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7 Reasons to Borrow Grandma’s Egg Timer

7 Reasons to Borrow Grandma’s Egg Timer

    If you’ve been looking for the edge in getting your task list done, you should consider investing in a timer. Picking up a timer stands out as the one thing I’ve done that significantly increased my productivity.
    What’s so great about a piece of plastic with a couple of wires on the inside? After all, something that you can pick up at the dollar store can’t be a huge influence on our ability to get things done, or we’d all have one already. It turns out that it isn’t the gadget that really provides the benefit, at least for me: it’s the ability to set firm boundaries on my time

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    How many times have you opened up your email, swearing that you were only looking for one message and as soon as you responded to it, you’d shut your email? And how often does that one email turn into twenty minutes of reading email and sorting through spam? I’ve noticed that when I have a boundary on my time — when the ringing of my timer reminds me that my time is up — I get back to the tasks that I really need to be working on.

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    Your timer doesn’t even need to be fancy: you can pick up an egg timer at the grocery store (or borrow it from the kitchen), install a piece of software, use your microwave’s timer — you can even use a song as a timer, or an album if you need a longer setting. The key to a good timer is knowing when your time is up.

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    1. Race the clock. There are certain tasks that I simply want to get done and over with, like certain household chores. Rather than putting them off and being miserable about what I have in store for myself, I’ve set aside ten minutes in the morning to get those chores done. I set my timer and try to get all of them done in the allotted time, as a sort of race against the clock. Most days I can actually get everything done in that 10-minute race, though it would take me an hour of moping around to get them done without my timer.
    2. Take a break. I try to break up my work each day by stepping away from the computer. I might give myself 15 minutes to read a book or 30 minutes to take a walk. But, without the sort of boundary my timer provides, I often run over — way over. I’ll read without looking up from a book, and find that I’ve read for an hour, and ate up all the time I planned to spend on a given task. I’m not a compulsive watch checker: without my timer telling me the time, I don’t know that I’ve gone over.
    3. Process similar tasks. I always have emails to respond to, blogs to read and other similar tasks — all of which I could spend hours a day on. Instead, I set my timer for 20 minutes, or so, and try to get through the most important emails (or other tasks). I’ve found that I get into a groove and can actually process a larger number of similar actions, simply because they’re batched together and I know I can devote the next 20 minutes to them.
    4. Set deadlines. I work best with deadlines — not knowing when a task needs to be finished can drive me crazy. But with a timer, I can set a deadline within my overall work day: a given task needs to be finished in 30 minutes so that I can move on to the next thing I need to do today. Sure, I may not be able to complete a task within that short amount of time, but you might be surprised by just how much I can get done. I also know immediately how much I need to adjust the day’s schedule by.
    5. Take time to move. Various studies have said that you need to move away from the computer every so often. The exact number varies, but it’s somewhere between once every 20 minutes and once every hour. But I never remember that I actually need to go move around. So, I set my timer for every 30 minutes or so, and make sure that my immediate action after it goes off is to stand up and stretch. After that, I can sit down, or do whatever I need to get started on my next task.
    6. Start big projects. Big projects are intimidating. It’s often hard to get started because you know that you’ll be working on the project forever afterwards — or at least it seems that way. But you may be able to start smaller. Try picking out one small task to get you started — preferably something you can handle in 15 minutes. You can tackle any project in 15-minute increments.
    7. Track your billable hours. Knowing just how you spent the last hour can give you a good idea of how much money you earned during that time. That figure can be more than motivational: it can also give you an idea of whether certain tasks are actually financially worth the time you spend on them, and demonstrate where the deadweight is in your day. If you can get rid of that deadweight, you can get more productive time in your day — and potentially up your earnings.

    Timers are useful devices. There are plenty of ways to use them to up your productivity and, if you’ve been looking for a way to up your productivity another notch, you might want to consider a timer.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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