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Use a Timer to Stay Focused

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on August 10, 2010

Having a timer running while you work can drastically heighten your awareness and allow you to notice quickly when you deviate from a given task. Setting a countdown timer for 40 minutes (or whatever period you choose) can have significant implications. Here are five reasons why buying a timer may be one of the best investments you can make:

1. The timer creates purpose. The timer helps you put a stake in the ground and declare that you have officially started the task at hand. Without a clear signal, it is easy to stay noncommittal, starting one task but then casually withdrawing from it to start another. Such task-hopping enables you to escape from the tasks that are more difficult or less desirable and sneak into ones that are easier (and likely less crucial). A timer puts an end to unproductive task-hopping and it forces you to spend your time more purposefully on the task you’ve selected.

2. The timer creates accountability. Now that the timer has started, you are going to know clearly, in 40 minutes, whether you have accomplished what you intended. The timer also helps you estimate time better in the future. Knowing how long it takes to accomplish any given project in such a time-crunched era is a desirable skill.

3. The timer prompts you to move things forward. During the focused session, the timer improves the quality and efficiency of your work. It prompts you to face the issues, make decisions, and move things along, as opposed to staying indefinitely in analysis mode. A timer accelerates your pace and helps you equal or even beat the speed at which things are happening around you.

4. The timer serves as a stress relief mechanism. A timer signifies that you have given yourself permission to be where you are for the time period you have chosen. Now you can more easily give up the guilt you would otherwise experience for not being somewhere else and not handling all the other things that need to be handled.

5. The timer is an official seal of approval for your choice. With a timer, you feel challenged to complete your mission. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, you are now taking on 40 minutes and feeling hopeful. You are fully engaged and facing issues with a bright light shining at the end of tunnel. What a relief!

Pierre Khawand
Founder and principal
San Francisco

Reader Comments

greg head

August 10, 2010 10:36 AM

This timer method is more popularly known as "The Pomodoro Technique," named after the kitchen timer shaped like a tomato in the creator's native Italy (tomato is "pomodoro").

This is used by millions of people because it is so simple and easy to learn. It really works.


August 10, 2010 10:38 AM

I need a timer. I just killed 5 minutes reading this, when I should have been doing something more important.

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