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Joe Hruska, founder of RescueTime, explains how you can become more efficient in your job search or job upgrade process.

First, please tell me about RescueTime. What’s the story behind it?

RescueTime began as a product that we built for ourselves. Back in early 2007, Tony Wright and I were sitting in Waterfall Park in Seattle, eating our salumi sandwiches discussing how difficult it was to recall what we had done the previous day. I knew I had been working at the computer for 8+ hours, but when it came to breaking down the exact details of where that time went, it was very difficult and time consuming trying to reconstruct those details. Tony had the idea of using a program running in the background to keep a list of the activities we used on the computer and for how long, and asked if that was possible. I told him I would take a look, and three days later we had our first prototype of RescueTime.

As we continued to work on improving RescueTime for ourselves, we registered the website address RescueTime.com and put up an email signup form to see if other people might be interested. With just a Photoshop mockup of what a RescueTime dashboard could look like, a few hundred people signed up for the beta test, and at the same time we got a write-up on TechCrunch that drove a lot more signups.

At that point we decided to take a run at making RescueTime a real product.

What exactly is it, and how does it work?

RescueTime is comprised of two main components, the data collector and the analytics website. The data collector is a small application that runs in the background on your computer or Android device (iOS devices coming soon), and monitors which applications, websites, and other activities you are actively using. The information is then sent to our web service for analysis. The website processes all of the activity data and assigns productivity scores to those activities. This information is then presented in an easy to use web-based dashboard that includes a rich set of reports with details on how you spent your time.

Can you give an example?

As an example, when I come into the office each morning, I first start by looking through my email for important issues that I need to address right away. RescueTime not only knows that I’m logged into my email application, but it is also paying attention to the subject line of each of the email messages I open. I can then see a very accurate and detailed breakdown of how much time I spent reading and replying to specific emails. After I take care of any emergencies, I typically take a few minutes to catch up on some of my favorite blogs and tech websites. RescueTime breaks down the time I spent on those activities and tells me how much time I spent on each website, and I can also get a further level of detail for how much time I spent reading individual articles on these websites.

What’s your take on why it works?

RescueTime works because it does not rely on the user doing anything. All of the data is collected and processed automatically. Of course, the user has the ability to customize categories and productivity scores (Facebook isn’t distracting for everybody out there), but overall RescueTime’s purpose is to collect your activity information without needing any help or input from you.

How would this help in the job search or job upgrade process?

Looking for a job can be just as demanding and time consuming as actually having a job. Having the information about how much time you spend on various activities each day can help you focus your efforts on the activities that matter most to landing your next job. How much time did you spend on the phone today and on which job opportunities? How much time did you spend researching a company? How many jobs did you apply for and how much time did you spend on each opportunity? RescueTime can help answer all of these questions with little input from you.

Let’s say I’ve used the program and figured out what my time-wasters are. Then what?

Once you have run RescueTime for a week you should start seeing some pretty clear patterns. Are you spending more time on email or Facebook than you thought? Once you discover a behavior you want to change, you can then start setting goals and alerts to help nudge you in the right direction. For example, I try to limit the amount of time I spend in email to less than an hour each day. Some days it’s really hard to reach that goal, but I setup RescueTime alerts to let me know when I’m getting close to exceeding that goal and that helps motivate me to focus on more productive activities.

How much does this cost?

A subscription to RescueTime costs $9 per month or you can pre-pay for one year for $72, which works out to $6 per month. We also have a free version of RescueTime that doesn’t include goals, alerts, or the ability to log offline time among other premium-only features. We have a free 14-day trial for RescueTime Premium so you can try all of the features and cancel or downgrade to the free version at any time.

Can you offer advice on how to use that trial period to its maximum benefit?

In my opinion, the best way to get started with RescueTime is to signup and then set yourself a reminder to look at your data after one week. We don’t want RescueTime to become a time-waster itself, so I encourage people to install it and ignore the data for one week. After a week, you will start seeing patterns emerge, which is where the real power of RescueTime comes into play.

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