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10 Modern Time-Savers That Really Aren’t

Certainly some inventions streamline daily life. But many have a funny way of stealing minutes, even hours, from your day—like these 10 culprits.

By John Freeman
Real Simple January 2007Ellen Silverman

8. E-mail: We e-mail all day from our computers. And then from the gym. We glance at it mid-conversation with our spouses. In a recent poll conducted by AOL, nearly 60 percent of respondents even admitted to having checked their e-mail while answering the call of nature. The truth of the matter: The more we e-mail, the more e-mail we get. And that leads to more time spent e-mailing. Studies show that those hours don’t come from the workday or TV viewing; they come from time with our families.

9. Computerized call centers: Call almost any customer-service number (like Amtrak’s 1-800-USA-RAIL) and you will be greeted by an automated attendant. That’s when things get irksome. You will repeat what you need as she requests to go back a step. And in a few minutes, you may just desperately start repeating, “Operator, operator, operator.…” If Samuel Beckett were alive today, Waiting for Godot might have taken place in one of these call-center hells.

10. The Roomba Cleaning Robot: It was supposed to be the quintessential time-saving device. (It allegedly beavers around, vacuuming up loose crumbs while you relax with a mai tai.) But how many hours do Roomba owners spend retrieving it? And does anything ever really get clean? Let’s face it—this Jetsons-esque device will make its mark only in the novelty-gift hall of fame.


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