“Honey, when did you put this load in the washer?” my husband calls to me from the laundry room. (For some strange reason he enjoys helping with laundry.)
“Um…I don’t quite remember,” I answer sheepishly.
On another day, the conversation might go something like:
Husband: “What’s that smell?”
Me: “Smell? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Then from the kitchen a child hollers out: “Mom! Your pot is boiling over!”
I have an ailment that I’ve dubbed “Homemaker’s ADD.”
It’s a condition that makes it incredibly difficult to focus on the task at hand. Sudden bursts of creativity send me running to the piano to plunk out the motif I just heard in my head. Remembering I have a load of laundry in the wash sends me running to the laundry room while I’m in the middle of cooking dinner. The kitchen floor only gets halfway swept before I decide I’d better go put the kids clean clothes in their rooms before they go to bed. But I often forget to return to these half-done tasks, leaving each room of the house a half-mess at the end of the day.
Even though I’ve begun making concerted efforts to focus on one thing and not to leave until I’ve seen it through to the end, I still have distractions that I have no control over: a diaper that needs to be changed, spilled milk that needs to be cleaned, or a scraped knee to kiss.
Yet I’ve found one thing that has been a tremendous antidote to my highly distract-able tendencies. When I use it, I actually remember to put the laundry in the dryer, to turn off the boiling pot, or even to finish sweeping the kitchen floor.
My secret weapon? A simple timer.
I now use a timer for pretty much everything I do around the house.
As soon as I start a load of laundry, I set the timer for 45 minutes (the amount of time it takes for a cycle on my washing machine.) When the timer goes off, I immediately put the laundry in the dryer then set the timer for another 45 minutes. When the timer goes off again, I immediately remove the laundry from the dryer, fold it, and put it away. (By the way, folding laundry goes really fast when you only fold one load at a time instead of letting a massive pile accumulate!)
I even use the timer for things like sweeping the floor, setting it for the approximate amount of time it would take me to finish. This way, even if I get distracted and leave the room, I will be startled with a loud reminder to go back and finish the job when I hear the timer go off.
I highly recommend using a timer that beeps continuously until you turn it off. If you use a timer that ticks down and then dings once, it’s very easy not to notice the sound.
I also recommend avoiding timers that are on your phone or computer. If you’re the easily distracted type, it will be too easy to get sucked into the swirling vortex of social media and find that you’ve wasted valuable minutes of your day. I have a radio/CD player/mp3 player that has a kitchen timer built into it, but you could use a simple stopwatch.
Some other ways you can use a timer in your home:
1. Use it to race against the clock. When there’s a job to be done, set your timer for a reasonable amount of time, and make it a game to see if you can beat it. This is a great way to motivate both yourself and your kids when nobody’s in the mood to work!
2. Overcome your overwhelm. When the amount of work you need to do seems monumental, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and give up before you even start. Set the timer for 15 minutes, roll up your sleeves, and work as hard and fast as you can until the timer goes off. Chances are you’ll look around and say, “This room wasn’t as messy as I thought it was!”
3. Help your kids wait. When you need to finish washing the dishes and your kids are begging you to please, PLEASE read them a story, you can use the timer to help them wait until you’re done. Tell them you’re finishing the dishes, but that you promise you will read when you’re done. Then set the timer for the amount of time you need to finish and tell them that when the timer dings it will be time to read! It will be much easier for them to wait without continuing to beg you, knowing that there will be an end to their wait and being able to visually see how much longer their wait will be.
4. Enjoy some down-time. Every woman needs time to rest and recharge herself, but if we’re not careful it can be easy to let that time stretch into more than it needs to be and end up neglecting work that needs to be done. When you’re sitting down to read, browse Pinterest, or work on a hobby, set a timer to bring you back to reality when you’ve had enough time to relax. It’s fine to enjoy ourselves, but those times need not stretch on indefinitely.
*Can you think of any more ways using a timer would help you? You can also take a look at 6 more of my favorite tools for being productive as a homemaker.
~ MaryEllen, ImperfectHomemaker
If you’re looking for a good and affordable timer? This is the one I recommend because you can SEE it, HEAR it, and has a magnetic back too. Very handy! (Can also be used a stopwatch – which can be fun and useful too!). ~ Lisa Jacobson
Available here: The Wrenwane Digital Timer
(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)