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?