This week I got a Time Timer. It is a visual timer that silently counts down an hour. It's about 180mm tall and sits to the right of my computer screen. I set it for one hour when I first sat down and there is now 55 minutes remaining.
I bought two Time Timers actually. One for home and one for the office.
The office one has dramatically changed the way I work. If you read BB#68 you’ll know that I’ve started to prioritise my daily tasks by splitting them into two lists. One list (primary tasks) has 3 high-return opportunities for the day, the second list is just shit that needs to get done - eventually. The primary tasks must all be assigned a time limit as well. I give most tasks 1 hour, hence the 1 hour timer, but I just reset the timer if the task requires more time.
This timer has supercharged my productivity.
When I get to work I get my cup of tea (most important) and sit at my desk. I immediately start the timer on the first of my primary tasks. I don’t open my email. I don't check my phone. I don't even open a web browser unless the task requires it. I have one full hour to complete as much work as possible. An hour isn’t a huge amount of time if you're working on a massive project but you’ll make substantial progress in that one hour if it's focused and uninterrupted.
The key is make sure your primary tasks are “high-return opportunities”. This means that by doing them you are going to increase your value as a professional or improve your business or position. Writing a proposal for a client is a high return opportunity - that's creating new work. Dedicating time to your sales and marketing is a high return opportunity because it will hopefully increase engagement with potential customers.
It also forces you to add projects to the primary task list that you may have procrastinating on. Jobs like updating the website for example. People never update their website yet it’s the first proper introduction of your professional capabilities - it's a live billboard that can be visited 24/7. My procrastination project is YouTube content. Last year I made an InCopy Tutorial for my authors to view and over the last 6 months it got some 6.5k views. I’m basically the most famous person in my family now. I even have one ‘dislike’ and a disparaging comment which I’m pretty sure makes me a legitimate Youtuber.
I have another 3 videos in mind to help clients use Keynote to create social media graphics and perhaps some run throughs on how to use a Webflow website but fitting those videos into my schedule has been impossible. That is, until it has been recategorized into a “high return” project. In this case, it’s contributing to my position as a design expert.
I have already spent an hour writing a script, which after doing a video already, I now understand is the most important first step! If you interested in reading about my very steep learning curve on creating a video, please read BB#36 - ‘amateur hour’ is an understatement.
Bang. 26 minutes left!
See what I mean. Having one hour to complete a task really gets you moving. The Time Timer is great because it’s big and visual. I was using the timer on my phone for a while but it meant I have to pick my phone up which is a NO NO in a power hour!
The Time Timer that got taken home has had a somewhat different life from the one that sits to the right of my computer screen. The one at home is the device timer. When the kids get home from school/daycare they are allowed one hour on their chosen device. Frank likes the Nintendo switch and Alice likes ABC kids on the iPad. Once they are settled into their chosen nook (Alice in the corner of the couch and Frank, almost on top of the heater) the timer goes on. The brilliant thing is that they know how much time is remaining. If you’ve ever seen a Time Timer it has a big red circle that reduces as the time passes.
Alice the other day spent the last 5 minutes getting me to come look at how little time she had left! By using the timer we are no longer the bad guys telling the kids to turn devices off when their hour is up. The timer tells them and you can’t argue with the timer. It also comes in super handy when you say things like ‘give me 10 minutes’. I’m not sure at what age the perception of time meets the reality of the minutes passing but little kids have no idea! 10 minutes feels like FOREVER if they are waiting for dinner!
13 minutes to go and I’m pretty sure I’ve written my quota, which was 500-800 words. When I first started to write the Bulletin Board I spent about 5 hours on it. I worried about whether I’ve come across smart enough or if I sounded professional. Now the focus is on creating human connection. I write to articulate what I’ve learnt and to share stories and ideas that I found interesting.
Each week I make new connections, especially with the amazing type designers that I feature each week in the “font of the week”. Every now and then someone will say they read a Bulletin Board that resonates and I’m always really proud of those moments. As someone who recently decided their life goal was ‘to be useful’, those moments are evidence of that goal in practice.
Boom, timer when off!!! One hour done! This is not a paid advertisement for Time Timer by the way but if they’d like it to be then I’m cool with that too!