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How can I measure my productivity when using multiple devices? I'm a software developer, and I typically work in several virtual machines during the day. Is there a tool like RescueTime or TimeSnapper that will allow me to analyse my software usage across multiple PCs? Or do I need to consider a different approach?

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I thought RescueTime works across multiple PCs and even devices (android) and everything should be good as long as you are not using multiple devices at the same time. – amol Aug 4 '11 at 19:48
amol, I wasn't aware of that. I've only checked out the Solo Lite option for RescueTime before. If the paid version allows for tracking across multiple devices, I would be interested in it. Thanks for the tip! – user986 Aug 4 '11 at 21:36

The work time is usually limited to a similar amount every day but time is not strictly related to productivity. I personally understand productivity as a standard output unit over time, meaning a higher output in the same time interval suggests an increase in productivity. Taking for example an industry employee who's supposed to pack boxes: if he manages to increase his packed-boxes/hour ratio he can technically work for less time to deliver the same work.

However, due to the variety of activities that can be developed in other businessess, it can be hard to set a standard unit to report whether the productivity has gone up or down. I suggest reading the Pomodoro Technique to understand how they use blocks of 25 minutes (aka pomodoros) to gather information regarding focused time. The biggest drawback of this unit is you'll probably have to adopt the whole system to use but who knows? You may even like it.

Image taken from The Pomodoro Technique book.

The picture above shows a sample of a simplified record sheet that you're supposed to do by the end of each day. It gives a good overview of how much focused time you managed to succesfully use. If you happen to stumble upon an undelayable task or notices something interrupted you for too long, it's very likely that you'll have to void the current pomodoro.

But why 25 minutes?

A Pomodoro can’t be interrupted; it marks 25 minutes of pure work. A Pomodoro can’t be split up; there is no such thing as half of a Pomodoro or a quarter of a Pomodoro. The atomic unit of time is a Pomodoro. (Rule: A Pomodoro Is Indivisible.) If a Pomodoro is definitively interrupted by someone or something, that Pomodoro should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new Pomodoro. When the Pomodoro rings, mark an X next to the activity you’ve been working on and take a break for 3-5 minutes.

Cirillo, Franceso. The Pomodoro Technique. PDF Version. 2006. Page 6, §4.

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Renan, thank you for taking the time to answer, but you haven't actually answered the question I asked. I want to analyse how I spend my time during the work day and see where I am being unproductive. I have previously tried Pomodoro, and I'm personally unimpressed with it. The nature of my work does not always allow me to break my tasks up in this way. – user986 Aug 4 '11 at 9:21
@MagicAndi Can you give me a few more details about how you're going to track productivity with the time data collected? I'll post another answer if I can think of something better. – Renan Aug 4 '11 at 16:46

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