I have been reminded lately of the value of setting a timer when I really want to get something done. Guys like Chris Winfield have been talking about dedicated time blocks (he calls them Pomodoro’s) for some time. I have been setting a timer with Alexa every day while doing Morning Pages. The benefits of a timer include:
- Truth. Over many sessions of writing three pages for Morning Pages I know that a focused session without distractions is between 18-20 minutes. So if I set a timer for 20 minutes I should be able to get it done. When the timer goes off before 3 pages it is likely because I indulged in ratholes, picked up my phone, or daydreamed. Without the timer, I can tell myself the story that I did morning pages just fine, but the reality is likely that I took many detours. With the timer, I am far more truthful with myself about my productivity.
- Permission to focus. When I am freezing myself in a cryotherapy session, knowing there is a 3-minute timer gives me the permission to endure any pain that comes my way. I tell myself “I can do anything for three minutes!”. And I do. Because I know there is a timer. Try doing Cryo without a timer. 10X more difficult. Same thing with Morning Pages. When I know the timer is on, I say to myself, “this is my 20 minutes to do Morning Pages, any distractions that come up I can deal with after the 20 minutes, I have the rest of the day for the distractions.”
- Permission to delay impulses. The flipside of permission to focus is the permission to allow yourself to put off random thoughts that come into my mind. I know this time under the timer is dedicated to one thing. The next time block I have can be for the other things. There is time for all. Unless I never get anything done and then it all stacks up. It seems that sometimes my ego would rather have a very long list of tasks and never get anything done because then it can feel important. It would rather I indulge partially every impulse that comes along. But my human mind, my conscious mind, understands that growth, learning, progress, only come with checking things off the list. With completing one thing and moving on to the next thing. So give yourself permission to delay gratification on certain things so you can gain gratification on the thing you are supposed to do now.
Also published on Medium.