Recently I’ve been experimenting with timers–using countdown apps on my phone to time whatever it is I’m working on. Lest you think I’m one of those people who are overly into the analytics of timing everything–I’m not (yet). No, I’m one of those people who generally loses track of time and looks up to marvel at how much of it has passed. So I thought it might be a good idea to try clocking things. In fact, I just started a timer on this blog post (17 minutes and quickly elapsing).
One effect of working with a timer is that it allowed me to understand how long I was actually attending to something. Usually, tedious tasks feel like they’re taking forever. But with the timer adding structure by way of a preset time frame (counting down) the tasks feel…lighter. Just a few sessions with a timer has had lasting effects too. I began thinking about everyday tasks that I was avoiding and how long they actually take. For instance, it turns out that organizing that shelf crammed with t-shirts took all of 3 minutes. Hmm.
Timer = a plan of action = clarity of purpose = surprising perception.
Blogging is another kind of self-timer. I write different kinds of posts, each of which has its own built-in temporality. Some posts are quite long–book reviews, for instance. These posts are built by gradually adding ideas together over days and weeks. I suppose they could be rushed but they want to take their time so I let them. I revisit them from time to time, re-read them, add a bit, and then leave them alone. Their length means that they have a slowness about them, and over time the posts grow until they’re finished. (Timer has 5 minutes left!) Other posts, like some of the Microthoughts (such as my previous post on the music of Harold Budd) are quicker and finished in minutes in a single sitting (literally: while sitting on a subway). The brevity of these posts and the quickness of their completion is influenced by context. (Timer has 1 minute left!) I use the timing of my situation (getting off the subway in 20 seconds!) to shape how fast I write. (17 minutes are up! Done!)