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Yeah, sing it, just like the Rolling Stones. “Sa-mu-rai Time is on my side! Yes it is!”  Don’t know how to sing?  That’s okay, sing it badly.  Don’t know who the Rolling Stones are?  Abandon all hope ye who enter.

As I write this, I have a device strapped to my wrist, counting down and ready to vibrate in twelve minutes.   It’s my G-Shock Vibrating Alarm Watch, the latest, biggest, baddest ally in my writing and productivity since I learned the alphabet.  Why vibrating?  (Since I wrote this post, the G shock watch I have has sold out and the other G Shock is a lot more expensive.  Here’s a link to some other vibrating watches.)  Well, because I am working in the Writer’s Room, where silence is golden.  Furthermore, in the wide world in this day and age, people on the subway get nervous when things start to beep unexplainably.

Why counting down?  That’s because it is part of my latest ally, “time pressure.”   I’ve always heard of using timers as a way to increase productivity but it never quite gelled for me until I started reading AJATT articles on “timeboxing.”  Khatzumoto started to write about using timers to get things done.  He struggled with keeping his apartment clean, but then started to use timers to simply get things done.  He’s got all of variations on how to use timers, including things like “decremental timeboxing”  where you set a timer for three, two, and then one minute, but that’s too technical right now. (Even though it’s not.)

My trusty vibrating timer. What I like about this timer is that once the timer goes off, it starts counting up and reminds me of how much time has elapsed since I last spent time on focused tasks: writing, cleaning, SRS reps, etc. It’s a gentle way of keeping me honest. Here 21 minutes have elapsed since my last flashcard reps.

How and why does it work?   Well, I hate to bring up anything related to Tom, “Last Samurai Jumping on the Couch,” Tom Cruise, but it works like “Mission Impossible.”  Having a timer turns challenging  into a thriller game.   Squeezing tasks into little time boxes becomes more productive over time.

For example, I’ve been working on my project “Sumo Years:  How I Learned to Let Go and Let Japanese” for over five years (five years!), but I’ve resisted sending a book proposal to my agent because it seemed like such a formidable project.

Since I started using a timer, I’ve gotten more done than before.   I get to the Writer’s Room and do flashcards for three minutes, then work on my outline for five minutes, then the blog for five minutes.   All along, the timer is counting down.   The watch, which I got as recommendation from 一日30分勉強法, gives me a one minute warning, then a half-minute warning.   This adds to the thrill.   As time is winding down, I try to fill the page or see how much I can get done.   An impossible task is turned into a game.

I only spend one hour in the morning at the Writers Room but I am getting closer to a finished book proposal than I have in five years.   Furthermore, I’m having more fun with it, and am remembering my ideas because I do it almost every day.   It’s easier to bridge ideas together because I haven’t let my brain drain.  (See Keep Your Battery Charged)

Cliche time:  a Rolling Stone gathers no moss (except for Keith Richards, maybe).  Using timers has allowed me to maintain momentum and keep going on projects that had stalled by using the game of time pressure.   Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.   Sa-mu-rai time is on your side! Yes, it is.