Ikea Stam Cooking Timer

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Quantified time that ticks

This little plastic kitchen timer has helped my life dramatically. Yes, it lets me know when my eggs are done, but it mostly lives on my desk.

I’m a writer who works from home, prone to distraction and procrastination. Those two behaviors can compound one another, turning a “short break” into a lost hour, or three. For me, this made any sort of actual relaxation impossible, because the danger of distraction was dire. Phone and computer-based timers helped a bit, but their lack of immediacy made me lose interest.

Now, to take a break, I grab my timer (2 inches from my keyboard), give the top a twist, say, to 10 minutes, and I can truly relax, knowing the bells will snap me back to action right on cue.

Without the rhythm of the office around, a freelancer’s time can feel all too elastic. For me, it made it hard to keep touch with the flow of time, to know what a day really meant. From a practical angle, this sunk my ability to accurately forecast tasks and budget time. That’s bad for an employee, but for freelancers, it’s murder.

Now, when I start to drift off, I grab my timer and dial in an hour. The ticking lends texture to the passing of time, and the bell keeps me in touch and on task, giving even continual tasks a sense of beginning, middle, and end. This allows closer contact with my pace and progress through a job, and has brought my forecasting ability back toward optimal again.

A little woo-woo, maybe, but a complete godsend for me and the pals I’ve bought them for.

-- George Cochrane 06/21/12

(While looking for a bit more information I stumbled upon this neat hack to make time lapse movies with these kitchen timers.--OH — editors)