Last week I wrote about a couple of time-management applications that purport to help people become more productive byshowing them how much time they fritter away on unproductive management of online activities, not just Web browsing but e-mail and instant messaging.
With that fresh in my mind, this Seth Godin post about procrastination really grabbed me. Godin writes that, for information workers, using social channels like Facebook and Twitter is the "ultimate expression of procrastination." Godin says:
Laziness in a white collar job has nothing to do with avoiding hard physical labor. 'Who wants to help me move this box!' Instead, it has to do with avoiding difficult (and apparently risky) intellectual labor.
Ouch. That hits home for me. (And maybe for some other knowledge workers as well.) I sometimes visit Facebook when struggling to make the words come, telling myself checking a few status updates might help break my writer's block. Sometimes it does, but just as often I get so caught up in all of the comments I have trouble getting my focus back.
I've found it's better to run to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or take a quick walk around the block. Unlike Facebook, I still have my work niggling away in the back of my mind during these activities. Ideas related to solving work problems are more likely to pop into my head than they are when I am composing a snarky response to a friend's status.
When I wrote about this in June of 2008, more than 100 readers chimed in, many of them calling me a "dinosaur" (or my favorite, Methuselah) for implying that maybe, just maybe, Facebook could hurt some employees' productivity at the office.
I'm not saying there isn't room for Facebook and other social channels at work. As I've written before, I think employees should be allowed to devote a reasonable amount of time during the work day to non-work online activities. The problem is, determining what's "reasonable" can be tricky. That's where the time-management applications might come in handy.
As The Wall Street Journal reporters who tested several of the time-management tools wrote:
During one particularly unproductive day, the service showed us that we spent 22 minutes on Twitter, 40 minutes on Facebook and almost three hours on email.
I bet many people would be surprised to see that one or two "quick" trips to Facebook ate up 40 minutes, or that they spent that much time on e-mail.