I often give clients who are enrolled in my programs a simple tool to empower them for success. I love to hand out basic kitchen timers. Why? Because they’re far more useful than you may think. Use a timer everywhere … they’re so under-utilized when banished to the kitchen! Therefore, it’s time to –
Read on to discover 10 Timer Tips using your basic kitchen timer to solve life’s everyday challenges. You may find some of them quite surprising!
1. Give Yourself a Posture Reset
For those dealing with any chronic pain condition or health challenge, it’s absolutely essential to keep the body moving. Sitting still (immobilization) for long periods of time contributes to increased pain and symptoms.
Additionally, prolonged periods of sitting (common for anyone dealing with high pain conditions) are indicated in other health risks including circulation problems, heart disease, cancer, and even premature death. The damaging effects of long-term sitting have reached epidemic proportions and here’s one simple way to take action.
To Do: Set the timer for 45 minutes or less. When the bell goes off, get up, shrug your shoulders, and/ or do any of the following –
Walk around, stretch, bounce a little on your rebounder, go outside and take a deep breath, drink a glass of water, etc. You get the gist. When you get back to work or to whatever you were doing, don’t forget to re-set the timer for another 45 minutes!
2. Mindful Munching
When we eat meals in front of the TV, while reading, or as we surf the net, we forget what we’re doing, that is — eating. Eating becomes secondary in focus rather than primary. These two behaviors (munching and mindlessness) don’t pair well together. In fact, the combination is detrimental to any health goal.
Some of us can wolf down a meal in six minutes flat without even blinking. Eating too fast means we’re not properly chewing and breaking down our foods (among other health hazards). We may swallow food chunks that are larger than a quarter. Talk about making a tough job (digestion) even tougher!
Send in a timer to the rescue. Use it to intentionally savor and enjoy your meals. When you can visually see how much time you have left to eat, you’ll naturally chew more slowly, becoming more aware of the flavors and textures in your food. If you continue to pay attention, you’ll even notice a relaxed sensation in your body (particularly in your stomach and intestines), as you eat.
To Do: Prepare your meal and set the timer for the time you have available. WARNING: When you first start this, you’ll be shocked at how much time is left after you’re done. Eating mindfully is a learned process. You may wish to start off with 30 minutes or so and work up from there in 5 minute increments.
3. Fitness Success
Setting a timer for any body movement activity can mean the difference between success and not-so-much success. Did you know that there’s a psychological advantage for counting DOWN to the end of your workout rather than counting UP?
As it turns out, time flies when you count down.
Watching the timer tick down (5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – ZERO), gives you the motivational boost when you need it most – at the end. Therefore, you’re more likely to complete your workout.
Science has also shown there are activities where counting up is beneficial. But for those who find their fitness motivation lags or disappears toward the end of the workout, this tip can be particularly helpful.
To Do: According to your fitness level and mobility issues, choose your activity and intended time. Set the timer (could be 3 minutes, could be 15 minutes, etc.), and get moving.
If possible, include short bursts of increased intensity in your workout and allow for recovery time between bursts. Be sure to track your progress and challenge yourself to increase the time and intensity of your workout – even if it’s just in one minute increments.
4. Power Projects
Got tasks that you’ve been putting off? Or projects that you’re just not all that jazzed to do? That’s real life all over, isn’t it? Who wants to clean the garage or organize the drawers in the laundry room? Some tasks simply need to get done whether we want to do them or not.
To make un-fun tasks a bit more palatable, set a timer. You may start off with a sigh, but as the timer ticks down toward zero, you’ll be surprised to see how much you complete in short time bursts. Even more interestingly, you may find yourself working faster in order to “beat” the timer.
Important note: Don’t feel disheartened if your task is not complete when the bell goes off. Finishing isn’t the point of this exercise – starting is. Once you start, you gain momentum and forward motion. If you’re not complete, simply take a quick break, reset the timer, and begin again.
To Do: Choose your project or task such as laundry, writing a report, paying bills, scrubbing the shower, etc. Set the timer for 15 minutes or so, and go at it with gusto.
5. Bring on the Fun Police
Fun and games are great – except for the occasions when they bite into your productivity time. I’ve had clients tell me they lose themselves while watching mindless TV, surfing the net, and while playing computer and video games.
They often refer to these activities as guilty pleasures.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with these activities (in fact, see Timer Tip #10 below). But, feeling guilty isn’t a productive or positive state of mind. This feeling probably doesn’t stem from the activity itself, but rather it relates to the nebulous time spent on it. To avoid this feeling, we can use a timer to reign in the “losing yourself” factor.
To Do: There’s nothing complicated about this. Simply choose your favorite amusement, set your timer for 15 minutes or so, and have fun!
6. Calling the Pacing Police
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Do you also experience losing yourself in physical activities such as gardening, cleaning and scrubbing? Repeated physical activities can definitely take a toll on the fibromyalgia body.
Don’t you wish someone could tap you on the shoulder before you overdo it?
Let your timer keep you from experiencing increased pain and symptoms. Limiting your time spent on physical activities – and learning to pace yourself – can be very helpful.
To Do: Set your timer for 15-20 minutes or so depending on the activity. When the timer goes off, be sure to change your physical position, stretch, breathe deeply and then decide whether or not to continue. The timer provides you with an opportunity for self-assessment.
7. Last Minute Sweep
Here’s the scene. You’re enjoying a cup of tea at day’s end, flipping through the mail while watching Jeopardy. The phone rings and your neighbor reminds you that she’s coming by in 15 minutes to drop off that punch bowl she borrowed. First, you do a palm slap on your forehead because you’d forgotten she was coming, and then.…
You either A) stay put until the doorbell rings, or B) run around like a nut, picking up the clutter and cleaning what you can until she arrives.
Admit it; you’ve probably done option B at some point. (And, if you state that you haven’t, then send me your address so I can come over unannounced.) The important thing is to notice the impact of your quick burst efforts. What can you really accomplish in just a few minutes? Quite a lot!
If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. So, why not make the last minute work for you? Take a quick sweep through any room. Put away items. Dust. Spot clean. Whatever task is your focus – do it quickly and try to beat the timer.
To Do: Grab task-appropriate tools (trash bags, laundry baskets, dust cloths, the vacuum, etc.), set the timer for 15 minutes, and GO! Look at the room with a fresh eye. View it as would a visiting guest.
8. Micro De-Cluttering
Yes, this tip is very similar to Timer Tip #7, but it’s more fine-tuned. While the previous tip looks at a room or area of your home as a whole (a macro view), this tip takes a micro view. Using the same techniques as above, instead, tackle one small, but cluttered, area of your home.
Look around for problem areas such as kitchen counters, junk drawers, bookshelves, bathroom vanities, laundry room cabinets, desks, etc. Address one problem area at a time and you’ll be surprised at the overall progress that you can make.
To Do: Identify the area you’ve chosen to clean and/or organize, and set the timer. Work quickly and efficiently to sort, purge, clean, and organize. Arrange the area until the timer goes off or you’re done. If the timer goes off first, take a quick break, re-set it, and start again.
9. Gut Decision – Now
Do you have trouble making decisions? I sure do. Sometimes I can make significant business decisions in a snap, yet take eons at the store debating which brand of almond butter to buy.
This tip applies to simple decisions – not life or death problems. It can help to bring clarity to an otherwise muddy situation and shed light on your true gut feelings.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s slightly more sophisticated than playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.
To Do: Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center, dividing it into two columns. Set the timer for 5 – 7 minutes and begin. Write down the pros of your decision in one column and the cons in the other. Write as quickly as possible. When the timer goes off, point to the column that feels most powerful, impactful, or “right” to you. Of course, nothing says you’re held to this decision, but this tip may help you to get a better feel for what your gut is telling you.
10. Award a Reward!
Giving yourself a small reward is a perfect way to re-set your energy and provide you with a much-needed emotional boost. I give entire workshops on the subject of rewards, so it’s definitely an important topic. Of course, there’s also much more to say than can be illustrated here, but note the highlights below.
Healthy rewards can be activities that are fun, relaxing, satisfying, or fulfilling. When you think of rewards – think of doing something.
Here’s the caveat: Healthy rewards are not food or money related. Why? Because I want you to feel affirmed and rewarded, not temporarily placated or numbed by something that’s ultimately unhealthy.
This is what I share in lectures –
– it’s not a healthy reward.
Suggested rewards (think of simple activities!): Reading a good book or magazine, watching a favorite recorded TV program, practicing deep breathing, yoga, or tai chi, crafting, coloring or painting in a coloring book (I’m not kidding), taking a soothing bath, walking in your garden, calling a friend, etc.
To Do: Choose a reward — either by random or by intention. Set the timer for the appropriate time allowed and enjoy!
The tips you’ve just reviewed in this article are simple to do. There’s no complicated equipment to buy or instructions to follow. My personal favorite timer has a handy rope that allows me to wear it no matter where I am in the house. I can also hang it close by for easy access.
Would you like to learn more fun tips using a timer? Check out the tips found on the Pomodoro Technique here. I hope you’ve found the tips provided in this article useful and put them into action right away. Simply pick a number between 1 and 10 and get started now!
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.
Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue’s free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.