You can’t improve something unless you measure it. If I asked you how productive you were last week, you would not be able to give an accurate and objective answer. You might say “Well, I emailed the proposal to the client and added feature A, B and C to the product”.
Measuring productivity by tasks completed is good, but can you say what percentage of time you spend on your code editor/IDE vs checking status updates on social networking sites? Unless you find out your productivity percentage, your time will leak one distracting site at a time, everyday.
I use the perfect tool for measuring how productive you are everyday and you can also start using it for free. And it runs in the background, not needing any kind input from you, but gives insightful information about your computer usage. It is called “RescueTime“.
RescueTime offers a free software that runs silently in the background of your computer, tracking the various things you do on your computer – applications you work on, files you edit, websites you visit, etc. It stores them all securely on the server and allows you to see them and put them in 5 broad categories – very productive, productive, neutral, distracting and very distracting.
For example, your IM client is marked automatically as very distracting, while your spreadsheet would be marked as very productive. It can even use the URL of the websites you browse and classify them accordingly based on what type it is – like News and Opinion for Reddit and Reference for Wikipedia.
You can view your reports per day/week/month/year and you get interesting metrics about total time you spend on your computer, productivity %, most productive days, efficient time of the day and lot of nice looking graphs.
You can edit the categories a site/application belongs to easily and also set the productivity score for them individually. You can even setup goals for completion everyday – like minimum of N productive hours from 9AM-6PM, no more than X distracting time for the entire day, etc.
If you are a freelancer, working on multiple client’s projects, you can create multiple projects and setup keywords to match activities to the respective projects automatically. Pretty neat, huh!
The basic version is free which is sufficient for most of a beginner’s needs. There is also a Pro version which provides detailed analysis of individual activities you did, access to data older than 3 months and track offline data like meetings/calls. Apart from the individual version, you can also buy RescueTime for your entire team and track the productivity of your entire organisation.
Do install it and give it a try. In a week, you would be hooked on to the information you measure about yourself. And once you start measuring something, it automatically improves like magic. Do come back in a week and leave a comment here on how productive you were.
Disclaimer: I am a long time RescueTime user and love it. However the links are referral links and if you sign up using the links above, I would get a few days of the Pro version free.