If you’re like me, you’ve been socially conditioned to despise a timer since childhood. I was a speech therapy-going little girl squirming (or more like “squiwming”) at my wobbly wooden desk in Myles elementary school as the clock seemed to fly into warped speed as I refocused my restless mind with all my might remembering that wuzzle means to mix and that a Baloo is a bear. Except for the countdown to recess, the clock was my nemesis, my worst enemy. It was looming on the wall all high and mighty, and I could swear I even saw it glare at me once.
Running out of time seems to be time’s tagline stamped in our minds early on in life. From standardized testing to school sports to best practices for time management in the workplace to socially conditioned and approved life milestones. We all seem to always be running out of time.
Fast-forward to becoming an adult and realizing that my time management needs some restructuring – okay, needs a full-on overhaul so I dig and research on how to beat time. Never one for rules or being told what to do, my inner rebel was screaming out loud to “Turn back NOW” out of fear of being swallowed whole by the old belief system that structure is synonymous with control over and limitations from, well, everything. Since then beliefs on structure have changed significantly to an amicable and adaptable perspective. Inner harmony rejoices! What helped, was through my digging, I happened upon the Pomodoro Technique, and right away, my rebellious streak exhaled as I realized that this was it. The idea of setting a timer allowing for short bursts of time to get things down both satiated my competitive edge and sense of satisfaction from being as productive as possible.
The most surprising benefit was that I was simultaneously strengthening my mental muscle of being present. Without the worry of needing to know how much time passed on a specific task, I could fully settle into what I was doing without feeling distracted or on edge. I began using my phone’s timer and quickly realized that it defeats the purpose because then when the timer goes off, I’m bombarded by notifications that hijack my fine-tuned, well-focused mind into being a scrambled mess. So, I moved on using one of the many timers offered on YouTube or your platform of choice. All was flowing, and there was a semblance of clarity and calm that, although always available, wasn’t always cashed in on in the past.
Then came the pandemic. We all know how that went – scrambled eggs for brains across the globe. Up was down, and days were blurred. Time? What is time anyway? That universal chaos only worked in our house for a few days until I knew we needed a way to keep us all clear-minded as possible. Enter: the timer. The blessing and relief that is the timer. If the timer could benefit my workflow, why not my life flow? Other than using our microwave as bread storage or reheating coffee (for the twentieth time), it was left alone, until now. The microwave now became our go-to refuge for keeping us on track. My kids and I would hear the light bell ringing from the microwave after we set a timer for morning routines, transitions from free time back to Zoom time, dance party breaks, meditation practice, and end of screen-time (for us all!). For us, it allowed for peace of mind. It gave my kids the chance not to feel an unnecessary responsibility to grow up too fast and be so time-oriented when I was on Zooms with clients, and they had to head back to remote schooling. Best of all, the idea that something else kept track of time allowed me to be fully present with my kids.
This freedom that came from the timer flowed into other areas of my life too; otherwise, I’d be half-in. Meaning, I’d be doing one activity with half of my mind wondering what time it was and if I was late for the next thing. It gave me an invitation to settle in and ground down. Being fully present, reading a book, having a meaningful conversation with a friend, petting my dog, Walter, or playing games with the kids. I was fully in for each moment.
It gave us all a chance to breathe and drop out of our ever active minds and back into our lives. That I am forever grateful.
Sure, there are times in our life when no timers are needed – lazy Sunday mornings or cozy Thursday nights snuggling in bed with a book and a cup of tea or on the couch immersing yourself in a movie and a glass of wine. Losing ourselves in the flow is a beautiful experience as well. And this timer hack is not a practice for everyone. But for those of you who are fellow heavy-minders, I offer you this opportunity to release your mental grip on time and be relieved of experiencing being full with what you are doing or who you are with at that moment. You’ll soon realize that your ability to be and stay present gradually deepens and that your life is enriched all around.
Most of all, it gives us all the opportunity to realize that as The Stones reminded us years ago, time really is on our side – if we let it be.