February 25, 2011

Using a Timer to Increase Productivity

BY John Paul Narowski IN Productivity 0 Comment

If you’re looking to improve your productivity, it’s time to bust out that old egg timer. Unless you hang around with your grandma a lot, chances are you don’t get to see an old fashion timer a lot these days.  If you need to time something in the kitchen, the built in microwave or oven timer usually does the trick.  And of course what smart phone owner doesn’t bust out their favorite timer app when they need to count the seconds down? But if you’re interested in getting a serious productivity boost, then you need to go analog.

Why Use a Timer?

The world has perfected the science of distracting you, especially when it comes to the work place. Email clients like Outlook and Gmail alert you when a new message is in.  Instant messages pop up out of nowhere, phone ring/vibrate constantly and text messages don’t stop chirping.  These devices have been specifically designed to capture your attention.  While this might increase the effectiveness of communication, it’s robbing us of our productivity. Every time you look up from your task, even for a second, your mind has to assess the new information, decide on it’s importance, deal with it or decide to put it off.  This break in your attention can completely take you off task or force your mind to reengage.  Either way, you’re burning precious time and attention to get back on track. By using a timer, you are forcing yourself to only focus on the task at hand and nothing else.  If you allot a set amount of time for a job, you’ll ignore all of the distractions that really aren’t germane to getting the task done. Think of your timer like a fence; it keeps you from straying too far.

Why Go Analog?

The classic egg timer that may have been your jailer during childhood time out, will now set you free! You’re trying to focus on one task, you need to have tunnel vision as much as possible. There are programs that help achieve this, like Write Room.   This handy tool allows  you to block out the rest of the computer and only have a simple word processor in front of you. If you use a timer on your computer or your cell phone you’re exposing yourself to a whole host of potential distractions.  Emails, RSS updates, instant messages, texts, voice mails…you name it! Worse yet, by doing something on one of your devices, you might change your automatic “away” or “idle” status to “active.”  This may spur others on the same platforms to hit you up for work or personal stuff.  Don’t let these time bandits get at you!

Set Reasonable Limits

You can’t turn everything off, focus on one task all day long and completely cut off the outside world.  Bosses, clients and loved ones get a little touchy when you drop off the face of the planet like that. Instead, set aside a reasonable amount of time to achieve your task.  If it’s a larger project, you can break it down into vital parts.  Then take a break, plug back in and see if you need to address anything else. By simply setting time limits, enforcing them with a physical and non-distraction creating timer and exercising some good old fashion will power and planning, you’ll see your productivity sky rocket!

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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