Low Tech Time Management

A simple kitchen gadget is transforming my life. I don't know why I never thought of it before. It wasn't my idea. It was a side comment made by nationally recognized life coach Alicia Smith, at the beginning of the Coachville teleseminar Understanding the Dynamics of Adrenaline Addiction. She said she "lives by timers."

It was at that moment I realized: I have no inherent sense of time. I'm geographically impaired too, but that's another article. I don't think I would have re-connected with just how non-time oriented I am without having had a sabbatical from a nine-to-five job.

Having a job, any job, implies a certain amount of structure. Maybe you have to be somewhere at nine a.m. You go home at five p.m. You have lunch at noon. You have a meeting at ten, an appointment at two. Productivity flows in and around your commitments. Remove the structure? Creativity ? and productivity ? pour out everywhere and become un-measurable and un-acknowledgeable. It's not necessarily that you're not doing anything. There's just nothing to gauge it by anymore.

As a kid, I'd spend hours in my room writing, painting or playing guitar. I'd forget to eat. I'd stay up until the middle of the night working on a project. When you don't have to work you aren't quite as constricted by the sixty-minute-per-hour agreement.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee), author of the book Flow and renowned architect of the notion of flow in creativity; asserts people enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Time flies."

It sure does. But what about the sixty-minute-per-hour standard most live by ? the one used to calculate our paychecks and measure our productivity?

In an attempt to bridge the gap, I bought a timer. In fact, it is ticking as I type this. And it's not interrupting my flow experience of writing one iota.

This isn't the first time I've used a timer to accomplish a task. Jerry Mundis, author of over forty books of fiction and non-fiction, and creator of the knockout tape series, Break Writer's Block Forever, coached me through the writing of my first novel (two hundred and sixty pages) allowing me to write for only thirty-minutes per day.

When the buzzer went off, my instructions were to click File, Save and Close and forget about the book until the next day. This kind of structure didn't hurt my creativity one whit. In fact, combining this discipline with writing at approximately the same time each day caused my subconscious to cue up the next few scenes overnight. Every night I sat down, set the timer and turned the faucet on. The words poured out. When the time buzzed, I shut off the faucet. And that's how my first novel got written.

Another thing I love about the timer? It's a guilt-killer. If I only have an hour and a half to practice an instrument or write an article, when the buzzer goes off, I'm done. I don't have to think about it anymore.

Time is much too precious a commodity to mindlessly let slip away. So grab your PDA, phone or Blackberry and find the alarm on it. Or go to the kitchen and grab a simple plastic timer, give the dial a turn and when it buzzes, File, Save and Close and celebrate your sixty-minutes of creativity and accomplishments.

Helena Bouchez is a writer, musician, artist, teacher and former advertising agency associate technology director.

She has a B.A. in Art from Wayne State University and a Certificate in Business Administration from University of Illinois Chicago Center for Entrepreneurship, is nearly finished with her first novel tentatively titled, "Till you Make It", and enjoys playing bass guitar in all three of her bands. http://www.helenabouchez.com

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