Guest Post – My Secret Love of Egg Timers

The following guest post comes from the generous Chris Brogan, of chrisbrogan.com.

My Secret Love of Egg Timers

Here’s the thing: I’m a fairly hard-working guy, but I go right down the rabbit hole with the best of them. I go into Twitter to remember to promote something, and next thing you know, an hour’s passed. I slip into LinkedIn to add a note to my profile, and I find myself 40 minutes poorer from reading people’s updates and following the links. My solution to this, at least one of them, is an old fashioned egg-timer.

Set Little Fences Around Your Time

First, we all KNOW what we’re SUPPOSED to be doing with our time. We know we should be working on those things that improve our business, or that add value to our lives, or whatever you want to call your “main thing.” But what happens is that all these other tasks that seem useful, or that might be helpful, sneak into the way of our focus. So, one way to get more done is to put little fences around your time.
For instance, what if you kept a tally of how many times you permitted yourself to dip into Facebook in a day. Maybe it’s 3 times at 10 minutes each time. Simply keep a spreadsheet that has three empty boxes. Every time you visit, blacken a box, and set the egg timer. Voila. You’ve fenced off your time.

Use Timers to Get Through Icky Tasks

My inbox is a quagmire. Heck, it took me several months to do this guest post for Craig. I associate guilt with my inbox, so sifting through my older emails to answer as many as I can feels like a chore. So, I set an egg timer for 20 minutes, and promise myself that I’ll go back to more productive work after answering 20 minutes worth of older mail. At the ding, I feel like I’ve done good work, and that I can go back to more pressing matters.
Timers around tasks like that make it very likely that you’ll get through a few more of your less-desirable tasks, because you can power through them.

Graph Your Timer Use

You can use a simple spreadsheet on Google Docs, if you want to keep track of how you’re doing with time. For instance, if you use an egg timer to remind yourself to get away from the computer and stretch and replenish your body, maybe you want to accomplish 5 breaks or 6 breaks like that in any given day. Set up a column for it, map out the days of the week, and test yourself for a few weeks. Go back and you’ll have a visual guide to how you’re doing with obeying your own plans.

The Egg Timer Itself

You can use software egg timers, but I’ll be honest: they’re easier to ignore. I use a real live, honest-to-goodness kitchen egg timer. Mine’s shaped like a green pepper. If I had my way, it’d be shaped like Batman (gift idea!), but whatever. Use whatever works for you. Set timers on your watch. Do whatever is going to make you move from one mental state to the next. It’s your call.
What’s worked for you? Are you willing to give it a try?


Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the book Social Media 101, and publisher of chrisbrogan.com. He thinks Craig has a real winner here with Time Management Ninja, and plans to stay subscribed. You should, too.
No time for time management? Check out my online course designed to jump start your productivity! Take it online on your time and pace. As well, get direct access to me for advice and questions. Get details or enroll now by clicking here!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://twitter.com/RoyaleScuderi Royale Scuderi

    I heartily agree with using timers to increase productivity and satisfaction. I use the Pomodoro technique – http://personalproductivity101.com/2010/04/01/s

  • http://twitter.com/RoyaleScuderi Royale Scuderi

    I heartily agree with using timers to increase productivity and satisfaction. I use the Pomodoro Technique – http://personalproductivity101.com/2010/04/01/s

  • http://www.rugbycoaching.org Callum Mahoney

    Like the 'fencing' idea. I have the exact same problem “losing time”.

  • http://www.Twitter.com/ArtseyC ArtseyC

    I like the fence visual. The timer and stopwatch features of my iphone clock are invaluable for this.
    (But the “less desirable” comment about old emails from unimportant people stung a bit. I understand it, but still.)

  • http://www.colttrickle.com Adam

    All very good points. I try to use block scheduling. Very similar with out the actual timer :)

  • ginidietrich

    My inbox also is associated with pangs of guilt and, no matter how hard I try, it's always overloaded with things I need to do, answer, or file. I LOVE the idea of spending only 20 minutes a day answering older emails. I usually will tell myself I'll answer 10 emails and then two hours have gone by and I've only answered eight of them. But I'll be darned if they aren't eight GREAT answers! I'm setting a new boundary. Thanks for the idea!

  • kiesha_WeBlogBetter

    I use e.ggtimer.com to keep me on task. I mostly use it to make sure I'm not doing any of those time drainers while the timer is ticking away. For instance, I'll set the time to work on a project for an hour – during that time I can't check email, Twitter or anything unrelated to the task. What I've found is that I can get a ton done in one uninterrupted hour – and the timer holds me to it.

  • http://twitter.com/SNaimath Syed Naimath

    Great Post, Chris.
    Your posts always provide value to readers! :)

    I have tried couple of programs to increase my personal productivity, but things did not turn out exactly the way I wanted. Even though now I am more focused towards accomplishing my set targets and have been quite successful at it, I think, I should give this a try and further enhance my time management skills.

    Regards,
    Naimath

  • http://twitter.com/pauldurban Paul Durban

    Then you have to add the time it takes to switch activities. Oftentimes, I need a filler activity to bridge the gap. If I go from email to design too quickly, I'm liable to get whiplash or blow a gasket. Usually, getting a drink of water or simply going to the mailbox will do the trick and cleat the mind.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Thanks Gini!

    Putting a time limit on certain tasks can be scary, yet is a powerful way to ensure you do not get bogged down in any one activity.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Kiesha,

    Great tip and a useful site. Thanks for sharing.

    I do like Chris' suggestion that it is harder to ignore a physical timer going off!
    Especially a really loud one!

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Adam,

    I love block scheduling! People tend to let everyone else schedule their time (meetings, appointments, etc.), but forget to schedule time for their own work.

    One of my recent posts on this topic: “Make Appointments for Tough Tasks.”
    http://bit.ly/a4ERan

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!

    I am familiar with the Pomodoro technique. One thing I like, as Chris pointed out, it is pretty hard to ignore a physical timer going off!

  • http://twitter.com/cathyannsauer cathy ann sauer

    OMG this exact subject was on my blog post bucket list. I USE an egg timer too, for all the same reasons, especially the time suck of RSS feeds,Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, writing. I had to come up with something to pull me away from this desk. Mine is a hen on top of a nest on top of a basket. I will tweet photo to you. I set it for 30 minutes, at least to remind me to get up and stretch my neck! So funny to read this. However, one thing I am not doing is the spreadsheet…ugh, no way. Setting the chicken is enough.

  • http://twitter.com/cathyannsauer cathy ann sauer

    OMG this exact subject was on my blog post bucket list. I USE an egg timer too, for all the same reasons, especially the time suck of RSS feeds,Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, writing. I had to come up with something to pull me away from this desk. Mine is a hen on top of a nest on top of a basket. I will tweet photo to you. I set it for 30 minutes, at least to remind me to get up and stretch my neck! So funny to read this. However, one thing I am not doing is the spreadsheet…ugh, no way. Setting the chicken is enough.

  • http://www.colttrickle.com Adam

    Yes they do. I am always telling people to control their own schedule
    and not to let others determine it for you.

  • http://www.colttrickle.com Adam Martin

    You can get there!

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Cathy,

    Agree with you on the multiple time sinks….Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…and more!

    Love the pic of your chicken timer! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.time-management-success.com/ Tim Wilson

    I use timers for most things that don't need to be done in one go.

    If its computer based, I use http://www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-sto….

    Away from the screen any visible timer that beeps or rings when the time is up will do the trick.

    I think it's important to work for as long as you're not resistant to (if that makes sense!)

  • http://www.time-management-success.com/ Tim Wilson

    I use timers for most things that don't need to be done in one go.

    If its computer based, I use http://www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-sto….

    Away from the screen any visible timer that beeps or rings when the time is up will do the trick.

    I think it's important to work for as long as you're not resistant to (if that makes sense!)

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  • http://www.inspiretothrive.com/ lisabuben290

    Have not tried it but sounds like a good idea. Otherwise you can easily get bogged down.

  • lisabuben290

    Have not tried it but sounds like a good idea. Otherwise you can easily get bogged down.