My New BFF: The Timer

use a timer to avoid distractions

I think I have ADD. I’ll start on a short project, like doing laundry, and thirty minutes later find myself scrolling through Instagram leaning against an empty washing machine next to my pile of dirty clothes. It’s also a bad habit at work. I’ll set out to work on a project and then I get distracted by an email or a coworker stops by to chat, and next thing I know it’s 4pm and the seemlingly short project still isn’t done.

I blame this self-diagnosed ADD on too much coffee. Or the holidays, they threw me out of whack. But the truth is — we are just distracted beings. And these days there is just so much to distract us, our phones alone can be such time-sucks.

A couple of weeks ago I started using a timer to get these distractions under control. I set it on my phone (and turn the phone over to avoid any pop-ups) and during that alloted time, I don’t work on anything else but the task at hand. In the office, I avoid all emails if I’m trying to finish a project or write an article. Or sometimes I’ll do nothing but answer emails during that time. When the timer goes off, I’ll take a short break and walk around the office, get a cup of water, grab a snack, or take a quick glance at my phone for personal email. Then I’ll map out what I want to accomplish next and go back for another hour or so of uninterrupted time.

At home, I do the same thing, especially on the weekends when I want to maxmize my productive and relaxing time. I’ll set a timer if there’s a specific project I want to get done, like filing my tax information, clean out my closet, or blogging. Writing blog posts are one of the most distracting times for me, actually, and a timer has really helped multiply that time. (I’ve got a timer going on right now — no distractions until this is finished!:)

It may seem like an intense exercise, but for me it’s been so helpful in managing my time and getting things done.

I’d love to hear: Have you ever used a timer for tasks? Do you have any other tips for avoiding distractions and maintaining a productive work or home life? 

  • What a great idea! I love that this turns virtually ANY task into a to-do check list. You can do something and when the timer is done, cross it off your list. My type-A work style loves it….

  • Amy Deshazo

    Years ago, I found FlyLady.net. While I don’t do everything she does (anymore), the two things I still do are 1) use a timer, and 2) wear shoes in the house when I am “working,” Using a timer breaks things into managable pieces, and it is amazing what you can get done in a short period of time.

  • that’s a really good idea! I think I need to try it, as I too have self-diagnosed ADD. Thanks for sharing :)

  • That is a great idea to wear shoes in the house! I’ve never heard that and will definitely give that a try next time. Thanks for sharing!

  • I know, my Type-A self also loves the instant gratification of checking things off. :)

  • I think all of our generation may have a little bit of ADD. ;)

  • Mom

    When the kids were living at home, we had chore hour. They had their list of things to do and I had mine. We spent only one hour getting everything done in a 2200 sq.ft home. No way I could do it all with working f/t and a husband that was working @ 70 hours week. Worked like a charm. The treat after helped, too!

  • rebecca

    I was a teacher so I used a timer all the time in my classroom to keep myself and the kids focused. It worked wonders so I started using it at home, too. I love it for cleaning. My husband and I will set the timer for ten minutes 1-3 times a week and just be really focused and pick up as much as we can. I also use it for working out. I’ll do ab exercises and lunges for ten minutes. Makes it much less daunting.

  • This is a fantastic idea!