Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Addicted to social media? Hire a slapper

Published 23 October 2012 05:57, Updated 16 April 2013 13:30

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Addicted to social media? Hire a slapper

To break free from a world full of “drifters” and social media addicts extreme measures may be required.

A blogger in San Francisco is so worried about his ability to stay on task, he has hired a woman to slap him when he starts wasting time.

And it works. According to a tracking app called RescueTime, Maneesh Sethi’s productivity has rocketed from a slacker 38 per cent to an impressive 98 per cent since he hired “Kara” for $8 an hour to watch him, yell at him and slap his face – particularly when he switches to his favourite sites: Facebook, YouTube and Reddit.

OK, it is a little extreme, but I guess it could be popular with those who have no self-discipline at all.

Sethi has some theories about why Kara has been so effective, starting with the observation that humans are social animals.

“The real reason why Kara made me more productive is because she added a social element to writing. When I was drafting the outline, I asked for her feedback. When I couldn’t think of the right way to phrase a sentence, she was there to help. Instead of it being a chore, Kara made it fun to write,” says Sethi in his blog.

Other reasons are: Kara became a “makeshift boss”, she makes him push through rough spots when he would otherwise have headed for the fridge; he could bounce ideas off her; the slap added a playful element that he ended up wanting to avoid; having another set of eyes improved the quality of his work.

The world is full of “drifters” and social media addicts like Sethi, who quotes research showing people are productive for only three out of five working days.

Even novelist Zadie Smith has acknowledged internet-blocking apps for helping her create the time to write her latest novel NW.

Another writer, Jonathan Franzen, apparently wrote portions of The Corrections wearing a blindfold and earplugs to reduce disruptions. “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction,” he said.

Here are six apps which help you when you can’t turn off social media or other distractions:

  1. Leechblock: A Firefox extension which allows you to block up to six sites for fixed periods
  2. Freedom: Can lock up the internet for eight hours at a time on Macs and PCs. You need to reboot if you want to get back online while Freedom is running.
  3. Anti-Social: Facebook, Twitter and other social specified sites are blocked.
  4. Self Control: An app for Macs that works on a timer. You still won’t be able to get back online, even if you reboot.
  5. K9: Designed for parents to block unsuitable sites.
  6. Chrome Nanny: For people using the Chrome browser who want to block specific sites for a period of time.

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