Do you feel as though your work, studying or chores always end up taking too long? Do you feel as though you could be more effective if only you could stay on task?
Maybe you’re convinced it’s a question of will power, or organization, or motivation. The solution, though, might be very simple.
One of the easiest ways to get dramatic improvements in your productivity is to use a timer. You can grab the one from your kitchen, use the alarm on your phone, or try one of the popular free online timers like e.ggtimer.com or Tick Tock Timer.
When you’ve got a timing ticking away, you’ll suddenly discover a new sense of focus which you never knew you had. Here are five specific ways in which your timer will help:
Writing and Working Faster
A lot of the writers I know – of fiction and of non-fiction – use timers to focus for specific periods. It’s all too easy to get distracted when you’ve told yourself that you’ll spend a whole morning on that report or article or short story … when you’ve got thirty minutes to sit down and focus, you’re much more likely to get on with the task at hand.
Timers work particularly well for big tasks without an obvious end point, like clearing your emails. You might not be able to face getting through the whole backlog at once – but spending fifteen focused minutes every day will go a long way to clearing it.
Studying More Effectively
If you’re in school or working towards a qualification, you’ll be spending at least some of your time studying. Your brain can’t focus on learning for hours on end – experts think that it’s best to concentrate for between 25 and 45 minutes, then take a break to recharge.
Next time you sit down to study, try setting a timer for thirty minutes. It’s a lot easier to stay focused and motivated when you know you have a break coming up.
Getting Through Chores
I hate doing chores, and often end up putting them off – which only means they end up being more of a pain! You might well feel the same. One technique that works really well is to spend just five to fifteen minutes on something – it’s surprising how much you can get done. Even I can just about stand to clean the kitchen for ten minutes!
FlyLady popularized the idea of using a fifteen minute timer to tackle chores, and hosts of fans around the internet testify to the effectiveness of this.
All we ask is that you set a timer and spend 15 minutes a day decluttering. That’s it. Anyone can do anything for only 15 minutes, even if you have to break it down into 5 minutes segments.
(Declutter 15 Minutes a Day – 5 Great Tools That Make it Easy! on FlyLady.net)
Limiting Your Procrastination
We all need to take breaks in order to remain productive. The problem is, it’s all too easy for a twenty-minute break to turn into two hours of browsing the net and giggling at pictures of cats with silly captions.
When you decide it’s time for a break, set a timer. Give yourself around ten – twenty minutes, depending on what you feel you need. Once that alarm goes off, get straight back on track with your next task. (It helps if you’ve made up your mind what to do next before taking your break.)
Making Phone Calls
How often have you been on the phone with someone for far longer than you meant to? It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re chatting, only to realize that a whole hour’s gone by. If you’re making a call, set a timer going (preferably one which has a silent alert, like a pop-up on the screen). Once the alarm goes off, you’ll be reminded to draw the conversation to a close.
If you’re conducting an interview by phone, this is also a good technique to make sure you don’t have to keep one eye on the clock – you can chat away with your full focus on the conversation, and when your alarm goes off to tell you there’s five or ten minutes to go, you can draw things to a close.
Have you tried using a timer to improve your productivity? How did it work out for you?
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