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Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Task Timer

In a previous post, I described how I use a Daily Task Board as a self-management tool. I should also mention that I use it in combination with another tool, a task timer. This device displays the countdown of the time remaining until an alarm sounds.

For tasks where you are having trouble getting started because they seem overwhelming, persuade yourself to work on it for just fifteen minutes a day as measured by the task timer. Do this for a year and you will have worked on the task for over ninety hours. While you might usually stop working as soon as the countdown completes, on some other days you will find that you are willing to continue beyond the mininum duration once you are started and on a roll.

For tasks where you have to do hours of tedious work in a short period, use the task timer to give yourself a short break at regular intervals, say every thirty minutes or so. This promise of an imminent break might be all the motivation you need to keep going until the next increment. Alternating between different tasks at break points can also be rewarding. 

For an electronic task timer, I like the Datexx Miracle Cube Timer because it can be easily started and stopped simply by flipping it over. A manual sand timer also has this feature except that it takes time to reset if interrupted. With a matched pair of sandglasses, you could start one while resetting the other. 

Since the audible alarm of a task timer can be a jarring interruption, especially when I am in the zone, I sometimes find myself increasingly distracted as the time for the alarm approaches in anticipation of canceling the alarm just before it triggers. When I use a task timer without an alarm such as a sand timer, I am also not fully focused on the task at hand in that I am continuously reminding myself to visually inspect the sand timer to see if it is time for a break. I recently discovered that the timer alarm on the Google Clock smartphone application can be configured to start softly and then gradually increase in volume.