Using RescueTime and Alfred for easy focus sessions

During the last weeks of working from home I have been using the FocusTime feature of RescueTime a lot more. I use these timeblocks (20 minutes for example) to focus in on specific tasks or to create a timebox where I can work trough a small set of problems. For this I have been using

  • RescueTime (Premium)
  • Alfred
  • IFTTT
  • A TimeTimer

Overview

The workflow is quite simple. I set a TimeTime to the time I want to focus. I use the TimeTimer as a visual aid to see my progress. I then use Alfred and quick workflow I create to tigger the RescueTime API. The source code can be found at https://github.com/KingOfSpades/FocusStarter

Focus Starter Example

This kicks of the following events Focus Time Workflow

I use a IFTTT workflow to trigger a calendar event creation for in the weekly review and I use a TimeTimer as a visual aid.

TimeTimer in Action

The Why

Why am I using all this? Well the RescueTime FocusTime feature blocks all distracting websites during a session which is kind of neat. It also gives me some traceability of how productive my day has been and keeps me accountable.

The How

Setting up RescueTime

Not much setup needed. If you have a RescueTime account on https://www.rescuetime.com you can get started setting everything up.

Setting up Slack

Go to the integrations page on RescueTime (https://www.rescuetime.com/anapi/setup/overview) to setup the Slack integration. RescueTime wil now set your status to Do Not Disturb when using the Focus Time

Calling the API

You’ll need an API get call the API and use the Alfred workflow, create the API key at https://www.rescuetime.com/anapi/manage and het the workflow from my GitHub page (you can also incorporate the API command’s in your own script) at https://github.com/KingOfSpades/FocusStarter

When you have a key you can easily use the API key to start a focus session, example:

curl --location --request POST \
'https://www.rescuetime.com/anapi/start_focustime?key=<your_api_key>&duration=20'

or to stop a session, example:

curl --location --request POST \
'https://www.rescuetime.com/anapi/end_focustime?key=<your_api_key>'

More information at https://www.rescuetime.com/apidoc . You an also use the API to get feedback on your daily RescueTime score, checkout my BitBar plugin rescueTimeBar at https://github.com/KingOfSpades/rescueTimeBar

IFTTT Trigger (optional)

I setup a IFTTT trigger to create a calendar event when I start a Focus session. This helps me to trace my use of focus time trough the week. You can set it up at IFTTT. I’m planning to replace this with a integrated option in my Alfred workflow in the future.

Closing

I really enjoy the speed that I can trigger a focus session at the moment. It really eliminated almost all the friction between “I should do a focus moment” and “I’m doing a focus moment”. In the future I would like to expend the workflow so it also triggers DND on macOS and I want to replace the IFTTT trigger with something local. Maybe I’ll even add a little “On the Air” light to my setup.


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