The first thing I do when I get to work each day is check my personal e-mail, followed swiftly by my Facebook account and Twitter page. Of course, I arrive at work early enough in the morning that there’s rarely anything new to check, but it’s a habit. And even while writing this article, I have my favorite personal Web sites running side by side with the sites I need for research.
In the last few years, our personal lives have moved online. Yet many professions have increased their reliance on the Internet to get work done, creating a constant competition for our attention. It’s okay to be an Internet junkie at home, but when your favorite sites distract you from getting your work done, it’s time to learn to tune them out.
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Ironically, unless you’re planning to go analog, the solution to this problem may actually involve more Web sites. A new collection of sites have emerged to help Internet users police themselves. Here are some of the ones we find most useful:
1. Time Trials
Several Web sites hope to guilt you into being more productive by tracking how much time you spend on personal sites each day. Perhaps the most successful is RescueTime, which claims to save users an average of nearly 4 hours a day. It does this by analyzing the programs you use actively (sites don’t register if they are just in the background) and lets users follow their own usage trends, so they can figure out which sites take up the most time and make adjustments. There is a pay version (starting at $4 a month), but the free version does most of the same stuff except it doesn’t show your tracking data for more than three months, which is probably better for your morale anyway.