Cecily Drucker: Scooping up our misplaced minutes

I can only imagine what it would be like in this age to bill for my time. Just like most of you, in a single hour I might write fragments of four or five emails, answer the phone a couple times, deal with a loved (or unloved) one who pops up in a chat box. This is the pixellated life.

On Tuesday, I stopped by the San Francisco offices of Cecily Drucker. She runs a startup called Bottom Line Time, whose objective is to help people add up the various minutes they spend on e-mail. Drucker, daughter of the famous management philosopher Peter Drucker, is launching an application called MonetaSuite. It counts the seconds you spend on an email, and in theory makes it a snap for a lawyer or accountant to piece together the lost fragments of work and bill for them.

I tried it out. It’s unsettling to start an e-mail and see the clock beginning to run. My thinking might be, “Ok, let’s see, um…12 seconds already?!, etc.” And then I’d start to wonder how much 12 seconds is worth if I’m billing at $300 per hour. I think it’s a buck.

Anyway, I think billing for time is a primitive way to work, especially in areas where contacts and ideas reign supreme. But until those harried professionals figure out a better way to charge customers, this tool might prove useful.

(I’m writing this from University Ave in Palo Alto. I have the laptop on a newspaper stand, and I’m leeching bandwidth from the University Cafe. I just had an interview with sociological researcher Cameron Marlowe at Facebook, which I’ll blog on over the weekend. Heading next to LinkedIn, where I’ll be talking to founder and CEO Reid Hoffman. Flying back to NY on a redeye tonight.)