A friend gave me a wonderfully fun gift for Christmas. I’ve added it to my arsenal of simple small business owner tricks. It’s one of those old-fashioned timers. The top turns to set a buzzer based on minute numbers indicated on the bottom. Then you get to listen to it tick down until it rings. It makes me smile.
I’ve been having a blast with it for the past five months. Sure, I could use a phone app, set my watch, or use other modern technology to track day parts, but I don’t. It feels too much like work. Using this bee timer feels more like play.
For me, this cute little buddy serves mostly two objectives. One is to limit my time on less important tasks. The second is to discourage procrastination.
Small business owner trick for reducing rabbit hole trips
I have a tendency to spend too much time on email. I get focusing on reading, answering, researching, fact checking, deliberating, and rereading old threads for context. A couple of hours can pass before I notice if I’m not paying attention.
I’m not one of these always on phone or email people, where I interrupt what I’m doing because I hear a notification ding. Instead, I focus on it a couple of times a day with the goal of cleaning out my inboxes every day. But it could be noon before I finish my morning scan if I don’t place limits.
I no longer look at email first thing in the morning. That’s a good thing. I try to get at least an hour of productive work done first. If I’m working on tight deadlines, though, there’s usually at least a few messages that have other people on hold until I respond. So, I stive to address these early. That’s where my handy-dandy gift timer comes in. I set it for 15 minutes and give myself that much time to get through as much email as I can in the morning.
Then it’s on to billable client work for at least an hour or two before email gets visited again. I’ll do periodic brief checks throughout the day, but that’s mostly for items I can address quickly or for client or vendor messages needing answers from me to proceed.
Admittedly, I spend more time on email than I should in the evening. It’s that “reduce my inbox to zero before I call it a night” objective that gets me. Yes, I’ve unsubscribed from newsletters, have gotten merciless with the delete key, and try not to spend important time on unimportant communications. But I still find myself following rabbit holes rather than being efficient. Amazingly, emptying out my inbox at the end of the day goes a lot faster when I’m super busy with client projects. Go figure.
Bribing the procrastinator in me
The other way I’ve been using this timer, with great success, is on tasks I’ve been avoiding. I tell myself I only have to spend 15 minutes on the dreaded activity. Then I let that little bee get to ticking away. I generally work in quiet (one of the benefits of being the boss), but find the ticking down of the time to be motivating instead of distracting.
Usually, the hardest part about what I’ve been putting off, is getting started. Once I’ve tackled something that’s been carried over on my to do list for weeks, it’s comfortable to keep going for longer. Plus, it feels great to finally get it at least started. Then it’s a lot easier to get it done.
Sometimes being efficient and productive is easier when you make a game of it. When I look at and listen to this smiling bee timer, I feel like I have a friend cheering me on. And it makes me think of the dear friend who gave it to me. Sure, it sounds silly, but I don’t care. It works for me.
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Have you found an odd little trick that helps you get more done in your busy small business owner day? I’d love to hear about your discovery.