Robby Macdonell used to wonder where the workday went. "If only there was software to tell me where the time goes," he thought.
"We got sick and tired of being unable to track our time. So we decided to scratch our own itch," Macdonell says, referring to his co-founders at RescueTime, a Seattle-based company that sells software that helps people monitor their personal productivity.
The company's application, also known as RescueTime, lets users track their online and application use and see precisely how they're spending their time. They can use RescueTime's features to set reminders and block out distractions.
The seven-person company got launched with venture funding in 2008. Since then, 500,000 people have used the RescueTime application, says Macdonell, the company's vice president of product development.
Products like RescueTime dovetail with two corresponding trends in society: the emergence of big data that is complex and hard to manage, and a movement toward personal analytics, in which people use technology to collect and analyze data about themselves.
More and more companies are seeing a use for RescueTime as well. Individual users account for about 70 percent of its customers, although an enterprise version is gaining steam. It was rolled out to meet demand from companies that need to manage remote or dispersed work teams.
RescueTime fits into a broader landscape of business applications that track time and attendance, productivity and employee behavior.
There's been a change in how companies regard the product, Macdonell says. Early on, many organizations tended to view RescueTime as an employee "watchdog," but that attitude is not as prevalent. "We're seeing managers use it to give their team members greater autonomy and optimize their time. We're pleased about that."