RescueTime is a helpful assistant that can figure out what's going wrong in your work days, and help you be motivated to get more done each day. It won't magically free up your time, but it may guide you to what you'll need to do to free up your own time. And that's equally valuable.