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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Organize and Save Time: The Timer

Today I am going to talk about one of the most useful tools that I use to keep a clean and organized home; the timer. I love to use a timer throughout my day because it helps me to stay focused and on task, particularly when that task is something I don't really feel like doing. (Oftentimes cleaning!) I use my timer for all sorts of things and I'm sharing a few of them here.

One of my favorite uses for the timer is the Five Minute Pick Up. I set the timer for five minutes, and I use those five minutes to get as much done in a room as I can. So let's say I am working in the living room. I use those five minutes to throw away any garbage, remove dishes and put books and magazines back in  their rightful homes. Then I fold blankets, straighten pillows, hang up stray coats and return shoes to their homes. If I have time left I will wipe down the coffee table and do a quick dusting over all the horizontal surfaces.  It's fun to try and get the whole room back into shape before the timer goes off. When it does, I move on to the next room regardless of whether or not I've finished in the first room.

I find that nearly every time I have managed to whip that room into shape before the buzzer. Then I'll move on to the next rooms, and continue until all the main living areas, the upstairs bathroom and the bedroom are done.  Five minutes in the bathroom is more than enough time to quickly swish the toilet, wipe down the sink and polish the mirror, door and fixtures, and sweep the floor. This means that in 25 minutes my house is picked up, and some light cleaning is done.

Racing the clock is usually all I need to get me motivated for the day, but if it is a day I am feeling particularly tired, I know that I can just do less than half an hour of work and my home is in ship shape.

Another use for the timer: Timing Tasks. I used to hate doing the dishes. I would let them pile up, I'd dread doing them, and then I would be annoyed by the enormous amount of time it took to get through that giant pile. But once I started timing myself and racing the timer (can I finish the dishes in half an hour?), I found that a normal size load of dishes typically took me no longer than fifteen minutes to get through.  Knowing that this less than pleasurable task was so short made it much easier to get through, and made the "pain" more bearable.

The other benefit to this timer trick is that I now know how long tasks take me,  so I can plan my day out better. If I need to head out early in the morning, I know that I have just enough time to make the bathroom sparkle and get the dishes out of the way.

Here are some of the tasks I've timed and been surprised by how quickly they are over:

  • Dishes: Typically  15 minutes. And that's by hand people!

  • Sweeping the Main Floor: Five minutes. This includes the hardwoods throughout the living room and dining room, as well as the kitchen and entryways.

  • Bathroom: Five minutes is just enough time, as I've said, to keep the bathroom in top condition.

  • Mopping: Ten minutes per room. Mopping is strenuous work, so it does make it easier to know that in a mere ten minutes the work will be over!

  • Making the Bed: Two minutes. Seriously! Why would I ever NOT make the bed? I can always spare two minutes!

  • Vacuuming the Stairs: Five minutes. We have wood stairs, so it is quite easy. I know when we had carpeted stairs in the basement it took much longer.

  • Wiping Down Kitchen Cabinets: Fifteen minutes. I simply fill the sink with soapy water and use a rag, and the cabinets are all sparkly in mere minutes!

It's important to remember to take time to rest, just as it is to make time to clean. So I will often set the timer for half an hour of relaxation. That way I don't have to watch the clock, and the buzzer going off is an impartial voice telling me to get back to work. I don't know about you, but I can always find a way to reason with myself and tell myself that I don't need to get back to work!

When faced with a particularly daunting task, or a strenuous one, I will often set the timer. I do this a lot with gardening, because I will get caught up in the work and spend the whole day  in the garden, only to find that I cannot get out of bed the next morning. So I set the timer for an hour or so, and accomplish what I can in that time. Then the next day I do the same thing and accomplish a little bit more! This also works great for big projects like decluttering every room or spring cleaning.

Those are all the ways I can think of today to use your timer as a tool to manage your time. Do you have any others that you'd like to share with me? I'm always looking for new ideas!


Leigh @ Kesler Expressler May 6, 2010 at 5:19 AM  

Great tips! Using a timer definitely helps. When I make scones, they have to rest in the freezer for 5 minutes about halfway through the shaping process. That's plenty of time to get all of the dishes I've dirtied washed. The timer is definitely motivation!

emily @ thirtyeight20 May 6, 2010 at 4:37 PM  

I used to work in a notebook factory, on the night shift, during my summer breaks in college. I had a watch with a timer, so I timed EVERYTHING as a way to keep myself awake and from dying of boredom. I still remember that it took 23 seconds for a stack of notebooks to travel down the conveyor belt from the machine to the packing station. It was almost a sickness! However I like this idea of timing household chores. Sometimes I can be pokey and get caught up in other tasks at the same time, and a timer would definitely keep me on track. I'm going to try it!

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