Updated for 2012:
A number of visitors to the site have asked how Time Doctor is different compared to Rescue Time, a popular and free productivity/time tracking application. On the surface, both programs do appear to be similar, but the approach and the practical applications of each product are vastly different.
Both rely on a client side software package installed on a users computer to monitor computer usage coupled to a remote server that can generate reports and tracks ‘personal productivity’ – or more precisely, productive time.
But this is where the similarities begin and end.
Rescue Time tracks computer usage silently in the background and can be configured to block websites while Time Doctor encourages users to manage their daily priorities and tracks time spent on particular tasks. Rescue Time requires no effort to use once installed, whereas Time Doctor is interactive by design.
A silent tracking application does have some benefits – it requires little or no user input once installed, but unfortunately there are also major drawbacks. A friend of mine who uses Time Doctor wrote to me after trying Rescue Time for the first time last week, saying, “It counts the time when I visited my bank web site on my break as ‘very productive’, but time in Google Chrome as ‘very distracting’, when I was actually working!”
Even if the application tracking in Rescue Time is categorized properly – this information is very limited in its use because for the most part you cannot know what someone is really working on just from what application they are using. For example, Rescue Time can track that a person was working on a Word document but just this information simply can’t tell you the actual work they were doing. So, even though Rescue Time has some eye-catching graphs displaying the time worked utilizing different applications, the usefulness of the data is quite limited.
Time Doctor, on the other hand, can very accurately measure how much time a person has spent working and on which tasks, which is why companies can use Time Doctor to easily generate time sheets for payroll based on the data collected. The Time Doctor system not only super accurately tracks time spent working, but it also asks users to specify which tasks they are working on, which can be viewed by managers in a variety of different reports that can be generated.
This approach, based on fundamental time management principles, asks users to enter their most important daily priorities and work on them one task at a time. As each task is selected, the time worked is tracked for that particular task.
But, how then does Time Doctor know if someone is actually working and not just cyber-slacking while they are allegedly on the job? It doesn’t….which is why Time Doctor has an option that can be enabled to capture screen information that managers or an HR department can download and view at any time of the day. If a Time Doctor user says they are working on something and their screen captures reveal something different, they’ll be quickly caught out.
While the idea of monitoring a worker’s screen may sound intrusive, it is important to remember that Time Doctor will only collect screen capture information during “work time”, not when workers are on a “break” or not working. Time Doctor strongly believes that business owners and managers have a right to know what their workers are actually doing during work time, but not on their personal time. We have found that, in general, if people know that they are being monitored while working, they usually don’t get sidetracked.
Another important point of comparison: Time Doctor does not actually block access to distracting websites…instead it tracks the usage of “poor time use” websites like Facebook, Twitter or sports web sites for example. This information is then sent to managers in a weekly report. What we have found with this approach is that, again, people will not waste time when they know they are being monitored. Also, the practice of blocking websites can be a source of browser conflicts, problems with firewalls, spyware alerts and other issues.
We’ve tried to keep Time Doctor as straight forward as possible, therefore nearly any business using any major operating system can be up and running with Time Doctor in under 10 minutes. For more information about how the software works, please take a look at our product features.
Something else to consider is that Rescue Time does provide some project tracking capabilities, but it just isn’t accurate enough to be used to track hours worked for a particular client. Time Doctor has client and project tracking features scheduled for release in the next few months, enabling users to select and assign a client, project and billing rate to any task they are working on.
Time Doctor is a business application aimed squarely at businesses or managers who want to make sure their staff and/or remote teams are actually working. Rescue Time seems to be a better match for personal users who want to know how long they spend each week using particular applications or web browsers in order to organize their time better.
To summarize, the major benefit of using Time Doctor over Rescue Time is that managers can accurately measure a person’s work hours while tracking their actual activities, rather than just the applications used or websites visited.
To help you decide which software package is probably going to be the best match for your business, please refer to the comparison chart below…or just download and try both applications out – right now, they are both FREE to try.