I love my timer

3 September 2010

I’ve been keeping sort of a crazy schedule for the last week. Lots of work outside the home, lots of phone time at home, quite a bit of fatigue. The result is that my email inbox, which I usually try very hard to keep under control, has grown and grown.

As I’ve mentioned before, my friend Aby Garvey and I provide accountability to one another to keep our inboxes down to 15 or fewer messages at the end of the day. This week, I just emailed her and told her that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about my inbox until Friday.

Here it is Friday morning. I’d been glancing at email throughout the week, but not taking a whole lot of action with it. So I had a couple of hundred messages in there, most of them needing reply. I felt overwhelmed. But I knew I had to tame it.

So I set a timer. My timer of choice is the Time Timer, which gives a visual representation of the passage of time. I use the plastic one at clients’ homes sometimes. And when I’m at my desk, I use the electronic version. Here’s a photo:

A screenshot of the Time Timer

I set my timer for 13 minutes, because at the end of 13 minutes I’d be at the top of an hour. Knowing that I was putting my nose to the grindstone and focusing on email for that period of time helped me push on without thinking about taking a break and without getting distracted by other concerns.

I had to do two of these timed bursts as time-management guru Mark Forster calls them in order to get my email inbox trimmed to about 20 emails that I’ll get to throughout the day.

Breaking big projects down into small tasks, or working on projects for small bits of time is a great way to fight feelings of overwhelm. And a timer can be your best friend when you’re going for those timed bursts.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, grab a kitchen timer and get to work on part of the thing that’s overwhelming you, even if it’s only for ten minutes. The timer helps you focus. And it’s amazing what you can do when you focus.

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Comments

I agree. Timer plays a very important part when I’m working too. I like to have 45 min sessions and once I put the timer on, I’m tightly focused to a task at hand.

I’m using Cool Timer (for PC). It is a simple piece of software and works as expected.

Timo 09/12/2010 11:45 PM

Hi Janine! I just wanted to let you know my little success story: My laptop’s screen has been cluttered for months with all kinds of files, and it had gotten to seem overwhelming to tidy it up. I remembered I have an app (Timer+) on my iPad. I set it for 10 minutes, and when the bell rang I was just trashing the last stray document. All clean! And it almost felt like a game instead of a chore. Thanks!

Nora Brown 03/01/2012 05:17 PM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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