Oh, I Juggle!

Home, Family, Success, Peace… Can a woman really have it all?

My Favourite Productivity Tool

Most of us agree that a lot more can be achieved in a given period of time if we focus on the task at hand rather than try to multitask. This learning was a turning point for me on my road to greater productivity. I am a dreamer. Daydreamer, to be more precise :-). This habit of mine has me drifting away in the middle of many tasks. Life has changed a lot since I started using lists and my trusted timer. I am able to achieve twice the amount I could earlier, even with the distractions of raising two young children who don’t understand the concept of focus.

There is a marked difference in the amount of work you can get done when there is a time crunch. Setting a timer to mark time for a specific task works on the same principle. I prefer to use a simple digital timer which is not a part of any other media device.

This is how I do it:

Step 1: Make a list of tasks to be done. You can add any task which takes more than 5 minutes to complete.
Step 2: Sort them in the order of priority, putting the most important on the top.
Step 3: Estimate the minutes it will take to complete each item on the list and write down that number against it.

The list might look something like this:


If the task might take more than 30 minutes, break it down. For example, a 40 minute task can be broken down into two chunks of 20 minutes each.

Once the steps above have been completed you can begin with the first on the list and set the timer for the time estimate that you gave. Commit fully to the task at hand and focus on completing it in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Once the alarm on the timer goes off, you can stand back and relax.

I sometimes cheat. If the baby is crying and needs attention, I stop the timer and attend to him. Then I resume as soon as I can. But I can vouch that this works much better if you avoid all distractions including attending to phone calls.

The benefits of using a timer are many. You can use it on any kind of task, complex, mundane or unpleasant. There is an immediate boost in energy much like the caffeine kick from drinking a strong cup of coffee. Without any side effects. I use my timer even when I am not feeling well and still need to get things done. There is an immediate sense of satisfaction when you strike off item by item on your to do list.

My six year old daughter and I play a game. When we have to get the house back in order and put things away before bedtime and neither of us feels like it, we set the timer. I set it for less time than I think it would take. We then race against the clock to win. When the work is done we both sit back and have a good laugh and wait for the timer to ring. It is loads of fun!

If you have never used a timer to supercharge your to do list, do give it a try. It will cut through the lethargy and rev up your engine.

Don’t forget to let me know how it goes.

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12 thoughts on “My Favourite Productivity Tool

  1. i have set the timer and then started typing my comment. could so, so identify with your post. i am a total timer fanatic. curious whether you face the same problems as i do though. people around me get puzzled, amused, and irritated more than they get impressed at my productivity tool. the other thing is that in spite of doing this, i still end up thinking there are more efficient ways to do what i am doing – with the timer. there goes my timer. enjoyed reading.

    my favorite productivity tools are my email inbox and my call list on my phone, but more on that later…

    • 🙂 I tried writing the post with the timer on. Too many interruptions from my son, though.

      My daughter is impressed with the timer. We sometimes pretend it is like Masterchef and use sentences like, “Your time starts now!” and “Step away from the table.” etc. The work done speaks for itself too.

      I use a whole arsenal of tools. I get bored with one and look for new motivators. I am not a natural, you see.

      Curious how an inbox and phone could contribute to productivity…

      • inbox – work towards zero items in inbox, at least by friday afternoon, use emails to yourself as a task list, put the task in the subject line, integrate with shared google calendars – office, family, friends, – to send automated alerts for events and appointments. there is a whole school of thought that does not think this is a clever way of doing things, but it works for me. i email myself links to read, things to do, this way, i can attend to things without forgetting the stray thought that crosses your mind or browser.

        call list – edit so that only calls that need to be made remain in your call list, use down times and waiting times to catch up on calls, and once done, take it off the call list. the notes feature on the phone can also serve as a task list, if your email is not on your phone.

        these two along with my trusted pen and paper for notetaking are pretty much all the productivity tools that i use.

        almost everything that is in my personal productivity kit is learned from david allen’s getting things done, and tweaked to suit my needs.

  2. Something new!! Im going to try this today, I dont own a timer but maybe I could use my clock to set an alarm…everything else I own is a part of a media device 😛
    Will let you know how this goes…sounds really nice!

  3. Very interesting post. Will need to use timer and see how my chaotic morning schedule goes. I find the idea of dividing a task into smaller chunks very innovative. I sometimes sacrifice my morning cup of coffee because one task took too much time to complete and I have to rush. If your ideas can ensure me a coffee, what better way to start off the morning. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Secretlakr!

      I can hardly take credit for the idea of dividing a formidable task into bite size chunks. Time management gurus keep telling us that. I first read about it in Brian Tracy’s ‘Eat That Frog’ where he asks us to “slice and dice the task”. Another great idea is to plan every day in advance, on paper. I write down my ‘to dos’ for the day the night before. It frees your mind for a good night’s sleep and you can begin your day with greater clarity.

      You will love the book. Try and get a copy.

  4. Aha! Never realised that we could use a timer for Day-to-day work. I must give it a try. An interesting post indeed..I love the pic of your journal.

    • Thanks Sia!
      The look of the journal was orchestrated. I dug up an old planner and made up a list just to show how it might look. My real diary is quite ragged and lists are long with scribblings in the margins. Certainly not photogenic.

  5. aarathiselvan on said:

    I love this post! I make lists and like subho I also send myself emails! but I rarely set timers for them especially for short bursts of time! I really do love the idea of setting times for getting home chores done! I am totally incorporating this in my routine! Thanks Juggler! And so glad you read my blog and I can prancing here!

  6. Pingback: Five Great Ways to Trick Yourself into Feeling Motivated « Oh, I Juggle!

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