“How much time do you spend blogging?” people often ask me.

“I don’t know,” I say. “A lot. Probably forty to sixty hours a week.” I’ve always wished I could provide a better answer to that question. Now I can.

During his recent “fireside chat” with Google, Tim Ferriss mentioned a new application he’s been using called RescueTime. He didn’t elaborate, only mentioning it in an off-hand sort of way, but I was intrigued.

It turns out that RescueTime is a tool to measure how you’re spending your time on the computer. It’s simple to use. To get started you simply:

  • Download and install a small application on your local computer(s).
  • Establish an account at the RescueTime web site.
  • Work as normal.

RescueTime works in the background, tracking the applications you use and the web sites you visit. Every twenty minutes, it sends this information to the web. Whenever you’re curious, you can visit the RescueTime dashboard to find out how you’ve been spending your time. For example, here’s a pair of graphs taken near the end of my first day using the software:

Yesterday I spend nine hours and nine minutes on the computer. That’s too much. But that’s also the point — I didn’t have a good sense for how long I spent online. RescueTime gives me concrete information about my productivity.

RescueTime also provides a chart of my most-frequenlty used apps and sites. Yesterday, I spent about 3-1/2 hours in BBEdit, my text editor, most of which was spent on the Robert Kiyosaki piece. I also spent an hour answering e-mail, and an hour handling miscellaneous tasks at Get Rich Slowly. More data is available in other reports.

RescueTime encourages users to “tag” each site or application with terms such as “work, personal, writing, goofing around” and so on. After you’ve tagged an item, you can set goals and alerts. You might, for example, set a goal to spend less than an hour a day reading blogs. Or maybe you want to spend at least four hours a day on work-related projects.

I’m only just beginning to use RescueTime, but I love it. It has the potential to revolutionize the way I work. Just knowing how much time I’m spending at various sites and tasks makes a difference.