I have been spending a lot of time lately (no pun intended) researching productivity apps and software for clients.  Project Management and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools are becoming essential for my professional clients, and many seek my assistance in vetting the abundant options out there.  These tools can make a significant impact on a business’ overall efficiency and on the personal productivity of each team member.


Yet there is something to be said for simple, low-tech tools as well when we look at personal productivity.  Just last week, during coaching sessions with two different professional clients, my recommendation to use an old-fashioned timer was the most impactful advice I provided.

The timer may look basic and fairly limited in function, but let me shed some light on the matter.  Here are just a few ways the timer strengthens your cognitive skills and helps you improve the use of your most valuable resource, time:

  • Encourages Uni-tasking: When you set a timer before starting a task, you are making a commitment to focus upon ONE primary goal until time has expired.  Each time you look up and see the timer, you are reminded that your focus should be only on the task at hand.  Without the timer, it is much easier to drift to another task that seems related or appears to be a higher priority.
  • Improves Time Estimation Skills:  The truth is, the use of a visual timer for task completion really developed from the academic setting.  Students who consistently estimated the amount of time a school assignment would take them, and who then timed themselves, began to develop stronger time estimation skills.  This clearly transfers to the business environment.  Once you can better estimate how long a proposal will take to write or a financial report will take to generate, the more accurate you become in scheduling those tasks for an appropriate block of time and completing the tasks before a deadline.
  • Minimizes Distractions: When I am working at my desk and have the timer set, I think twice before I take a phone call, check my Inbox, get up for a snack or allow other non-essential interruptions.  I have a “rule-follower” tendency, so perhaps that is why it works so well for me, but I really do feel committed to my timer and doing what I promised myself I would do.
  • Creates a Game out of Tasks: The timer brings out the competitor in my clients.  Have a report to write?  Set the timer for 60 minutes and try to beat the clock.  Remember that the last article you wrote for the company website took you 2 hours?  Vow to write a better blog this month in half the time.  Who says adults don’t get to play games at work?

If you are thinking about finding a cool timer app on your phone to give this strategy a try, don’t do it!  Buy a physical timer that can sit on your desk; it will serve as a visual reminder to use the tool throughout the day.  Here is my favorite timer, the Time Timer.

To Your Productivity-


Looking for more tips on increasing your personal productivity at work and in your personal life?  Download my new productivity playbook, 6 A-Game Strategies to Kick-Start Your Day and schedule a free follow-up strategy session with me today!