The Trick To Get More Done In Less Time

We’ve done many articles on how you can be more productive. Covered tricks and tactics and mindset shifts. And all of those are important. They help in compounding ways. But to make yourself go much faster, there’s a simple technique. If you’ve ever taken a test in school, you’ve already seen it in action.

Work to a timer.

Set a timer, and work until the timer stops. 

Then stop.

It’s so simple that it seems almost absurd. But let me explain. Nearly every piece of productivity advice you’ve heard is about handling a straightforward problem: too much time.

Perfectionism comes about especially hard when you have too much time. But if a deadline is looming, you switch to doing what you can. Setting a timer creates a miniature version of this. It doesn’t give you time to second-guess your work.

How about having trouble starting work? Well, procrastination is far harder to fall into when you can see the numbers ticking away. Time flies (i.e., is lost) when you’re “getting around to it.” That mindset is much harder to justify with a timer.

I cannot stress how effective this can be.

Are you tempted to go on social media?

The clock’s ticking.

Feel you’re taking too many breaks?

You won’t if you only take breaks when a timer’s done.

Fiddling with low-impact tasks when you should work on the important stuff?

Often, the big projects don’t feel dire enough. The pressure isn’t on.

And, yes, there are other reasons people have trouble working. Myriad reasons. A lot of valid complaints. But if you simply want to get more done, and there’s seemingly no good reason you can’t, you may have too much time.

And, even if you don’t need outside pressure for motivation, timers also help put structure into chaos. Using a timer can help organize the busiest of lives. If you run your own business, you probably need to do a billion things daily. And you do need to do them, but you can’t do them all at once. So, when a timer runs, you focus on one thing you picked until it runs out.

Now, let’s go over the specifics of how to do this. The Pomodoro Technique (an old productivity method involving a timer) is a great place to start. But twenty-five minutes isn’t always enough. It’s too inflexible for different types of work. For more complicated mental tasks, the short intervals might ruin your flow.

Instead, you can personalize the timer method. Make it feel comfortable. It takes only three major steps to start. 

First, figure out how long you can concentrate or work uninterrupted. There’s no shame here. Even five minutes of pure work is better than nothing. If you don’t enjoy concentrating on one task for long, that’s fine—plan for that. If you work from home in a busy house and might only get ten-minute windows between people popping in, then plan with that. “Should be able to” is a useless mindset. We’re not interested in it. 

Second, segment the things you’re working on into chunks equal to your focus time. What task (or part of a task) takes only thirty minutes? What takes fifty? What step can you do in five minutes? If you don’t know, time your work, and record your findings in a spreadsheet until you see a pattern. I recommend a week of recording. Don’t go off vibes or intuition—measure it scientifically. You may learn many interesting things that give you a better understanding of how you operate. 

Third, you’ll need a timer. I recommend a physical timer. A clock or egg timer or hourglass. Something that, to start it, you must touch it. And once it’s started, well, you know what to do. Go at it with fervor. 

And what you’ll discover is that you will almost always do it in that time. You will. If you measure right and you commit to working, you’ll complete a task, and it’ll feel complete. If you want momentum when working, especially when working at home, beat three timers in a row. You’ll feel like a badass, a genius, the most productive person on Earth. Even starting the day beating a single timer will propel you into a better work headspace. 

It’s not magic, but if you’ve wanted a simple way to up your game, no matter your workload, timers are it. They work.