Here are 5 Ways to Use Timers for Getting Things Done.

When a friend suggested I try using a productivity app that was proving useful to him, I dabbled with it for a few days and promptly ignored it, returning to casual forgetfulness and spontaneous panic.

Almost a year later I revisited the app and gave it a second try. Within two months, not only was I an avid convert, I had ‘graduated’ through the various levels of recognition to ‘Master’ status.

I’m happy to say Todoist changed my working life for the better.

But when it comes to time-boxing, I struggle.  As much as I love the idea of measuring out my days in slices of bright red tomato time, it doesn’t (yet) work instinctively for me.  I think it’s because the strict ticking clock looks altogether too bossy.  So, while I forge ahead in my mission to squeeze more valuable time out of a busy schedule, here are ten experimental ways to grease the wheels of life with timers – and to do it your own way.

1. Practice timing presentations, coaching interventions and other client face time.

For a recent meeting with a coaching client, I put together a strategy exercise in aligning competitive strength with market prospects.  It worked beautifully and hit the nail on the head for her particular challenge.  She left the meeting a very happy bunny, as did I.  But had I not timed the exercise in advance, it could have undermined the trust and commitment between us.

My clients tend to be busy people and the allowance of 90 minutes work plus 15 before and 15 afterwards (which is how most of them prefer to work) is a luxury they begin doubting they can afford.  Stretching my own liberal creative time is one thing, but when it involves real customers, I prepare with a timer.

2. Give yourself an Eighth Day every week.

About ten years ago when I studied Creative Writing with the Open University (and I recommended the course) I began the practice of writing for an hour before the family woke up.  Admittedly, I was in bed by 9.00 pm most evenings but the reward of a fresh start to the day in peace and quiet was wonderful – and highly productive. From this exercise I developed the concept of the Eighth Day – an extra hour every day of the week in the morning providing the equivalent of an extra 7-hour day – FREE of charge!

Add a time-box tool to that hour every morning and you may start to see a difference in your level of concentration and focus. This works particularly well when that hour is dedicated to a special mission – like completing a course of study, writing a novel, preparing a business plan or learning a new language.

3. Mess with the dials and set up your own parameters.

If you do choose to use one of the time-box tools, explore the features thoroughly before purchase to make sure you can change everything.  When you are working to your own rules, you add the benefit of auto-direction and stand more of a chance of getting from start to finish without pausing, or missing the end and gliding seamlessly into your next session.

4. Challenge yourself.

It’s good to feel a slight twinge of pressure so one of the best ways to use a timer is to grant yourself a chunk of time, be it 10, 15, 25 or 45 minutes.  One coach swears by her 10-minute rule and strictly forbids clients from taking any longer to complete a task – claiming that if it takes longer it should have been sub-divided into smaller elements.  Once you’ve granted yourself that time pod, complete whatever you have at stake in that session – starting from…. Now!  And then stop when the timer pings.  Simple.  Not easy, but simple.

5. Indulge the illusion of multi-tasking

This morning I managed to time the cooking of a side of salmon to perfection while working out on my home exercise bike.  That was definitely a win-win – both for me and my appetite – and possibly my favourite example of using a timer.  Now it’s your turn.  What can you do while letting the wonder of technology get on with something else for  you?  I would like to think your ideas are mostly around food.  But that’s because time is cracking on and all of a sudden it’s time for a snack.