According to a survey conducted last year, the average employee fritters away eight hours a week on non work-related activities. Personal Internet browsing was cited as the number one culprit; I know I’m a little bit guilty of it, too. Leaving my personal e-mail open all day (and stopping to read new messages as they arrive) is something particularly I’m particularly bad at.
This week I discovered 8aweek, a handy Firefox plugin designed to help you reclaim some of this time, by monitoring non-work related browsing. 8aweek installs as a toolbar (which, thankfully supports FireFox customization so you can move the buttons around), and maintains a no-registration-required profile on their website. You set up a bunch of restricted sites that you want to limit access to, and a daily quota for the total amount of time you can spend browsing them (the default is half an hour).
When you exceed this quota, you get a nice warning message in the middle of your browser window:
Whether you obey it’s restrictions, or just keep clicking “10 more minutes”, is another question, but at least being made aware of the issue is helpful. After all, guilt is a great motivator.
I’ve been using it for a couple of days and I already feel like I’ve been more productive at work. Plus, it’s nice to be able to keep on top of this stuff yourself, rather than having limits imposed on you by your employer. 8aweek also gives you a nice visualisation of your browsing habits, and even grades you on your behaviour (I’m all Cs at the moment).