More stories from RescueTime users

Knowledge Worker

How an AirBnB developer traded in long hours for shorter, more productive days

“It doesn’t matter how much time you have available to work if your concentration is gone.”
- Jonathan White

The Results

With RescueTime, Jonathan was able to understand his work habits, remove distractions, and optimize his time for focus

  • Long hours
  • Digital distractions
  • Burnout
Tools Used:
  • Productivity Reports
  • Goals & Alerts
  • FocusTime

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re working harder and longer than ever to meet deadlines and hit your goals. But no matter how much you work you still feel behind.

This was the exact situation AirBnB developer Jonathan White found himself in. With a full schedule at one of the biggest tech companies in the world, a number of side projects on the go, plus a social life, he found himself regularly working 12-14-hour days. But it still never felt like enough.

Even worse, the more he tried to keep up with everything, the more he felt himself slipping towards burnout. Something had to change.

How Jonathan used RescueTime to optimize his time

After using RescueTime for a few days, Jonathan started to see real data about his productive time. And it wasn’t great.

By looking at his Productivity by Time of Day, he quickly realized that despite working long hours (often late into the night) and feeling productive, there was a clear diminishing return the more he worked.

Specifically, his productivity levels were dipping in the evenings when he was more likely to get distracted by social media and entertainment.

“Without knowing exactly how much and when you’re working there’s no way to optimize your time. You can’t hit any sort of consistency because you’re always guessing.”

With an accurate understanding of how he spends his time, Jonathan was able to optimize his daily schedule an do his most important work when he’s more productive.

In practical terms, this meant blocking out a 2-hour window first-thing in the morning for focused work and then cutting himself off earlier when he knew his productivity was going to slip. At first, the thought of working less and still hitting his goals seemed impossible

But he quickly found that even though he had less time to work, he was getting more done.

“While I had less absolute time, I had more more in time in terms of focused work.”

With his schedule optimized, Jonathan decided it was time to optimize other parts of his workday for focus and motivation. By checking his Productivity Pulse, he already knew that his phone and social media (especially sites like Hacker News) were his biggest distraction.

“When I came up against a problem in my work, I’d start scrolling and browsing. My phone became my default for when I was feeling uncomfortable.”

With RescueTime, Jonathan was able to rebuild his schedule around focus, claw back from burnout, and reduce his working hours while getting more done. But he didn’t use RescueTime just for this initial optimization, but also to help maintain his productivity day after day, and week after week.

“In this age of distraction, being able to focus for a long period of time on a single task is a competitive advantage few people have. RescueTime helps me identify not just how I spend my time but also when I’m most likely to do my best work each day.”



How a high-performing founder, author, and podcast host killed distractions and mastered his focus

“What matters more than the length of time you put into a thing is actually the intensity of focus. Because if you have an intensity of focus you can actually reduce the amount of time spent doing it to get the same or better results.”
- Srinivas Rao

The Results

With RescueTime, Srinivas discovered where he was losing his focus and optimized his schedule for deep work and flow.

  • Constant interruptions
  • Competing priorities
  • Digital distraction
Tools Used:
  • Productivity Pulse
  • Category Reports
  • Goals & Alerts

When you’re busy running your own company it’s easy to dream of having more time each day. But what if that’s the wrong dream? More time doesn’t equal more productivity. Instead of optimizing for more time, you should be focusing on efficiency.

This insight has been the driving force behind the many successes of Srinivas Rao — the author, founder, and host of The Unmistakable Creative podcast.

In the span of a few years, Srinivas went from the shackles of a 9–5 to launching his own company, interviewing hundreds of the world’s most productive and interesting entrepreneurs, and publishing multiple best-selling books. But re-wiring his brain (and his schedule) for focus didn’t come easily at first.

How Srinivas mastered his daily time and focus

No one wants to think they’re distracted, unmotivated, or wasting time. Yet few of us take the time to really understand how we spend our days. As Srinivas explains, only time-tracking will tell you the truth about how effective and focused you are.

“RescueTime exists because we’re dealing with a world of problems that didn’t exist in the past. Nothing offers more clarity than putting a number in front of your goal. All of a sudden it’s very clear whether you accomplished it or not.”

Using RescueTime, Srinivas got a clear picture of how he was spending his time over days, weeks, and months. Not only did this show him negative aspects (like when he was being distracted) but also helped him identify his peak productive hours during the day.

With an overview of his most productive hours and worst distractions, Srinivas started to experiment and optimize his daily schedule.

The first step was to remove distractions. By looking at his daily Productivity Pulse and connecting it to his Distracting Time one of the first things he discovered was that using social media first thing in the morning led to less productive days.

“If you log into Facebook first thing in the morning, every link you click on and every article you read is a decision that’s naturally eroding your willpower. If you start your day this way, you’re going to feel distracted all day long.”

Next, he started to dig into the other seemingly “productive” tasks that were getting in the way of real focus. This meant looking at Time Spent on Email as well as in meetings.

“Nobody ever changed the world by checking email, so it’s insane that we spend so much time on it.”

Srinivas is a fan of ‘batching’ emails (dealing with them only during select times). And even writes his emails in a different app to avoid getting distracted by his inbox. RescueTime’s Communication report keeps him honest about how much time he spends in emails. And he can even set Daily Goals to track email and communication time.

Finally, Srinivas realized that optimizing his focus wasn’t just about the time spent working, but also getting enough rest. But as an entrepreneur, it’s hard to say when you’ve done “enough” each day.

“When it comes to productivity, there’s a law of diminishing returns where at a certain point, the output you’re going to get from your efforts, despite the same effort, is going to decrease.”

Using RescueTime’s Work Hours, you’re able to separate your data, goals, and alerts between when you want to be working and when you should be resting so you can optimize for both.

“Downtime is often where we get the most ROI on our thinking.”

When you’re running a business, time is money. And when it comes to being more efficient with your time, the right data guides you.

“The greatest value of Rescuetime is awareness. Most people waste their time because they don’t know they’re spending it. Rescuetime is the wakeup call and reality check most people need when they’re struggling to manage their time and attention.”


How an award-winning illustrator went from the brink of burnout to doubling her productive hours

“I started using RescueTime and I was absolutely shocked by what I saw. I started making changes immediately and experienced big improvements within weeks.”
- Colleen Doran

The Results

With RescueTime, Colleen saved hours a week that were being lost to distractions and doubled her total productive time.

  • Burnout and Overwork
  • Digital distraction
  • Competing priorities
Tools Used:
  • Productivity Pulse
  • Category Reports
  • Goals & Alerts

We all have the same 24 hours each day. And you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone—especially a freelancer—who didn’t wish they could get more done in that time. Unfortunately, working long hours only leads to stress, worse results, and eventually, burnout.

This was the exact situation freelance illustrator, writer, and best-selling comic book artist Colleen Doran found herself in. With credits on titles such as Amazing Spiderman, The Walking Dead, and more, she was clearly in high demand.

Yet, despite working longer hours and feeling productive, the work never seemed to get done. She knew something had to change before she hit burnout.

How Colleen doubled her productivity without burning out

As a freelancer, you’re more than just a writer/designer/developer. You also have to be your personal admin/bookkeeper/marketer/and a whole whack of other roles. And if you’re not careful, those other tasks can take over your time.

The first thing Colleen noticed when she started looking through her RescueTime data was just how much time was spent not writing or drawing.

“Before using RescueTime, I was very bad about tracking how much of my time was going into my art. I’d sink way too much time into admin tasks and have no energy left for writing and drawing! I was puttering, doing busywork, but the real work is art, that has to come first.”

By far, the biggest offender was social media. While Colleen uses her social accounts to talk to fans and promote her work, it was taking up way too much time in her day.

But by using her Time Spent on Social Media report, she was able to get a clear picture of just how much time it was taking up. And it was bad.

“Until I began using RescueTime, I had no idea just how bad my social media overuse was. The reality of my habits was right there in my face and I was horrified.”

She quickly started to re-assess how she spent her time. First, this meant setting Goals and Alerts around her social media and writing time.

“I love the RescueTime pop-ups that remind me of my goals. It makes me feel great to see my productivity going straight up—to see I’m getting better about managing things.”

As she slowly built up her productive time, she dug into her Trends to help track her progress over time.

“The trends chart has been especially important for tracking my progress and seeing where I’m dipping and need to keep a lookout.”

By controlling the time she was spending on distractions and admin, Colleen was able to double her Productive Time in a matter of months. All without working more hours.

“This summer, my Design and Composition hours dropped to only 67. I couldn’t focus and I felt terrible. A month later my Design and Composition hours jumped to 128 and then 160. More than double!”

With RescueTime, Colleen was able to counter the worst aspects of freelance life—the competing priorities, lack of guardrails, and potential for burnout. Instead of working more and feeling like she’s not hitting her goals, she’s built new habits that put her in control of her day.

“In the time since I started using RescueTime I’ve gone from hours of social media use per day to about a half-hour. I can talk to my readers and promote projects without going overboard and using up all my creative mental energy before I even get to the drawing board!”


How two Ph. D students conquered procrastination and took back control of their focus and time

“RescueTime has made me 100% more aware of my productivity. It’s the best tool I’ve found for recording how you’re spending your time, digging into the details, and building better habits.”
- Jonathan, Ph. D student

The Results

With RescueTime, Gary and Jonathan took control of their biggest distractions so they could spend more focused time on their school work.

  • Procrastination
  • Digital distraction
  • Lack of motivation
Tools Used:
  • Weekly Report
  • Goals & Alerts
  • FocusTime

Few people would describe their time at post-secondary or graduate school as “laid back.” Whether it’s dealing with an overwhelming course load, balancing school and social life, or trying to buckle down and focus on finishing a term paper, most students feel like there’s never enough time in the day.

For Gary and Jonathan — two Ph. D students on different sides of the planet — this feeling wasn’t something they were willing to accept. Instead of giving in to late-night cram sessions, they decided to look for ways to boost their focus and productivity so they could get more done without working more hours.

How Jonathan and Gary rebuilt their focus and broke bad habits

Look up “time management tips for students” and you’ll be inundated with strategies for staying focused and motivated. However, as Jonathan explains, strategies only go so far:

“I’ve definitely had trouble with being productive and avoiding procrastination in the past and ended up using lots of different tools and strategies, but it was never really clear what was having a real impact.”

To take action, experiment, and find the best time management strategies, you need to have an awareness of what works and what doesn’t. For both Gary and Jonathan, that meant using RescueTime’s automatic time tracking and productivity pulse to see where their time was actually going. As Jonathan explains:

“With RescueTime, I can quickly see which activities or apps I’m spending the most time in to get a read on how productive (or not) I’m being.”

Once they had insight into their daily schedule and where their productivity was faltering, both students started to optimize their days. For Gary, this primarily meant setting a Goal for Daily Writing Time while he worked towards finishing his thesis.

“At the moment, I’m spending an incredible amount of time writing up my Ph. D thesis and have goals for the number of hours I want to be spending on it each day so I can track my progress.”

Not only does this help keep him accountable to his thesis work, but with Monthly Goal Tracking, Gary’s now able to see how productive he’s being on a daily basis as well as larger trends for his writing time.

“It can be hard to keep yourself motivated if you’re not seeing any immediate results. But with RescueTime, I can review my data and know that I had a productive Monday, which sets me up for a good week. There’s motivation in just reviewing what you’ve done.”

For Jonathan, he was more concerned with tackling procrastination. With varying days and too many opportunities to get distracted, he needed to find ways to protect his focus.

“I know that if I can start working on a task and get invested in it that it’s easy for me to spend 3–4 good productive hours on it. But getting over that initial procrastination is a struggle.”

To get over his procrastination, Jonathan set up an Alert to automatically start a 30-minute FocusTime session at the start of his day. This means all distractions are blocked as he starts working and gets focused on specific tasks.

Not only that, but he uses a similar Alert for blocking distractions right after lunch to help protect his focus when his energy has naturally dipped. As he explains: “It’s a guardrail for me.”

For both students, RescueTime does something none of the other time management tools out there could: Give them both accurate insight into how they’re spending their time, and actionable advice and tools to help protect their focus, build better habits, and boost their productivity. As Gary says:

“I didn’t realize how much time I was throwing down the drain just from small things like watching videos on YouTube. RescueTime gives me accuracy when it comes to knowing how I spend my time. I get a much more detailed picture of what I’m doing so I can make the changes I need to my schedule and habits.”
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