This week a colleague sent me a subtle note about a productivity software program that is rapidly growing in popularity. I'm trying not to take it personally.
The software, called Freedom, doesn't actually add anything to your computer's speed, power or functionality. What it does — what you pay for — is turn off your Internet connection, for up to eight hours.
Why? Studies show that massive amounts of work time are lost by people who compulsively Tweet, constantly check their email and post Facebook updates around the clock. They don't necessarily mean to be unproductive; they just can't fight their addiction.
Huh. I just spent an hour-and-a-half after that last sentence shopping online for a deep fryer, instant messaging with a friend and checking my investments in Scandinavian textiles. The flesh is weak.
The software program — for $10 — essentially does what any user can do for free with a couple of mouse clicks. Its makers, however, are betting that citizens of the 21st century don't have the intestinal fortitude or willpower to turn off the temptation all by themselves.
Their product doesn't provide the same service your employer does — blocking websites, tracking your mouse clicks, secretly reading your emails, hiding tiny cameras in places you would never think to look. Instead, you tell it how long you want to remain undistracted, and you can easily disable it by restarting your computer.
Doing that, however, is the equivalent of washing down your small salad, no dressing, with a pair of gravy-topped jelly donuts. Shame on you.
The interest in Freedom, and several other software programs with similar features, has sparked a number of upstart companies with complementary ventures. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
"Fone Foe LLC" realizes that the cell phone suction-cupped to the ears of many Americans causes countless millions of hours of lost productivity. For a nominal fee, it will send a burly professional wrestler to your home to confiscate your phone and flush it down the toilet.
"Children Away Inc." will lure your children out of the home with candy and puppies, relieving you of the stress of arguments, dirty diapers, loud music, slamming doors and pleas for cash, the car keys or a trip to the Great Escape. The children will be bussed humanely to a distribution center, where they will be matched with parents who aren't quite so busy.
Annoyed that your spouse is demanding you take a week away when you've got a special project at work that you just have to finish? The "Vacation Unplanner" will cancel your airline reservations, start a bedbug infestation at your chosen hotel and send ominous terror alerts to your spouse's cell phone.
Do you have neighbors who are fond of you, engaging you in chit chat and inviting you to their barbecues and dinner parties? "Neighbor Block" will raise a 17-foot-high sound-proof wall of shrubbery around your property, disable your door bell and set loose a rabid Irish wolfhound on your property.
Our favorite new productivity supplier, however, is tentatively called the "Mother-in-Law Stalker."
No, it doesn't stalk your mother-in-law; that would be creepy and disturbing. Instead, the company pays your mother-in-law to stalk you. She will watch over your shoulder while you work. She will check your recent files when you go to the bathroom. She will criticize the healthiness of your snacks. She will trade away all the best players on your fantasy football team.
In the rare case where you mother-in-law trusts and respects you, the company will find someone else's mother-in-law to make your life a productive nightmare.
She will turn off the TV so it doesn't "rot your brain."
She will make sure that your co-workers are unattractive and — by spreading rumors and outright lies about your personal hygiene — that they have no interest in wasteful chatting with you.
She will sign up for your Twitter feed and post her own bikini pictures on your Facebook wall.
At last, our nation's long productivity nightmare is near an end.
Email Steve Ouellette at: