Rescue time for focus

As a software professional we spend most of the time before a computer and as a mobile tester I am inundated with tens of distraction inducing devices — phones, computers, tablets. It is easy to fall into the seduction of these devices and loose focus on work that matters. 
Some of the patterns that I observed:

  1. Before I can open my app for testing, I would take a quick look at notifications and respond to that whatsapp message and before I knew 10 mins is gone.
  2. Before I want to ask a teammate a question about something, I see a lot of whites(unreads) in slack and I would go down each of them and sometimes even forget what I opened slack for.

In this next two blog posts I summarize two tools and techniques that I am using to gain back focus.

First is Rescuetime, it is a data driven approach to measure your productivity. It has a nifty desktop utility and an android app that captures all theactivities that you are performing whether it is browsing the web, email/slack, coding, reading etc. Then at the end of the day it would give you summary of your productivity score. It is very motivational and has data to prove it!

Setup

To make this work for you do the following steps

  1. install the desktop app, android app and also the browser extensions so that they knows the websites instead of a generic browsing message.
  2. Take time categorize the activities and to give them distractive or productive scores. This would be different for different people eg: playing chess may be a distraction for you but for a chess player it may be work.
  3. Get weekly and may be daily alerts and see fine tune categorization
  4. Setup a schedule where you wanted to track your activity. It could be 24*7 or 9–6 weekdays.
  5. Setup goals that make sense for you eg: 4 hours of productive work.

Benefits

  1. The UI and graphs that rescue time gives are pretty visual and motivational.
  2. A great retrospection for how the day went. I spend few minutes perusing the weekly emails and adjusting categories.
  3. If you want to take this a step further you could upgrade to pro and use pomodoro technique and rescue time can be configured to actually blockdistracting sites during focus periods!

Shortcomings

  1. Doesn’t have an iOS app — largely the fault is apples because of their higher security requirements.
  2. Can’t let others use your profile/computer — I saw slump in my pulse when I installed this on my home machine where we primarily use computer for youtube/netfflix.
  3. The mac desktop app is pretty small and doesn’t have basic functionality — one can’t even logout of a profile and login to a different one.
  4. There doesn’t seem to be active development going on, I haven’t seen any new features in the last couple of years.
  5. Not all slack time is distracting and not all time spend on stack overflow is useful, there doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust a particular slot of time

But using this tool in isolation didn’t give me real time nudge/feedback on what to do next and if I am getting diverted. For that I started using meistertask see my next post.

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