My name is Rowan, I’m an addict

March 8, 2008

Some say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

For the last month or so I’ve been using a great tool called RescueTime to help me put some hard numbers around the size of my computer addiction.

RescueTime is a YCombinator company, and part of the latest in-take. They have just recently made their tool available to the public. As you would expect they are iterating quickly at this point, and it seems to be getting better and betters as they tweak it.

The system is very simple – you just run a small application in the background (available for both Windows and Mac) and this records which applications and websites you are working on throughout the day. You can login to see a summary of this information, with pretty graphs, on the website. You can also tag applications and pages to help identify specific items or groups.

For example, here is a summary of the number of hours I spent using my laptop during February:

RescueTime data for Feb

The red is Email and the yellow is Yojimbo (which I use to keep track of notes, including keeping myself organised and draft blog posts/ideas etc). The grey is everything else.

As you can see the trend is awful, although exacerbated by the fact the the last week of the month was my last week at work (if it were a one-day manhatten then after a quiet start the innings accelerated nicely with some big slogging in the final overs) …

But, with the excuses out of the way, over 165 hours is much more time that I would have guessed I spent doing this sort of thing. Which is exactly the point – there is no need to guess (incorrectly) anymore. This tool helps put some hard numbers around it and allows you to be much more aware of the time you spend staring at a screen.

I suppose some people might be pleasantly surprised by the results they get, but I suspect that most (like me) will be prompted to aim for less.