How do you spend your time throughout the day?
No, really. Be honest.
How much time do you spend on social media?
What about managing your fantasy football team?
Talking to coworkers at the water cooler? Okay, this one doesn’t work if you’re working from home. But you see where I’m going here.
Chances are, you’re spending a lot of time on things that don’t matter much to your goals or bottom line (in other words, you’re wasting it).
Don’t be too harsh on yourself, though. We’re all guilty. Really.
The difference is, some of us take accountability for our time, while the rest of us… well, they never break out of those bad habits.
I love time tracking tools for this reason. While they come in many different shapes and sizes, they can all help you better understand how you’re spending (ahem, wasting) time every day. And eventually, they can help you clean up those pesky bad habits and start working more productively.
There’s one big problem though. There are literally hundreds—heck, maybe thousands—of these time tracking tools and all of them claim to be the best.
Yeah. It’s a real mess.
Both of these apps are popular for different reasons, and both are worth considering for your business.
So let’s take a deep dive and see how these apps compare to each other.
Table of Contents
It’s a pain to set up a new tool.
I feel like I go through this process every few weeks. There’s some new tool or platform I want to use, but I have to jump through hoops before I start using it.
On the developer side, I totally get it. You need to create an account. You need to get familiar with the layout. The list continues.
But when you want to start seeing productivity benefits, you want to get started ASAP. In other words, now.
What’s the setup like for these two tools?
Well, practically speaking, you’re going to start with a free trial in both cases. The signup process here is reasonable on both fronts. Both Time Doctor and RescueTime want you to sign up as quickly as possible, with few hurdles. Naturally.
I will say signing up for Time Doctor’s free trial took a bit longer, just because they asked for more information. But this shouldn’t be much of a hurdle.
From there, you’ll need to install RescueTime or Time Doctor on your device of choice. Both platforms require you to use a client side software package.
Both Time Doctor and RescueTime are fairly intuitive. It shouldn’t take you much poking and prodding to figure out how to use them both.
I estimate you’ll be able to get going on either platform in about 10 minutes.
As for which one is easier to use, that’s kind of up to personal preference. The interfaces are different, but not remarkably so. One isn’t obviously easier to learn than the other.
Core Time Tracking Features
Since Time Doctor and RescueTime are both so similar in terms of installation time, setup, and first-time use, we’ll have to look to the core time tracking features to start hashing out which one is superior.
- Basic time tracking. For starters, both Time Doctor and RescueTime allow you to track time as you spend it throughout the day. You can click a button to begin a timer, automatically track the time you spend on various platforms, and/or manually add time.
- Offline time tracking. With both platforms, you’ll be able to track both online and offline time, including time you’ve spent away from the computer.
- Tracking time for projects and tasks. Both Time Doctor and RescueTime give you the option to track time as it relates to individual projects, which is especially helpful for billing and team coordination. However, Time Doctor allows you to track time as it relates to individual tasks within those projects, while RescueTime has limited capacity in this regard.
- Team tracking. Both platforms allow you to execute team tracking. In other words, you’ll be able to track time spent by all your team members, and generate reports for how your entire team has performed. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to set goals and improve productivity across your entire organization.
- Monitoring web usage. Both platforms allow you to monitor web usage, at least to some degree.
- Blocking distracting websites. Only RescueTime allows you to block distracting websites.
- Recording break time. Time Doctor has built-in functionality to help you record break time, while this feature is lacking in RescueTime.
- Nudging distracted team members. Both platforms have the option to automatically “nudge” employees who aren’t on task. You can set the parameters for this nudge, so you remain in complete control of when it occurs.
- “Silent” time tracking. RescueTime allows you to silently track employee time, with no data entry required by employees. With Time Doctor, at least some manual data entry is required. This is both a strength and a weakness for RescueTime; it offers more automated, touchless capacity, but offers more vague data (such as application use).
So who’s the winner? It’s hard to say.
I like that RescueTime offers more silent and automatic tracking options, but Time Doctor seems to offer more precise controls.
Real talk though?
These are both solid time tracking tools, with all the basic functionality you’d expect from one. It’s hard to be too disappointed either way.
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Integrations and Compatibility
Who doesn’t love integrations?
With the right setup, you can get your time tracking tool to work with other platforms you’re currently using. That usually means a project management platform, since you’re tracking tasks there anyway.
Let’s take a look at how each system fares:
- Systems and devices. Both RescueTime and Time Doctor are available for Mac and Windows, as well as Android devices. However, RescueTime isn’t available for Linux or iPhone/iPad, while Time Doctor is.
- Project management tools. Time Doctor is the clear winner in terms of integrations with project management tools, offering dozens of integrations with major players like Basecamp and JIRA.
- Other: Time Doctor has a ton of other integrations with differnet apps, including some things I’ve never even heard of. Take a look and see if it’s compatible with the systems you’re already using.
I have to give the win to Time Doctor here, but this may or may not be an issue for your company.
Winner: Time Doctor
Now let’s look at reporting.
Reporting is the real secret to success with a time tracking or productivity improvement strategy. Why? Because it’s your chance to see whether the new tricks you’re using are working.
Plus, it’s fun to see all the pretty charts and graphs.
Time Doctor has a number of different reports:
- Time use report. With this, you’ll be able to track time spent on specific tasks over days, weeks, or months.
- Timesheet report. This report tells you the number of hours you worked per day over a certain period of time.
- Web and app usage report. Here, you’ll see all the websites and apps you used while tracking hours.
- Timeline report. This report shows how you spent time throughout the day, chronologically.
- Poor time use report. With this, you’ll see all the websites and apps you used that weren’t work-related. Be wary of this one.
- Attendance report. See which employees were absent or late—and review their excuses at the same time!
- Projects report. See how your employees’ hours break down with respect to overarching projects.
Admittedly, RescueTime has a smaller number of reports:
- Productivity report. The productivity report is very robust, providing you with a productivity score of 0 to 100 and showing you how your time expenditure breaks down throughout the day.
- Daily highlights report. You’ll also get to see “daily highlights” to give you a sense of how you worked that day.
- Categories report. You can also break down time in terms of categories, seeing your time usage in each section.
In terms of sheer numbers, Time Doctor has an edge. However, the real effectiveness or value of these reports depends on your company’s goals and values.
Winner: Time Doctor
With Time Doctor, you’ll get access to 24/7 customer support, but this isn’t guaranteed with RescueTime, even with a paid account.
Also note that with Time Doctor, the level of support you get increases with the tiers of membership; you’re guaranteed a response within 3 days at the lowest level of subscription, but will get immediate support at the highest level of subscription.
No matter what, you’re going to get some customer service. These companies want to keep their customers.
Of course, in full disclosure, I haven’t personally contacted either of these companies for support. So I can’t share any stories about my experience.
Both RescueTime and Time Doctor have impressive knowledge bases, which you can search and/or browse to learn more about each respective platform.
With an hour or two of reading, you should be able to call yourself an expert!
Time Doctor’s pricing is fairly straightforward:
- Basic. With the Basic plan, you’ll get access to time tracking, tasks and projects, unlimited screenshots, and activity tracking. You’ll also get 3-day support, 1 group/department, and 1 month of data storage. It’s $7 per user per month.
- Standard. With the Standard plan, you’ll also get track apps and URLs, payroll, and 40+ integrations. You’ll also get 24-hour support, up to 3 groups/departments, and 6 months of data storage. It’s $10 per user per month.
- Premium. With the Premium plan, you’ll get everything from Standard plus client login access, VIP support, concierge account setup, video screen captures, unlimited groups, and unlimited data storage. It’s $20 per user per month.
You can also sign up for a 14-day free trial.
RescueTime also offers straightforward pricing for its premium product. You’ll be able to subscribe to the service for $12 per month, or $6.50 per month if you subscribe annually (you’ll be billed $78 per year with this model).
You can also sign up for a 14-day free trial.
It’s worth noting that RescueTime also offers a “Lite” product, which doesn’t include distraction blocking software, real-time goals and alerts, offline time tracking, and other advanced features.
Time Doctor vs. RescueTime: Overall Summary
Did you read the whole article or just skip to this section? 😉
Don’t worry—if you’re just looking for a quick skim, this is the section for you. Here’s a summary of all our findings:
- Unique strengths. Each platform has some unique strengths to consider. Time Doctor has more reports you can use, different plan tiers, and more integrations than you can shake a stick at. RescueTime is a bit more hands-off, more streamlined, and it offers a free version. Different organizations will have different preferences.
- Intuitiveness. I don’t think any tech-savvy person will have a problem learning and navigating these apps. They’re designed to be remarkably easy to learn, and they both offer exhaustive knowledge bases to help answer common questions.
- Overall features. You can’t say one platform has more or better features than the other; they’re just different. That said, I might give the overall edge to Time Doctor, due to its higher potential for utility with integrations and add-ons.
- Reporting. When it comes to reporting, Time Doctor rules. I like RescueTime’s simple yet comprehensive reports, but Time Doctor just has more value here.
- Cost. RescueTime has a free tier and a paid tier, with the paid tier being obviously better. Time Doctor has no free option (unless you count the trial), and is generally more expensive, depending on the options you choose.
As I said before, these are both solid time tracking tools, and I doubt you’ll be disappointed with either choice.
Overall Winner: Tie.
I know a tie is sort of an unsatisfying conclusion, but honestly, neither tool is significantly superior to the other. Sign up for free trials of each and see what you think. You probably won’t know which one you like more until you get your hands on them anyway.
If you’re interested in maximizing your productivity, a time tracking app is a good place to start. Or, you can try a timesheet app. But it’s not going to be enough for you to reach your full potential.
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Sign up for a free trial today, and see how it works for yourself!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.