Like many of you, I spend hours upon hours each day plopped in front of the computer. I like to think that I’m being as productive as possible while I’m there, but the truth is that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the rest of the Internet can be awfully distracting. And it’s really easy to fall down that bottomless rabbit hole with one suggested video or yet another Buzzfeed list just a click away.
As we’ve said before, procrastination is a productivity killer and it’s something that really needs to be addressed if you actually want to get work done. And technology can help. The simple act of tracking how you spend your time online can help you stay on course and there are some great automated time tracking apps to help with this task.
With StayFocusd, you can easily keep track of how much time you’re spending with reading email, catching up on RSS feeds, “researching” topics on Wikipedia or whatever else you happen to do on the Internet. It’s offered as an extension for the Google Chrome web browser, so it integrates really easily with your existing browsing habits if you already use Chrome.
If you find that you’re spending way too much time on Facebook, you can limit yourself to only one hour a day with this time-tracking tool. After that hour is up, the site is blocked and becomes inaccessible until the next day. You can get as specific as you want with subdomains, specific paths and so on, even blocking specific in-page content like videos.
Also available as a free Chrome extension, timeStats installs in the background of your Chrome browser and keeps track of the sites that you visit. You can optionally log into Facebook to share your stats, but that’s not necessary. With timeStats, you gain access to a pie chart that shows what websites are occupying most of your time online, getting a list of the most visited domains and so on. You can even group domains together to see if you’re spending more time updating your social media, researching on academic sites, or shopping for another pair of shoes.
By default, you’ll click on the little toolbar icon to bring up the dialog chart, but it can go even further than that with the “Alerts” feature. Here, you can set time limits on the sites that you visit, not unlike some of the parental control programs out there. After you’ve used up those 30 minutes on YouTube in a day, you get blocked out. You can also set it to “unlock” more time after you’ve spend a certain amount of time being productive.
When you want to “get serious about focusing your time,” you may want to consider investing in one of the more powerful time tracking apps out there: RescueTime. One of the key features here is that the time-tracking utility goes beyond just tracking the websites that you visit (though it still does that), keeping tabs on the time you spend in each application and, in the case of the premium membership, the ability to track your offline activity too. You can set goals, trigger alarms when you spend too much time slacking off, access detailed reports, receive weekly email summaries, and get an overall productivity score.
The “Lite” plan is completely free and it provides the basic functionality of tracking time in websites and programs. The Premium plan is $9 per month or $72 per year, adding such features as offline activity tracking, website blocking, accompliment logs and faster data processing. RescueTime works with Mac, PC, Android and Linux.
Image credit: Bev Sykes / Flickr