Continuing our Tool Box series (in which we talk about other tools to use along with your planner), today’s topic is using timers and alarms.
Timers and alarms work especially well with planners because they can help keep you on task and/ or let you know when it’s time to move on to the next activity.
One technique I’ve been using for several years is to set the alarms on my watch to go off ten minutes before it’s time for me to leave to go out the door first thing in the morning, for any appointments, and at the end of my work day. This gives me time to wrap up what I’m doing and get out the door on time. Using my alarm as a “get ready and go” signal has helped me trick myself into embracing earliness. I figure out how long it will take me to get someplace, add some time to ensure I’ll be a little early (instead of rushed), then set my watch alarm for ten minutes before departure time. This serves two purposes: 1) my departure time is set in stone and 2) I don’t have to check my watch every five seconds to make sure I’m not going to be late. I can put my head down and crank away on work without distraction because I know my alarm will tell me when it’s time to go.
This method also works if you do time blocking. Set your alarm a few minutes before the end of your current time block to give yourself time to wrap up what you are doing and move on to the next time block: working on a different project, shifting to a different type of activity (phone calls instead of emails, etc.) or going to a meeting.
Timers work well to keep you on task: if you know you’ll get a break when the timer goes off, you can force yourself to focus for 15 or 30 minutes (or however long). Knowing that the end is in sight is motivational. There are several methods that use timers (including Fly Lady and the Pomodoro Technique). I find timers work best when I’m doing something I don’t really want to do (like, for example, cleaning out closets). I can de-clutter for 15 or 20 minutes, then when the timer goes off I’m free to do something else. I know I’ve made progress because I’ve done my designated amount of time. This method works well for ongoing, large projects or for helping you crank through tasks on your never-ending Master List. I don’t like to use timers to divide up my work time because they disrupt my work mojo when I’m in the groove.
Think ahead and plan your day in your planner, then use timers and alarms to let you know when it’s time to move on to the next thing. This will allow you to work your plan smoothly, keep you on task, and get you where you need to go in plenty of time.