Does Your Time Need to Be Rescued?

By now, you probably have an idea of how I feel about wasting time at work. Last year, I even went as far as to write that I thought we shouldn’t spend a minute of work time on personal tasks because it’s a slippery slope.

Well, according to Salary.com’s 2013 Time Wasting Survey, 69 percent of employees copped to wasting time at work every single day. And I suspect the real number is actually higher because, just like all people think they are good drivers, all people also think they are maximally productive.

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents said they routinely waste 30 minutes or less each day while on the clock. That’s not so bad. Unfortunately, a quarter waste between 30-60 minutes daily and 11 percent waste several hours daily on non-work related items. Bad habit.

Since I run my own business, I thought I would be more likely to waste time because I wouldn’t feel as guilty as someone who gets paid for every hour they waste at the office. But a recent experiment puts me squarely in the 30-60 minute range. And I know that number is accurate. How, you ask?

Introducing RescueTime

RescueTime is a nifty little program (and no, I’m not a company spokesperson) that runs in the background of your electronic devices and tracks the time you spend on individual applications and websites.

In addition to logging and reporting on the highlights of your day, RescueTime shows you exactly how many minutes or hours you spent in categories such as email and meetings. You can set alerts to inform you when you’ve spent a certain amount of time on an activity, and block distracting websites when you need to focus. You are your own worst productivity enemy, and RescueTime knows it!

What’s my favorite feature? If my mouse hasn’t moved for more than two minutes, a window pops up and asks me what I’m doing. I can then check off the appropriate activity, such as a phone call, paperwork, or lunch meeting. If I’m taking a break to go to the fridge for an unscheduled meal or play 15 minutes of Civilization, I can note that as well.

So yes, RescueTime is a bit like Big Brother, but it held me accountable and was a bit of reality check. In case you’re interested, on one day I spent approximately 2 hours in phone meetings, 2 hours working in Microsoft Word, 2 hours writing emails, 1 hour on social media (mixed personal and professional usage), and 30 minutes surfing completely frivolous websites. Thankfully, my perusal of BlindGossip.com typically coincided with eating lunch at my desk.

Thanks to the experiment, I’m adjusting my work day to allow for longer periods of focused and strategic work, rescuing about an hour from the email grind and a half hour from compulsive social media checking. I don’t run the program all the time, but I do turn it on every now and then to make sure I’m being as efficient as I want and need to be.

Would you try a program like RescueTime? What do suppose it might uncover about your time management?







Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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