I’ve always been a great advocate of using a timer for a whole range of tasks. Seriously I have a drawer full of them, not to mention an entire collection of virtual timers on my Mac, iPhone, iPad and Nexus 7.

How do I use them? Many and varied ways but here’s just a few highlights.

2 Minute Rule (GTD)

If you’re familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology you’ll know about the two minute rule. For the uninitiated the principle is that if a task will take 2 minutes or less to complete then just do it. Don’t add it to an increasingly long "To Do" list or your calendar, spending valuable time pondering when would be the "right" time to do it … Just Do It.

The real benefit of this is that at first I doubted that two minutes was long enough to do the task at hand but increasingly I find myself surprised at just how much I can get done in two minutes. There’s something rewarding about challenging myself to get the job done as fast as possible, stopping the timer when I’m done and seeing if I beat my estimate. Gamification at it’s best!

Scheduling Pleasure

If I have a job I love doing I’m likely to spend far too long doing it! Seriously I love to learn so reading, listening to audiobooks and investigating new software are things I could do all day. Sadly this would be the to detriment of other tasks that need to be done meaning that these other, often important tasks, are likely to be left to the last minute causing more stress than they’re worth.

So my strategy is to set a timer for the amount of time I will allow myself to indulge my passion for learning and then move on to the other work that needs my attention thus reducing the potential for self-recrimination down the line.

Limiting Pain

The converse of this is to limit the time I spend immersed in tasks I’m not so keen on.

When I simply have to do something but have no motivation to start I limit the time I have to spend on that task to say one 15 minute session. I fool my lizard brain into thinking that I don’t have to do any more than the 15 minutes I have committed to. Often, once I have worked on such a task for those 15 minutes I realise the task isn’t as bad as I had feared and I’m motivated to carry it to completion.

E-mail Blast

Inbox Zero might be more a state of mind rather than a destination but I know I feel better if my inbox is under control. However, I have no desire to spend an excessive amount of time filing, processing and generally shuffling e-mail all day. My trick is to set a timer for 15 minutes two or three times a day and process my entire inbox down to zero.

It’s strange but often if I forget to set the timer the task takes longer than 15 minutes but when I do set the timer I’d done in under 15 minutes. More of an incentive to remember to use the timer then!

Give It a Try

So there you have it, a few ideas for you try. Do let me know how you get on, be sure to leave a comment.