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[edit] Purpose

A low-tech, low-cost tool for time management, especially useful in making progress on large, aversive projects (cleaning out the basement, writing a long paper) about which one tends to procrastinate. A digital timer is nice because it doesn't make a loud ticking noise.

[edit] Usage

  1. Identify the project to be accomplished and the activities you routinely engage in to procrastinate on the project.
  2. Decide on a block of time that you feel you can manage to stay engaged with the project. This can be as short as five or ten minutes. If this seems like too little, remind yourself that any progress is better than none.
  3. Set the timer for the amount of time selected, and engage with the project, starting with some chunk upon which reasonable progress can be made in the amount of time selected (e.g., clearing objects off one shelf in the basement, writing two sentences).
  4. When the timer goes off, stop, reset it for the same amount of time, and engage in whatever activity you usually do when you're procrastinating.
  5. Again, when the timer goes off, stop, reset, and return to the project.
  6. You may need to adjust your time blocks downward at first; as you go on, you may want to adjust them upward, and increase the amount of project time relative to the amount of procrastinatory-activity time.

The advantage of this method is that it pushes one to break down large amorphous projects into small achievable actions, and keeps one focused, GTD-style, on next action.

[edit] Timer Hacks

  • When I have to do something that I'm not looking forward to (like housework or paper filing), I set a kitchen timer for a short amount of time and start working. Once the timer goes off, I finish the immediate task and stop. I get more completed in that 15-30 minutes than I would otherwise, because I know that when the timer goes off I'm done. --Jeni 13:26, 3/24/05
  • Kids under eight years old often don't have a good sense of time passing. Using a timer can help avoid arguments when kids are taking turns playing with a video game or other toy. --TomSackett 14:26, 24 Mar 2005 (EST)
  • When you absolutely have to wake up on time, use a kitchen timer as a backup to your regular alarm clock. You'll sleep better if you don't have to worry as much about oversleeping. --TomSackett 14:26, 24 Mar 2005 (EST)
    • Put the second timer (with a really annoying sound) in some distance from your bed so you have to get up when it rings. --Stagger 05:16, 8 Aug 2005 (EDT)
    • Or have two alarms on bedside with different tones. Set the second 10 minutes later than the first. When it goes off, you know you MUST get up. --Mu5ti 02:11, 12 Apr 2005 (EDT)
    • Many mobile phones have an alarm function that can be used for this purpose. Put it on the other side of the room to force you to get up on the second alarm. --dbush 08:14, 17 Apr 2005 (EDT)
    • If you come to a wakeful state within an hour or so before your target time, just get up anyway (before the alarm wakes you up again). You'll feel much more rested than if you went back to sleep and are startled out of deep sleep by the alarm. Use the alarm only as a backup. The [Sleep Tracker] may help.
    • Get a vacation timer, the kind that turns the lights on and off while you're away. Set it to turn on a lamp about an hour before you want to get up. The light in the room enhances my alarm clock making it much easier for me to get up.
  • Similar to the above suggestion, use a digital timer as a travel alarm clock. If you've got it, use it. Saves some money, too.
  • Controlling the amount of time you spend doing something I like to play games on my computer but if I'm not careful, I can sink much more time than I can afford into playing. On the other hand, I frequently use a quick session as a reward for accomplishing something. So, what I do is play music on my iPod with the sleep timer feature. When the music stops, it doesn't take long (no matter how into the game I am) to realize something has changed--then remind myself that I need to get back to work!

[edit] Software Timers

[edit] UNIX

[edit] Mac OS X

  • Minuteur - Fantastic (and free!) timer. Has a minimalist interface, all the docs needed are embedded in the application help, and has a stopwatch and timer, as well as many other features. Fell in love with it right away.
  • EggTimer
  • Khronos -- time-tracking and invoicing app that runs from the menu bar (donationware)
  • Pester by Nicholas Riley. Very simple/barebones and therefore spiffy. ;) --RobertDaeley 19:22, 22 Mar 2005 (EST)
  • StopIt! It is an OSX dashboard widget whose claim to fame is that it is really, really, really simple and fast to use. The other widgets and timer applications I've seen require lots of clicking and data entry; Stop It! lets you type a number of minutes, a time or a duration (e.g., 5h10m) and hit return. No added muss, no added fuss.
  • WatchIt -- Another timer for OS X, simple and stylish (shareware)
  • Quicksilver timer plugin (Mac) - allows you to assign a length for the timer and a message. If you wanted, you could even assign it to a trigger. Depending on whether you're using Growl you'll get the popup window or a nice customizable message. -- Emily
  • Script your own:

I have a script at work based on the sleep and echo commands. sleep 120 would be to sleep for 120 seconds and then an echo statement with the warning bell. You could have the script do

 sleep 120; say "Your two minutes are up."

so you don't even have to have a warning bell. If you use a terminal a lot, use:

 sleep 120 && say "Your two minutes are up." &

and this tidbit goes into the background and you get your command line back. (In a nutshell, the && says, "if the first command executes successfully, execute the second." --sglink 20:43, 24 Mar 2005 (CST)"

It's also very easy to use Growl from the commandline so you can use a command from the Terminal to warn you that the two minutes are up when you want your computer to stay quiet:

 sleep 120 && growlnotify -m "Your two minutes are up." &

And if you're without Growl you can do it with an apple dialog:

 sleep 120 && echo -e 'tell app "System Events"\nactivate\ndisplay dialog ¬
   "Your two minutes are up."\nend tell'|osascript

[edit] Windows

  • DSclock Onscreen Stopwatch (Windows). A floating clock which you can customize with your color, font and formatting preferences; synchronize to the time server of your choice and set the alarm to sound in your preferred manner on a schedule of your choice. Right click on the floating time bar, and you have a nifty stopwatch feature which floats to whereever you want it to be on the screen. Place the stopwatch in your line of vision, and you'll see when 2 minutes is up. --Susan
  • Alarm - simple digital alarm clock
  • Multi Timer - Ten independent nameable countdown/countup timers, with separate alarms. Small footprint. Freeware. (Third application down the page.)

[edit] Palm

  • BigClock - Clock (4 alarms) and two timers with configurable alarm sounds. Freeware.

[edit] Pocket PC

  • Spb Time is "an advanced, skinnable time toolbox for your Pocket PC. Analog and digital clock modes, World clock, timers and stopwatches are combined in one application. You may comfortably use Spb Time as a desktop clock when the device is in its cradle."

[edit] Hardware Timers

[edit] 2 Minute Egg Timer

At Office Playground you can buy 12 for $7, the kinds you see in popular board games. They are good enough to help you learn what really is a two-minute task. Keep one everywhere you do any amount of important work done, and one in your bag. It works great as a discussion moderator too.

[edit] Unusual Designs

  • Invisible Clock II - highly configurable pager-sized timer with beeping and vibration modes; has 12 alarms, countdown timer with interim alerts, stopwatch, and meeting timer (half-time, 5 minutes left, time's up). Good especially for situations where timer and alarm use should be unobtrusive -- sessions with clients, public speaking, medication reminders, and ADHD "Are you on task?" prompts.

[edit] Mobile Phones

A lot of newer mobile phones have a built in timer function. Different varieties are useful for different purposes: countdown "kitchen" timer, stopwatch and a regular alarm that can be set to a specific time. Once you get to know the key sequence to get to the right menu item, it's a snap to set e.g. a 2-minute timer. And a possible advantage over other hardware and software timers is that you are probably more likely to always have your mobile phone with you.

[edit] Wishlist

  • I want a timer that sits either at the top or the bottom of the screen, all the way across the screen, probably in transparent overlay, that responds to a keyboard shortcut of my choosing to start and stop it, and it will time one or more pre-designated intervals. (Maybe 2 minutes and 15 minutes) Then a colored bar can slowly crawl across the screen, to give me peripheral-vision feedback on how I'm doing, and tastefully "ding" when my 2 minutes are up.
    • For what platform?

[edit] See Also

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