On the merits of a stopwatch
One of my number one tips for getting work done is setting and using a stopwatch. This is not an original idea – Merlin Mann has advocated the use of the 10+2 x 5 method many times on his blog. The basic premise of this idea is to set a timer and work for ten minutes. After the ten minutes is up (and the timer goes *DING*) set it for two minutes and relax – do something else (Merlin suggests that it’s important to do something completely different to what you were doing originally). When the timer goes *DING* again then repeat, five times. At the end of an hour, you’ve done 50 minutes work!
My personal problem is not that I need a break, just that I have trouble keeping focussed as time slips slowly by. So my tip is to make a list of what you have to do and on anything open-ended (“start philosophy assignment”, “begin reading for chapter 4”) where there’s no clear end draw something that looks like this after it: [00 00] Each 0 is a block of fifteen minutes so draw as many as you need (I like to draw blocks of one hour and then put as many fifteen minutes as I need like this [00 ]). Then you set a timer for fifteen minutes. When it goes off, colour in a little circle. When there’s no circles left, you’ve done all the work you were expecting to do! The circle idea here was borrowed from David Seah and The Printable CEO. If you don’t organise your life in notebooks like I do then his pdf’s are very useful.
So that’s my take on the stopwatch – work in fifteen minute blocks of time and see how quickly time goes. It also works as a tool to beat procrastination – if you set the timer only when you study and then the timer goes off and you’re not studying then it’s a reminder to get back to the books.