Creativity and Productivity

Using a timer to break down resistance


Among the tricks in Roseanne Bane’s “Around the Writer’s Block” is one I’ve heard elsewhere: using a timer to get yourself to sit still long enough to focus. I recently gave it a try and now I’m hooked.

I often spin my wheels and take a long time to settle down during a writing session, but if I set the timer for 30 minutes and tell myself I just have to stay at my desk for that long, I can more easily resist the urge to jump up and do one more little (unrelated) thing before I start writing.

I use the timer function on my Android tablet. I close the cover and start working. I can check the time I have left, but that involves “waking” the tablet and logging in. I usually just keep going, trusting the alarm to go off when the time is up. And that’s the magical thing: I calm down and dive right in and before I know it, the 30 minutes are up. If I’m in the flow, I punch in another 20 or 30 minutes and sail on.

It sounds counterintuitive, but starting that timer somehow liberates me. By breaking up a session into chunks and forcing myself to take a short break in between (I even time the breaks), I can work longer and I’m more productive.

The timer also frees me from the distraction of constantly checking the clock out of fear that I’ll lose track of time and wind up late for work (it has happened).

Pick an amount of time that works for you. And any kind of timer will do, as long as it’s not the kind that ticks. Hearing the seconds clicking away is an even bigger, more paralyzing distraction you don’t need!

2 thoughts on “Using a timer to break down resistance”

  1. I (usually) write for half an hour every morning. I write my time at the top of the page. This morning I slept late, so it was 9:13 – 9:43. Somehow seeing that little defined time span first thing in the morning “liberates” me too. Maybe I’ll try the timer, setting it for half hour chunks when I’m trying to do longer work later in the day. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m reading the book now, but not up to that point.


    1. Vickie: That’s a great way to start your day! I’ve been using the timer even when I work on blog entries. I trick myself into getting something accomplished and spending more time by saying I only have to commit to 30 minutes. I fall for it every time! Yet more proof that it’s worth trying something new in the never-ending quest for productivity.


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