The first way that I use a timer is when I want to concentrate on a difficult task for a period of time. It can be difficult if you’ve got an appointment coming up where you need to leave the house or you need to join a video conference, but you want to get into the flow when writing a report. You need to stop your brain keep worrying about missing that next appointment. What I do is set a timer so I know that that’s gonna ring to remind that I need to stop what I’m doing and then join the meeting.
I also use a timer as a way to break up long periods of working on something. It can be really hard when you’ve got a morning ahead just focusing on one task which needs a lot of concentration, so I use 45 minute slots where I set my timer, turn my emails off, my phone on silent and face down and then I get on with that task for 45 minutes. When my timer rings I stop doing what I was doing, get up, may be go and make a cup of coffee or hang the laundry out. I might check my email and see if I’ve had any calls or I might not. 45 minutes doesn’t actually seem that long, particularly because I can start knowing I’m going to have a break very shortly. It’s almost a reward to have that cup of coffee, because I know I’ve done 45 minutes of work.
The next way to use a timer is if you’re struggling to get started on a task. I suggest if you’re really struggling to start something try just making a commitment to do it for ten minutes. That’s all you’re going to do. If you do the ten minutes that’s a win. What I think is likely to happy is that after ten minutes you actually won’t mind continuing because it was the starting that was hard. It’s often the thought of doing something rather than actually doing it which is worse. Once we start it we realise it’s not as bad as we thought it was. And so if you’re really struggling to start a task I would say set a timer for a small amount of time and then just take a deep breath, feel the resistance and do it anyway.
Another use of a timer that I suggested to one of my coaching clients is to avoid diving into the black hole of social media. We all enjoy scrolling, but what starts out as five minutes can end up as an hour. I suggested to one of my clients that as she picks up her phone and wants to check Instagram she sets a timer for the maximum amount of time she wants to spend on that. So say 5 or 15 minutes. Whatever you’d be happy with. So even if your attention is drawn in and you lose yourself a bit after 5 or 15 minutes the timer will ring and be saying to you do you really want to continue doing this? You’ll be prompted to make a decision about whether that’s enough or you want to continue, for which you can just set the timer again.