I realize this headline is promising a lot. Not only am I going to tell you how to have more focus, how to get your kids to get ready quickly in the morning and to reduce procrastination overall, but I’m going to tell you how to do these things with one simple tool.
What is it you ask? A timer.
Oh timer, how I love thee. You help me so much.
Here are a few ways to use this handy tool. Remember – you always have one in arm’s reach on your phone.
Getting Ready Game
In the morning, my son gets to set his own timer. He loves pressing buttons so this is part of the motivator for him. He sets it for 8 minutes. Then we have a game. If he can get dressed and brush his teeth in eight minutes he gets to see what is in his lunch for that day.
How could you adapt this for the morning or any other transition time of day? Parent and child make a plan that both can agree to and is exciting for the child. If child can do _X_ by (appropriate amount of time), then they get _Y_(simple reward that will motivate them). If they can’t do X by that time, they don’t get Y. Either way you hopefully have a motivated child that tries to accomplish the goal in a timely manner. This could be used anytime you are trying to get out of the house and need them to stay on task to finish things before you can leave.
Ready to tackle a big project but having a hard time motivating yourself to get started? Set a timer for 15 minutes and spend that time just trying to do the first few steps of the project. By giving yourself a short amount of time to work on it, you feel less pressure. It can just be dipping a toe in to see how deep the water really is. Then when you finish 15 minutes, you likely have a better idea of the scope of the project and can plan accordingly. Reward yourself for starting! Starting can be the hardest part. Here’s a great example of this one. You plan to file your own taxes. You dread starting the process because it feels like such big job. Working on it for just 15 minutes you are able to find the folder of tax documents, download the software and take a peek into the first few tax questions. It all starts coming back to you and it doesn’t feel so scary anymore. You reward yourself and then schedule a 30 minute block of time each evening to keep your progress going and finish before April 15th.
Save Yourself From Social Media
I sometimes get sidetracked by social media. I know none of you have that problem, but just for kicks I’ll share my technique on this one. Set a timer for 10 minutes and allow yourself free reign of facebook or instagram or twitter during that time. Then when the timer goes off, you have to stop. I find this to be effective because social media can feel so engaging sometimes that you will sit down with the intent of scrolling for a few minutes and then look up 45 minutes later. Don’t let yourself get sucked in. Decide ahead of time how long you want to engage and then be done when it is time to be done.
Let the Timer be the Bad Guy
If it is time for your child to do something, but they are having too much fun playing, this is a great time to use your timer. Let’s say it is almost quiet time. You give them a choice – do they want to have quiet time start now, or in 5 minutes. They say, “in 5 minutes!” You tell them, “sure! I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, quiet time will begin.” Ask them if they understand. Then when it goes off, the timer is the one first telling them that it is quiet time. You can remind them but really you and they know it is time for the next phase of the day – in this case their quiet time.
Motivation for Housework
What is that one household chore that you dread doing? Mine is probably vacuming. Do you have a hard time prioritizing it? I do. Here’s an idea. Tell yourself you only have to do it for a short amount of time. For example, I really don’t want to vacuum today but the carpet needs it. I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes and just vacuum for that time only. When I’m done, I can be done and feel good. Or sometimes you will find that the task isn’t so bad and be willing to keep going. So, yup, I got the stairs done but I could really vacuum the living room too, and not mind doing a little more.
Clean Up Game
Another way to use the timer with your kids is to play a clean up game when it’s time to pick up the toys. Set a timer for 2 minutes or 5 minutes and tell them the person who cleans up the most toys wins! I find that this game works best when I clean up right beside them. Your call if you want there to be a reward for the winner or if you all have a moment of celebration when all the toys are cleaned up.
Did you know that people have limited attention spans? Good job if you made it this far in the article without distraction. We can only focus intently for so long before we become less effective. You and your timer can capitalize on this with something called the Pomodoro technique. It works like this. Have a list of items you need to work on. Set a timer for 25 minutes and use that time to focus on your tasks. When the time is done, give yourself a 4 minute break. Each of these cycles is called a pomodoro. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Feel awesome about all that you accomplished!
I think the big thing with timers is that they help us enforce limits for ourselves and our kids, which is something helpful to all of us. There are so many more ways to try out using a timer as a tool to help the whole family.
Do you have a favorite way to use your timer? Let us know! Join the Facebook Group here!
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