Timers, in the face of 21st century technological marvels, can appear as antiquated as steam engines and telegraphs. The simple timer, however, is one of the most useful productivity tools around.
Photo by smemon87.
Outside of timing a pot bubbling on the stove, not a lot of people use a timer on a daily basis. If you haven’t worked a timer into your daily routines, the expense is small and the benefits are great. Today we’re going take a look at how the humble timer can take the nebulous conglomerate of tasks, breaks, goofing off, sweating deadlines, and the entire mass of what constitutes your work day and break it into manageable—dare we say enjoyable?—servings.
Selecting a Timer
While your grandmother may have only had a choice between a timer that looked a lot like an egg and one that only kind of looked like an egg, you’ve got far, far, more choices. If you’re looking for a hardware timer, you’ve got Classic egg timers, tomato-shaped timers, stop watches, and anything else you can set an alarm on. In the software realm, a host of timers for popular operating systems and smartphones give you a dizzying array of options to choose from.
We’re not going to go over all of them here—we’ve highlighted several in the past—but we will offer some insight into selecting a great timer.
Select the simplest timer that will get the job done. The geek in you wants the cool timer app in the App Store so you can track while you time, cross-index your “scores” for timed tasks, and eleventy-billion other neat tricks. But is any of that actually going to help you get stuff done? Are you going to waste minutes you could be working or breaks during which you could be relaxing fiddling with it? You know what you can’t fiddle with? A $5 egg timer from the grocery store. It’s a crank with some gears and a bell. It only does three things: sit there, tick there, or ring there. When you’re getting started incorporating a timer in your workflow, I’d strongly suggest picking the simplest timer that will meet your needs.
Initially avoid, if possible, timers on your computer or smart phone. If the best place for you to have a timer is in your system tray or on your Android phone, it’s better to use a timer than to not use one. When you’re first getting used to timer-based productivity boosts, however, I’ve found it’s helpful to have a timer that’s extremely boring and unconnected to any work-related platform. (You can, of course, do whatever works best for you.)
If you have a timer in your system tray, for instance, you might notice that you’ve got new emails when you go to reset it for your break. It’s too tempting to go mess around in your inbox and see what email just came in. Same thing for your smartphone, you go to reset the timer and you’re staring right at the notification bar on your phone. What’s that? New voicemails? There goes what should have been a relaxing break or a strong start to a new task, torpedoed right out of the gate because the digital-crack our electronic devices feed us is too hard to resist for most people. Keep it simple and as stand-alone as possible.
Now that we’ve hashed out some basic guidelines to selecting a timer, let’s look at the reasons you’re going to start incorporating a timer into your workflow.
Timers Are Workload Containment Units
You’ve got work, and if you’re anything like the great overworked populace of CorporateVille, you’ve got lots of it. You could work all day, all night, and right into your eventual hospitalization for a stress-related breakdown if you wanted. But who wants that? There will always be work to be done and in many jobs, especially those driven by deadlines, the work never really pauses or ends. Timers help you to impose some microcosmic order on a chaotic work schedule that, thanks to the power of always-on internet and telecommuting, can follow you wherever you go. Photo by JenVista.
A timer allows you to take a task and essentially cage it. Instead of looking at “Work on the Johnson account” or “prepare the monthly TPS report” as a nebulous and potentially day-consuming task, a timer lets you create a “schedule cage” for that task. Whether you opt to set aside two 45 minute blocks that day to work on it, or a half-dozen 30 minute blocks over the course of the business week, using a timer helps you quarantine tasks so they don’t leak over into other important work and personal duties. Even if it’s a task that you have to spend all day on if that’s what’s required, a timer helps you get a firmer grasp on how long it’s taking (and will potentially take). Leer más “Use a Timer as a Productivity Booster and Sanity Minder”