In our fall Technology Device survey, students in Middle and Upper Schools both talked about the challenges of staying “on task” while on devices. How do you know where your time goes when you’re using your device? How much time are you really spending on side activities? If you want to know what you’re really spending your time on device doing, there are some programs to help you reflect on your tech habits and manage your distractions.
It’s important to remember that all distractions aren’t bad– fans of the Pomodoro Technique for time management, for example, use short relaxing periods as a way to keep focus and energy high. Keeping an eye on how long those breaks are, and getting re-engaged after a break, are key to managing distractions successfully. With that in mind, here are two tools which can help you monitor your time.
RescueTime is a program which runs in the background of your Mac or PC and tracks which programs or websites are “active” (in other words, the program or website you’re looking at or working in). It categorizes these by whether they are productive or distracting, and reports to you the amount of time you’re spending in each. You can choose the categories, so if you have a news website for class, for example, you could change “reading the news” from “distracting” to “productive.” You could also categorize it by site– if you read the Economist for class, you could designate that as on-task, while reading WIRED may still be distracting. You can have RescueTime give you a weekly e-mail report of your time, or log into the dashboard to see your data at a glance.
RescueTime is free for the basic monitoring and reporting. There is a premium option which adds in website blocking for sites marked on your “distracting” list during the times you specify (e.g. during the school day, or during the week).
Curbi is a service which combines content filtering for the iPad or iPhone with monitoring social media and app use. Using the “rules” feature, apps and websites can be allowed or blocked during different times of the day. As with RescueTime, you can get a weekly e-mail report of how much time was spent in different apps or websites. Curbi currently has a free 14-day trial, and costs $6.99/month after that.