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Where does all the time go?

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How much time do we fritter away at work? According to a 2007 survey from Salary.com, Americans waste about 20% of their time at work. And a chunk of that wasted time comes from surfing the Internet.

One journalist writer, in a quest to find out where her time was going, tried out four online services that track productivity:

1. RescueTime Pro: $5.30 per month; free two-week trial. It records activities, assigning them to categories and putting them into graphs. It also lets you designate sites or applications as productive or unproductive.

2. Slife: $5 per month; 30-day free trial. The software allows you to customize categories and labels to specify your activities, so you can see how many minutes you spend on, say, Facebook or e-mail.

3. Klok: free. It doesn’t automatically track what you do on the computer. You note when you start and stop each project, so you can later compare your goals to reality.

The journalist learned, for example, that a writing assignment took 3.5 hours instead of the two she’d budgeted, and that she accomplished fewer tasks than anticipated each day.

4. ManicTime: Windows-based. It tracks computer usage with line and bar graphs, then spits out a summary showing what percentage of your total time is spent with each application.

What did the journalist learn from the experience? Just knowing that you’re tracking your time helps improve productivity.

— Adapted from “Services to Help Us Stop Dawdling Online,” Alina Dizik, The Wall Street Journal.

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