Want to improve your productivity? Try this simple strategy: use timers. If you are a Pomodoro fan, you’ve discovered the benefits of focusing for 25 minutes at a time, but you can use timers in other ways too.
My favorite timer-productivity strategy takes just five minutes.
Improve your productivity in five minutes
Here’s what Francesco Cirillo, the developer of the Pomodoro® Technique, said:
I had managed to turn time into an ally… I managed to stop in front of it, and still and afraid ask this simple question: “How can you, Time, be useful to me now?
When Cirillo started using timers, he set a timer for just two minutes. You can put up with anything for two minutes.
Recently I found myself procrastinating on a couple of projects. Day after day, I put them off because I was:
- Too busy — I couldn’t spare a couple of hours that day;
- Feeling uninspired;
- Thought the projects were a waste of time. Perhaps I should give up on them completely…
Of course, these thoughts were simply excuses. When I examined them, I realized they were nonsense. I remembered Cirillo, and decided to add the projects to my daily calendar, but rather than scheduling two minutes for each, I’d push the boat out and set a timer for five minutes for each project.
That worked. I broke my inertia on the projects, and found myself spending much more than five minutes on each project. Sadly, my mental block failed to go away, so I had to set a five-minute timer every day, until the projects were done.
So the first tip: set a short timer, and be prepared to use it repeatedly.
1. Procrastinating? Set a short timer
Procrastination can be sneaky. Your reasons make sense. On examination however, they are just excuses.
Set your timer for five minutes (or even two minutes) if you’re blocked on a task or project.
Timers work to conquer distractions too.
2. Set a timer to minimize distractions: useful for social media and email
Love social media? Even if you hate it, you can find yourself dropping into a deep well of triviality. Social media is addictive, and can be bad for you.
What about email? If you find yourself checking your messages half a dozen times a day, limit the time — set a time for 25 minutes once a day.
3. Make your research time more productive when you limit it
If you love researching, you may find yourself more productive when you:
- Set clear parameters for each research session. Develop the habit of writing down the information you want, and setting a limit: ten minutes can be ample.
- Avoid researching while writing. My trick is to tap “XXX” when I’m writing and tempted to research something. Then I can search for “XXX” in a document, and research later.
4. Keep a daily log: journaling helps
Many “bad” habits are unconscious. We are so used to spending time in a certain way, we don’t think about it.
Journaling helps. Keep a time log each day, so that you can see where your time is going.
One of my writing students was convinced she had “no time” to complete her novel, but when she kept a time log, she found a couple of hours on most days. For example, instead of chatting with other parents while waiting for her son to complete an activity after school, she sat in her car and edited her novel.
Why not turn productivity into a game? Challenge yourself
Apps can help you to turn productivity into a game. You’ll find dozens of games: Habitica is both simple and popular.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.