The Timer Trick

I am fidgety.

I have been all day. And not the artistically spastic happy kind:


The anxious, resistant kind. My To Do list looms; I keep not checking items off.
On days like this, I feel like I’ve never accomplished anything, and never will.

In the middle of this no-accomplishment day, I trudged to a guitar lesson. It was POURING rain, it takes 3 hours out of the day, I hadn’t practiced enough. I never do.

And yet… without ever practicing enough, over the last year I’ve managed to learn to play¬† a new instrument. How the heck did I pull that off?!

I’m not sure. But I do have a habit which perhaps I under-value, which is to chip away at resistance, especially with long-term and repetitive tasks, by sneaking in tiny bites of work.

When I’m in that high resistance place — checking Facebook every 5 minutes, staring into the fridge, re-organizing my lists — I try to stand up, walk over to the microwave timer, and set a period of time so short I won’t resist it. 1 minute, or 2. I can endure almost anything for a couple minutes. Yes. I literally set a timer.

Then I’ll see how much laundry I can fold in that 1 minute, or how many dishes I can put away while the kettle boils. I’ll practice one song while lunch heats up, or, if I’ve given up and turned on the TV, run scales during one commercial, to see if I can lure myself back to practicing.

My favorite timer trick is to do a task I dread but just for the duration of one uptempo song. Clean as much kitchen as I can in the 4:54 of ‘Billie Jean’, or file papers while Taylor Swift Shakes it Off. Sometimes I get into it, and keep going! Sometimes, not so much.

And in that fractured, stumbling way, over time, things get done.

I’d be curious to hear how you keep yourself going. Because let’s face it: self-discipline runs out. It gets exhausted from 12 hours of pushing yourself, 7 days a week. At least it does for me. I need timers and tricks. It helps me keep going as a solo independent artist.


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