Set a Timer and Get Your Work Done

Set a Timer and Get Your Work Done

You say to yourself, “If only I had more time to get my work done.”

Then you would finish your tasks… meet that deadline… or finally catch up on your todo list.

However, more time isn’t necessarily the answer.

In fact, if you had additional free time in your day, I would wager that you’d still get the same amount of work done.

What if I told you, that you were spending too much time on your tasks?

More Time Means More Work

Not having enough time is a myth.

You have the same amount of time as everyone else. Rather, it is what you are choosing to do with it. The activities and actions that you decide to spend it on.

“Not having enough time is a myth. It’s what you choose to do with it.”

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You have probably heard the expression that “work expands to fill the amount of time you give it.” (Know as Parkinson’s Law)

One of my favorite strategies to be more productive is to spend less time on projects instead of allocating more.

By limiting the time you spend on a particular task, you “box it into” a specific period of your day. Not only does this save time, but you make a conscious choice about how much time to spend on your work.

One of the best ways to limit the time you spend on a task is to set a timer and pick a specific end point for that work.

Using a productivity timer is a popular time management strategy. Chris Brogan wrote a guest post about it on TMN a while back, and there are many apps and strategies that center around the Pomodoro timer.

Using a timer to limit your work time motivates you to concentrate on the task at hand and focus your energy.

For example, if you give yourself two hours to write a report… it is going to take you two hours.

On the other hand, if you only give yourself 45 minutes, you’ll put your head down and concentrate. You may feel like you’re rushing, but your increased concentration will surprise you.

Set a Timer and Get to Work

The next time you have an important task to do, set a finite amount of time to get it done.

Set a timer. And when the timer goes off… stop.

When you place a limit on your work time, you will surprise yourself just how much you can get done.

Here are just a few ways that using a timer can improve your productivity:

  • Get Things Done Quickly – Having a countdown clock drives your attention and task speed. It is not about rushing through the job, although haste doesn’t always make waste.
  • Motivate Yourself – Can’t get yourself started on a task? Surely, you can do it for just 5 minutes. Or 10? Start with a small interval, and before you know it you will have built the momentum to continue.
  • Shorter Meetings – Just like work, meetings expand to fill the time they are scheduled for. Put a hard stop stop on meetings to ensure that they end on time. You’ll discover that you will have shorter and more productive meetings. As well, another technique is to cut your allotted meeting time in half.
  • Less Email – Use a timer to limit your inbox processing time. Otherwise, you’ll end up endlessly slogging through your ever-filling inbox. Get out of your inbox and get to your priorities.

Set a Time Limit on Your Work

Setting a time limit on your work can help you get unstuck from endless tasks.

Hard stops prevent procrastination and build positive momentum in your day.

Set a timer. Get it done. And move on to your next task.

Question: How do you use a timer to get more work done? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

9 thoughts on “Set a Timer and Get Your Work Done

  1. I am a big advocate of using timers. I have ADHD so I use them ALL the time to keep me on track. But you’re absolutely right about more time not being the answer. I’ve had more time this week than I usually do and I have gotten a little more done than usual but nothing like I could have gotten done. The more time I have, the more time it takes me. So having a timer and limiting the time allowed is a great strategy. It makes me work more efficiently knowing there’s a set stopping time.

  2. Nice! One thing that really helps is to use a time tracking app. That way not only you count and record your time but you can review and follow up on your performance. I use and recommend Time Tracking by primaERP:

  3. We need to get jazzed up on this idea. Make sure people around have the feeling that the job on their plate isn’t a tedious one. Set the clock, hit the floor.
    Need to have people’s mindset changed towards the root problem, the myth they always believe, “I’m busy” and “I don’t want to track time”.

    All these tips are definitely for us to make the workplace environment run more effeciently, benefitting employee and the company.

  4. Craig,

    Great post and a really important aspect to personal productivity.

    I am also a big proponent of allocating only a specific amount of time to an activity. This is a key approach I advocate for Email Management, but works for nearly any type of task or activity. The “Pomodoro technique” is a fairly popular approach, since it mixes both focused work sessions with “non-work breaks” (gives you a “reward” for your effort). But this approach has been around a long time, previously referred to as “time-boxing” or even “sprint sessions”.

    But a key piece of this approach is to eliminate all your distractions and truly focus on that one task for the intended duration. I have found that meditation and mindfulness exercises can actually be helpful to this approach, since they help you learn to “acknowledge” and “eliminate” stray thoughts and distractions from your consciousness. The key is to really turn off all potential sources of interruptions, and make a significant and purposeful effort on that one task. And this takes effort and practice. It’s not easy. Even doing a 5 minute “work sprint” is more then most people can really do at first. But if you work at it and practice, you can learn to really “get in the zone” and “flow”, and true productivity and creativity will flourish.

    There are a number of tools and utilities that can help you with this, but you can also achieve the benefit very simply by using a timer and shutting off your phone, email, and browser!

    I personally suffer from “shiny object” syndrome myself (reason I study this stuff is that I am challenged by it myself!), and I find that time-boxing to be a big help in keeping me “on task”!

    Dr. Michael Einstein

  5. Tracking your time can be a crucial aspect of one’s productivity.

    When you estimate you should finish a task, say, in one hour, you become more focused and efficient. Of course a deadline you put on yourself will never be as effective in motivating as the real one (at least for some people ;).

    And there is also an issue of knowing you potential. After analyzing the time you spend on particular tasks for some time, you will be able to plan and manage your time better.
    I’m a fan of Kanban, so I’ve recently found a software which helps me to track the time I spend on each task and then it provides me with a really detailed analysis(it’s called KanbanTool). Find it really useful.

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