One of my biggest and most effective tips for getting more done is so much simpler than you think! It's true, setting a timer can actually help you be more efficient and intentional with your time! 3. 2. 1. GO!!
Productivity is such an important goal for every single one of us! It's not about doing MORE. It's about knocking out all of the tasks you need to do, so that you can do more of what you love to do! The truth is that once you master the art of being truly productive, your whole life changes for the better!
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One of the things I do that has made a HUUUGGGEEE difference in my life is setting a timer to help me focus in and get things done! Not sure why it took me so long to figure this little secret out. Using a simple timer has helped me solve (or at least greatly help) some recurring issues in my life:
- Nagging my kids to move faster, turn off the TV, get their chores done…
- Feeling like I was doing nothing but cleaning all day, but not really accomplishing anything…
- Not giving myself ample time to relax during the day, or relaxing for too long and feeling guilty for wasting inordinate amounts of time…
These and many more things can all be made better by using a simple kitchen timer, watch, clock feature on your phone, stopwatch, or sun dial (let's hope not…). Here are some of the ways I use a timer throughout my day to make my life much easier. Let's check 'em out!
SET A TIMER TO MAKE MEAL TIMES A BREEZE
With young kids meal times can become a marathon event full of threatening, nagging, and punishing to get them to eat all their food. Sounds dramatic? Yes, it really is.
In frustration, we set the timer for 10 minutes one night, and announced that anyone who was finished with their food by the time the timer beeped got dessert. The rest of the 10 minutes was filled with chit chat, singing, casual banter—because we weren't yelling and nagging any more. When the timer beeped, the kids who finished their dinner got dessert. The others didn't.
They threw a fit, of course… but that's now their problem. It's all about transferring pressure from us, to that mean ol' timer.
TIPS FOR USING THE DINNER TIMER
Now, the “dinner's up” timer is a regular occurrence in our house! Here are some ways I've learned to make it ultra successful:
- Keep the dessert simple. SUPER simple.
- We're careful to not give them more than they could/should eat, because they have to eat every bite of what's on their plate before the timer runs out to get dessert.
- They don't HAVE to eat everything that's on their plate…but they do if they want dessert.
- We only use the meal timer as-needed. Some days we don't need the timer. They are starving, or love dinner, or the stars are aligned for whatever reason and dinner goes off without a hitch.
- We use the timer for any meal, not just dinner. This really comes in handy on mornings when they have school and it seems like a battle to get everyone out the door on time.
- Try to keep mealtimes fun and conversational, even if/when the timer is used. No one will be motivated to come to dinner if it's a total drag! See my dinnertime tips for more ways to make dinner a fun experience for everyone.
USE A TIMER TO ENCOURAGE PLAY TIME
Some kids have mastered the art of playing independently or focusing on certain things for longer periods of times. For those who need help to zone in on certain aspects of play, use a timer! This is really helpful for those kids who get “bored” easily and bounce around from thing to thing. It will help keep the messes down and help them get actual play time in.
Depending on your child's age, come up with an appropriate amount of time for the following:
- Total Independent Play – Allow them to play on their own with whatever they want.
- Focused Play – Give them something to play with, like legos or playdough, and a certain amount of time to play with it.
- Reading – This is great for kids of all ages, whether they just look at the pictures or are able to read.
Eventually, you should find that your kids will get used to doing these activities for certain amounts of time. That timer may become irrelevant! However, it's a great way to have them focus on something before going outside to play, having screen time, or doing homework.
USE A TIMER TO KEEP YOUR HOUSE CLEAN
Ever look at your house and feel absolutely overwhelmed? Between the deep-cleaning, organizing, and just staying on top of the day-to-day messes, there are days where it's easier to just ignore it all because there is NO WAY we could possibly get it all done…
We started using a simple timer to help stay motivated and on-top of messes. When the kids go down for naps, for example, choose one room to work on (like the kitchen). Set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes (not usually longer than that). Work as hard and fast as you can until the timer beeps. Then stop what you're doing, even if it's mid-spray, and move on with my day, or move on to another room and do the same thing.
Let me tell you what…it's AMAZING what you can do in 5 minutes when you buckle down, focus, and you feel a sense of urgency.
TIPS TO MAKE THIS WORK WELL
- Start with general cleaning first! Then move to fine details only if you still have time once the general cleaning is done. Start by picking things up and putting them where they go. If they belong in another room, put it all in a laundry basket, then take 1 of the minutes to run around and put everything back where it goes.
- Be sure to stop when the timer stops! You're setting the timer for a reason, mostly because you're short on time and want to stay motivated. If it becomes a marathon event every time you do this, your subconscious will want to do it less and less.
- Get your family involved! We will often do a 3 minute “blitz clean-up” before dinner and make a game out of it. Whoever can pick up the most items, or get their specific job done in the 3 minutes gets a piece of candy before dinner, or gets their stick moved up on their behavior chart, or gets a high-five from us.
- See more tips like this in my “spring cleaning tips” post!
One phrase that runs through my mind when doing this is… “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Think of your house as an elephant, and embrace tackling it bit by bit! (or bite by bite, if you'd rather…)
USE A TIMER TO HELP KIDS TIDY FAST
Who has a kid that willingly cleans up after themselves before moving on to the next thing? If you raised your hand, then teach us your ways! 😉 A timer is a great way to motivate your kids to clean up quickly. Whether it's just Calico Critters on the couch or the whole floor is a mess, that timer will do the trick!
Make it a game to clean up as quickly as possible and beat the timer. Kids will have fun racing the clock to see if they can win. If you have a more stubborn cleaner, then feel free to motivate them with something! If they're done cleaning when the timer goes off, they get a reward! Maybe they get to do something fun, get a small piece of candy, or get to watch a quick show. You'll be amazed at how quickly they can go!
So, there you go! Those are just a few of the ways I use a timer in my day to help me stay efficient, and to ease tension and tantrums in the Page household.
USE A TIMER TO SCHEDULE GUILT-FREE R&R INTO YOUR DAY
As a mom the work is never done. EVER. (especially if your husband is gone for work a lot.) For all you “doers” out there, you'll totally get this—I tend to feel guilty when I sit and veg out, and am not really “accomplishing” anything which is why I'm such a multi-tasker. (Can anyone relate?)
This leads to burnout and one cranky mama! Take some time for self-care each and every day. It will help motivate you and keep you productive. Thanks to a little timer, R&R is more balanced for me now.
Choose certain times in your day to block in guilt-free time to do whatever you want–social media, Pinterest, sit and watch pointless reality TV, read, nap, whatever! This is usually while kids are napping, or at night right after kids go to bed, before tackling the dinner mess and tornado from the day. When the timer goes off, you will feel reenergized and ready to tackle all of the things you need to accomplish before day's end. The amount of time can vary from day to day, depending on how you feel or how much you do or don't need to get done that day.
Either way, it's helped me slow down, and focus on ME for a minute. Literally.
SET A TIMER TO HELP KIDS TAKE TURNS
We've all been there… The whining, nagging and crying because somebody is playing with a toy that someone else wants to play with. The answer is simple! Set a timer. Choose the amount of time that's best suited for the age of your kids. Younger kids have a smaller attention span, so 5 minutes is usually a good amount of time. Older kids obviously have a larger attention span, so 10 or 15 minutes may be more acceptable.
When the timer goes off, they switch and everybody is happy. In theory, anyways. 😉 It's a great way to let the timer be the “bad guy.” Plus, instead of asking you how much longer they have to wait, they can look at the timer. Winning!
SET A TIMER TO HELP MANAGE SCREEN-TIME
We aren't huge TV watchers in our house, but we certainly love a good show or kid movie to help ease the kids into the day, motivate them to “earn” screen-time, or just help keep them occupied for a minute so we can quickly get stuff done.
No matter what the day, time, hour, show, or reason, my kids almost always throw a FIT when it's time to turn the TV off. Guess what!?! Setting a timer can help.
LET THE TIMER BE THE BAD GUY
Give your kids fair warning. When it's time for the TV to go off, tell them, “3 minutes until the show gets turned off, even if it the [show or game] is not over!”. Set the timer on your phone and set the phone right next to them. Once the timer goes off, sing-song cheerily “Yay! You guys got to watch so much TV, how fun! The timer says it's time to turn it off now, can't wait for you to watch it again next time!”. And CLICK. The screen (iPad, computer, TV, phone, etc) goes off.
It's AMAZING the difference. It's helped cut down dramatically on “screen withdrawal tantrums” especially. You can even set the timer when they first start their screen-time session. Have your kids be responsible for turning screens off when the timer goes off.
It also keeps us parents in check and helps as avoid turning our kids into zombies by sticking them in front of a screen too much. I know some parents that have their kids earn minutes of screen time for every 5 minutes they play outside (or do something active, or read, etc.). There are lots of ways a timer can help make the screen-time battle more peaceful!
*Pro Tip: This timer method works well for ending any sort of activity for kids–playing at a park, leaving a friend's house, time to clean up toys, etc. By giving them even one minute warning and setting it on a timer, it helps give them time to mentally prepare for the fun to end, and again, transfers pressure off of you!
USE A TIMER TO GET THE FAMILY MOVING
Sometimes it's hard to be purposeful and get your body moving during the day. You can have the greatest intentions, but then realize that you're at the end of the day and you never got around to doing it. Pick a set time every day, start your timer, and get active! It doesn't matter if you've only got 20 minutes or an hour and a half to spare. Be intentional with your time and you'll be glad that you did!
USE A TIMER TO RESCUE BEDTIME
Do you have a CHATTER BOX? At night when we're tucking kids in bed, it's like someone put a quarter in and gave 'em a shot of Red Bull. They talk at lightening speed and find any and all reasons to keep us in the room.
“I need a drink”…”Just one more story?”…”I want to tell you something”…”I want to wear different jammies”. When they were younger, we found bedtime dragging out to a 30, 45, even 60-minute process some nights. Some kids weren't getting much quality time with us at all, simply because they weren't demanding it.
Now we've started doing “tuck-in time” to even the playing field, and make sure kids are getting quality time at bedtime…while keeping the process down to an efficient timeline.
HOW TUCK IN TIME WORKS
- We read books and pray together as a family first. Then we separate the kids into their own rooms for individual tuck-in time.
- The kids get 1 minute of tuck-in time per year.
- We can read extra books to/with them during their tuck-in time, or we do “talking time” if they prefer. Whatever it is, it has to be done in their bed, with them laying down.
- We set the timer and let them ramble at record pace. We also use this time to talk about what is going on the next day, exciting things coming up on the calendar, etc.
- When the timer goes off we both put our hands over our mouths and stop talking, mid-sentence (whether it's “talking-time” or reading together). If they try to keep talking I cut 'em off and whisper, “the timer is beeping! We can't talk any more, you'll wake your [stuffed] animals!” and try to make a game out of it.
- If they start whining or fighting me on it I'll get more stern and say something like “Uh oh, if you talk after the timer beeps then we have to take away 1 minute of tuck-in time tomorrow” and that tends to do the trick.
Tuck-in time WORKS. Like. A. Friggin. Champ.
It works the opposite way for other kids. It gets them talking and helps us engage in conversation with them that we might not think to do otherwise, because they simply don't talk as much as other kids! They get several precious minutes of undivided attention from us, which makes them feel loved and helps us get to know them better.
The kids can earn extra time on their behavior chart, or if we feel like they are extra wiggly or needy that night we will sneak in an extra minute or two.
USE A TIMER WHILE WORKING
This is a great way to keep on task, whether you work from home or work in an office. In order to become more efficient, come up with time limits for each of the daily tasks that you do. Then, use a timer when you're doing that task. When you're completely zoned in on a specific task, you can get a lot more done in a specific amount of time. No more dabbling in it all day long!
If emails can interrupt your day, allow yourself 20 minutes first thing in the morning to respond to those. Then if you need to do it again in the afternoon, set another 20 minute timer and do it as quickly as you can. You can do this for pretty much anything that you need to work on!
For those larger projects that will take more time, feel free to set a timer for a longer period of time, like an hour. The key is being purposeful during that time and only working on what you're supposed to be working on. Unless they're urgent, all calls, texts, emails and any other company correspondence can wait until you're in that block of time. (Yes, block scheduling works great for your work day, too!)
USE A TIMER TO BLOCK YOUR TIME
Last, but not least, if you've been following along for 2.5 seconds, then you know that we are alllll about the block schedule to keep our day running smoothly. A timer is the perfect way to keep your tasks within each block going as efficiently as possible.
Whatever it is that you need to work on during each block, give it a time limit! Set a timer for organizing your closet, working on your budget, meal planning, or anything else that you have going on during that chunk of time.
*Pro Tip: Set alarms on your phone to notify you when your blocks are about to change. That'll let you know to wrap up what you're working on before it's time to move to the next thing!
Want to really up your productivity? Do you feel disorganized? Stressed? Burnt out? Unfulfilled? Ready to say “BUH-BYE” to that state of overwhelm without giving up the things that mean the most to you? Say hello to the ultimate productivity guide! The Productivity Planner by Jordan Page is your step-by-step guide to getting more done while enjoying more free time.
- This is not your typical planner! It's not just about your schedule—it's about getting things done.
- Learn to prioritize family time and self-care while still meeting your obligations by working smarter, not harder.
- Learn practical and effective solutions for creating routines and systems that work for you and your family.
- Includes a step-by-step guide to the viral “block schedule” system.
- Walks you through every week, making sure you complete tasks while still finding room for guilt-free “me time.”
Do YOU ever use timers? If so, how does setting a timer help in your day? Please fill us in by leaving a comment!
If all of this sounds great, but you're wanting more to help out with your day, then you definitely need to check out Productivity Boot Camp! Freebs were loving my tips so much that I turned it into an online video program and it's the best thing since sliced bread. 😉
I know, I know, it sounds amazing and right up your alley! I know that you're going to love it, so go ahead and use the code FCFBLOG at checkout to get 10% off, just because!
Wanting to find a few other great ideas? Set your timer and get to reading!
- Curious what a weekly meal planning and grocery haul looks like for our family?
- Start using the simplest budgeting method ever that will help you get out of debt quickly and easily keep up with it all!
- Watch me do my makeup and see how I can get a full face done in 10 minutes!
Have a good TIME today! (har, har, har…)