Getting Started with Timers

An Entire Post?

Last week, I wrote about how timers can be an ADHDers best friend, and promised a post on how one can get started. An entire post about getting started with timers? Rest assured, I am just as curious about what I'll write in the following paragraphs, as you are about what could possibly be said. 

Another Use for Timers

Starting What I Dread

To start off, I'll stall by mentioning another way I use timers that didn't appear in the last article. You likely have experienced the feeling of "I am NOT doing that" which comes from trying to shift into working on a project you've been dreading. Using a timer as a negotiation tool with your brain can help you to get started. "I only have to do this for 5 minutes, and then I'm done!" If you're like me, you'll likely get into the project, ignore the 5 minute timer and wind up spending an hour after which you wonder how you could ever have judged the project so harshly. If that's not the result, you can celebrate that you made 5 minutes of progress, and that each 5 minutes adds up over time. 

You Know How to Start

To be honest, there's not much I can tell you about using timers that I haven't already written, or you don't already know. You likely know how to use your favorite timer, have an abundance of timer options, and wonder whether you'll be able to actually "obey" the timer when it goes off. 

Pick One

My first piece of advice would be to pick one timer and stick with it. You can use something as simple as a kitchen timer, or something complex as a custom timer software designed for your wearable device of choice. The key is to train your brain to know that when you need to set a timer, you reach for one (maybe two) tool consistently. Personally, I use the voice activated timers on an Echo Show from Amazon and an Apple Watch. Which tool I "reach" for, depends on where I happen to be at the moment. 

Start Slow

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of starting slow. Oftentimes when something is new and "shiny" to us we'll go overboard, get overwhelmed by the whole process, and give up in the same week, or day, or hour. As you adopt the practice of using timers as a productivity tool, don't over do it!

Start with just one task per day. Then build up to using timers for an hour a day, two hours, and so on. Don't force yourself to do a dozen dreaded tasks as a way to develop your timer habit. Using timers in this way is a sure way to develop a hatred of a very useful tool. 

Hyperfocus Requires Two Timers

Lastly, set two timers when working on projects you love. The first is to remind yourself that time is almost up. This allows you to start winding down and can ease the pain experienced when shifting from hyperfocus mode. The second timer is your "hard stop". When it sounds, get up and walk away. Literally. 

Get Up When You're Done

It may not be enough to acknowledge the timer, put away or save your work, and shift onto another task. Getting up and walking away can help to cement the idea that you are done with the current task. Take a walk around the house, get something to drink, pet your dog or cat, hug a loved one, grab a snack, get out on the deck for some air, or do a bit of housework. Whatever you can do to disconnect your brain from what you were just working on will support your ability to get into the next activity. 

Aside: After I wrote this post, I took a break before editing it. I put away a few things that needed to go back to their homes, got some more water, and teased my cat with belly rubs. I am in edit mode now, not writing mode, aside from this paragraph of course. 

What Do You Think?

Are you ready to start using timers in your own life? Have you been using them already? What benefits have you noticed? What concerns do you have? Comment below or visit my Ask the Coach channel on Discord. 

Standard disclaimer: Just because you read something on the internet does not mean it's great advice for you. Remember to experiment with what "sounds good" to you, and discard the rest.

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