Being aware of bad habits can sometimes make it easier to jettison them, at least those with no physical addiction involved. I have a bad tendency to interrupt folks when they are speaking, probably due to attending too many family gatherings where everyone spoke at once. (I'm loud too, since the only way to be heard at these shindigs was to raise your voice above the din.) A colleague sought to break me of that habit, despite the fact I didn't think it was such a big deal -- not until he videotaped a meeting, showing me how often I did it and how people reacted to it.
I'm not sure I'd categorize non-work Web browsing at the office as a bad habit. As I've written before, I think allowing at least some personal Internet use at work is a good idea, for a number of reasons. And I've questioned the numerous attempts to determine how much productivity is lost, in dollar terms, to Web-surfing employees.
Still, I like the idea of new services designed to help users see exactly how much time they fritter away on unproductive management of online activities, not just Web browsing but e-mail and instant messaging. The latter two are both problems for me, and for others too. In this post about Twitter, I mention the IM issues of IT Business Edge VP Ken-Hardin and marketing guru Seth Godin.
The Wall Street Journal took a couple of services that purport to help with time management for a spin. By helping users figure out how much time you spend on certain tasks, people can make adjustments where necessary. The providers of one of the services, RescueTimePro, found its users switch to an IM window 71 times a day, or 11.5 times an hour, and visit an average of 57 Web sites or applications a day. Not a bad thing necessarily, but such habits certainly don't lend themselves well to performing tasks that require focus.
All four services the WSJ writers tried sound interesting, though they might not provide a true picture of how time is spent. As the author of the article points out, just knowing the length of Facebook sessions would be recorded made the writers less likely to linger.
Two of them, Klok and ManicTime, are free, while RescueTimePro and Slife each cost about $5 a month. (The WSJ participated in free trials for the latter two.) Most of the services employ bar graphs and other visual tools to quickly reveal productivity patterns. Seeing is believing when it comes to behavior modification, as I pointed out in my example in the first paragraph.