Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Once upon a time there was a first grader who dragged her feet when she was supposed to be getting ready for school. So many things to catch her attention. So many things she’d rather being doing. Her mother would gently but firmly keep after her, reminding her again and again of the things she needed to do in order to leave for school on time. But that didn’t set especially well with the little girl.

Finally her mother, equally weary of the endless prompting, drew pictures of clocks that illustrated what her daughter should be doing by what time. The verbal parental reminders halted. Not many days into the new “system,” however, the little girl let her mother know that she didn’t like clocks telling her what to do. And from there on out, the dawdling dwindled.

That little girl was me. I STILL don’t like clocks telling me what to do!

I tell you this story so that you’ll understand that my grudging devotion to The Timer isn’t because I have some kind of regimented, super organized, ultra-disciplined mentality and lifestyle. No way. I have the soul of an artist. My creative juices are fueled when I can let my mind wander. I love long walks and whiling away hours in the garden. I hate to be rushed. But like the rest of you, I have a life, commitments, obligations—the many details of which must be attended to whether I like it or not. As a writer, I have to MAKE time to write.

And that’s where my friend The Timer comes in . . .

Alarm Clock – Okay, I admit this is the “timer” we probably all hate most. Even I, a devout morning person, am not enamored with this particular device. But since I’m pretty much worthless creatively after a long day at work, it’s a necessary evil if I intend to get in a few hours of writing before I head off to Ye Olde Day Job. (Rule #1: Thou shalt not touch thy snooze button.)

Vibrating Wristwatch Timer – Now this is something those of you who are morning people will love if you hate the blare of an alarm or if your spouse gripes when it goes off at 4:00 a.m. Five quick vibrations to your wrist and you’re up and going—as your significant other blissfully snoozes on in peace. I have a VibraLITE 8 ($65) which I bought from (You can also get them at or Amazon.) I’ve tried several types, but like this one because it’s so simple to set. No tech degrees required.

Classic Kitchen Timer – This is my old standby. You can find some version of it at just about any discount or kitchen supply store. It’s a FABULOUS tool for keeping me going. You can use it to:

- Limit your “surfing” time – Admit it, it’s way too easy to get lost for hours on the internet!

- Limit email sessions – More writing time squandered!

- Limit journaling time – Years ago I attended a writing conference which featured bestselling mystery writer Sue Grafton. She advised “warming up” each day with a pre-writing exercise where you pour out your writing angst (“Today I’m attacking chapter eleven. But the problem I’m having with it is ...” ). It’s similar to creativity coach Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” (The Artist’s Way), but abbreviated. I keep my writing journal handy in a Word doc, and I’ve found 5 minutes is usually sufficient. Maybe 10. Then I get to work.

- Schedule regular breaks – When “in the zone” writing for hours, I forget to stand and stretch, flex my fingers, refill my water bottle, or rest my eyes by looking out a window at something in the distance.

- Facilitate a brainstorming session – Brainstorming is a critical item in a writer’s toolbox – but daydreaming time is always at a premium, so I sometimes find it helpful to structure it a bit. I use my timer to play bestselling author Shirley Jump’s “Rule of Six.” Shirley teaches that the first five or so ideas we come up with for anything very likely won’t be all that great. It’s only after we push to six or more that we begin to dig down into our subconscious. I use this method combined with my trusty timer -- how many GMC’s can I come up with for my heroine in 15 minutes? How many names for my new hero in 5? How many titles in 10? How many different ways to end a chapter—or start the next one—in 20? Brainstorming with a timer forces me to write quickly, breaks the log jam in my brain, and gets my creative juices flowing again.

- Establish a time to write each day – I can get so caught up in tyranny-of-the-urgent things that my writing time slips through my fingers. It’s easy for this to happen, particularly if we’re subconsciously procrastinating. So set a timer that reminds you “this is it.” It’s important to make your writing a priority and to write each day (or weekend if that works best for you) at the same time. It’s not always possible to do (especially for those with children!), but I personally find a daily routine necessary to be productive. When I sit down at my desk at “X” time, my brain knows it’s time to shut out the rest of the world and transport itself to my story.

- Motivate yourself to write – I can’t afford to wait until I’m in the mood to write. There are times, however, when you just don’t FEEL like writing, right? But as we all know, WRITER’S WRITE. I’ve learned half the battle is getting myself to sit down in that chair, open the story document, and start to type. On days when I’m struggling with that basic concept, I’ll set my timer and tell myself: “Self, you only have to write for 15 minutes.” Hmm. That sounds doable, doesn’t it? That’s often all it takes to get me in there and keep me in there for far longer than the allotted minutes.

- Pull yourself back to the real world – When my fingers are flying across that keyboard and the banter between heroine and hero is dancing in my head, I totally lose track of time. Not a good thing on a workday unless I want to show up at the office around noon in my robe and slippers! By programming the timer, that allows me to get into the zone without the distraction of constantly looking up at the clock to check the time.

- Motivate yourself to take care of OTHER business - Sometimes I’m so tired at the end of the day, I don’t want to clean the bathroom, vacuum the house, balance the checkbook or declutter my office. It’s easy to put things off with “I’ll do it in the morning.” But morning is my writing time and it’s important that I honor that. But with the timer I can turn housework into a game of sorts – racing to see how much I can get done in a 15-minute challenge. Just breaking the mental log-jam is sometimes all it takes to finish up those chores in record time, even at the end of a long day.

- Reward – This works great for making chores palatable. Intersperse your housework with a timed 15-minute read-a-book break every hour or two.

- Energize – Exercise is another activity that too easily slips between the cracks of a busy day. Set your timer to remember to take that brisk walk. Set it for a round on the treadmill or lifting weights or stretching. You can’t spare more than 10 minutes today? 10 is better than zero and will very likely give you a needed energy boost.

- Refresh – Did you know that studies show people who take a short nap daily are far less likely to have stress-related illnesses and cardiac problems? Set your timer for 15-20 minutes of Zzzzz’s, then head back to your story.

- Restore – We all need a quiet time with our Maker. A time to shut out the world. Take a deep breath. Get things back in perspective. Amazingly, I find that when I think there’s no way I can take a “time out” because there’s already too much to do, if I MAKE time – 5 minutes…10…15 – I seem to get more done in the remaining time than I otherwise would have. And thank goodness for Sunday afternoons when I can toss the timer!
As a soon-to-be-published writer, I’ve added a suitcase full of new things I must now work into my week—no longer only self-imposed deadlines, but that of the publisher as well. I’ve found The Timer Method to be invaluable in keeping me motivated and on-track.

As Seekerville's Tina Russo is fond of reminding us: “What have you done TODAY to make your dream come true?”


Get a timer.


Dreaming of Home – Steeple Hill Love Inspired – October 2009


  1. Good morning, Glynna! You've given excellent examples of making the timer work for us. I'm so excited about your first sale!! And marvel how you handle a full-time job, your home and still manage to write books. Now we know you're secret!

    I have a timer on my desk that looks like an apple with a blossom on top. Cute little thing. Got it at Crackle Barrel--a great place to get funky timers if that appeals. I really believe they're invaluable. Now remembering to use it is the problem. I need a timer to remind me to use the timer. LOL So thanks for the reminder to renew my timer habit.

    In honor of my timer, I brought apple dumplings this morning. And coffee. Always coffee. :-)


  2. Janet -- I'll skip the coffee, but the apple dumplings sound tempting! Maybe those will be a reward when I finally get my desk cleaned off! (Where's that timer, anyway?) I've been living and breathing review of unjustified page proofs for days, so have a lot of catching up on other things to do tonight!

    You timer sounds cute!

  3. Glynna,

    Thanks for these tips. I'm going to have to get a timer and try some but I think I'll add a rule if the timer is ticking...I can't be bothered.


  4. Guess I know what I'm purchasing on my next shopping excursion. It might keep me out of some trouble, too. I've been late for appointments a few times because of getting engrossed in writing a scene.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Glynna!

  5. Eileen -- hope The Timer Method works for you!

  6. Glynna, you're an inspiring woman! Way to make the most of your time!

  7. Melanie -- I TRY to make the most of my limited time. Don't always succeed! :)

  8. Great ideas, Glynna! I'm really conscious of time since I grew up with a wonderful mother who was always 10 minutes late for everything. I fell into the same pattern even though I hated rushing and being late. Eventually I learned to watch the clock and give myself 5 extra minutes. Voila! I'm usually not late anymore and I elliminated a lot of unnecessary stress.

    I need to watch the clock a little closer when it comes to writing.

  9. Excellent tips, Glynna. Thanks for sharing.

    I use the my iTouch. It lets me set four alarm clocks to a tiny ping noise that wakes me and has a timer and stopwatch.

    I hate alarm clocks too. I use my phone on vibrate as a backup.

    Pass the java.

  10. Cara -- I absolutely hate rushing. Way too stressful.

  11. Great idea about the phone timer, Tina!

  12. Thanks for the mention of Rule of Six, Glynna! I love your timer idea!

    I'm actually doing a month-long online workshop on Rule of Six this December for From the Heart Romance Writers (


  13. I use my timer a LOT. I believe I have a learning disability that has never been diagnosed, I was growing up pre-ADD awareness.
    My short term memory is just ridiculous. I will put something on to cook, walk away to another room and NEVER ONCE THING ABOUT IT until I smell the burning.

    Just weird and I do this all the time, something about processing short term memory, I'm sure it's medical and NOT MY FAULT.

    In fact, I think I oughta get a handicapped parking sticker but so far, no luck.

    So I depend on that timer. I have a really loud, nagging timer, beeps for a full minute.

    I use it when I put clothes in the dryer that need to come out before it stops, cooking, reminding myself of chores that need doing, phone calls that need to be made AFTER seven o'clock but before bedtime. I'm the worse at remembering things like that in the mid-evening.

    I live and die by that timer and by the email reminders I get from my online calendar. I'd never remember anything without them. And I'd have probably wrinkled up all my clothes and then burned the house down, too.

    I like the vibrating wrist watch.

  14. Good stuff there. I liked the brain storming idea, the "write for 15 minutes idea" and the race to do housework idea.

    We use the timer at home to settle computer time disputes. It's on the microwave. We have one desk top computer in the dining room, so everyone can see what everyone is doing ...and when the kids fuss or dawdle I will set the timer to remind them to let someone else have a turn.

    Good coffee this morning.

  15. Oh, and, I found a stop watch online.

    I use it now all the time.

    Stopwatchor just google it there are tons of sites like this.

  16. Boy, did I need THIS blog today, Glynna -- what, are you a mindreader???? And thank you for the kick in the butt (particularly regarding e-mail sessions!) AND for the suggestion for the VibraLITE 8 -- I plan to buy one!!

    Great and practical post, sweetie!


  17. Glynna, you have inspired me to use my timer. I have one from Pampered Chef that I NEVER use.

    It will now officially be my writing stuff timer.

    And will alert me when to get offline and write. LOL!

    Thanks for these tips and wonderful examples!


  18. What super suggestions, Glynna! I have a timer by my desk that I used to use to get myself up and moving every so often, but I keep forgetting to set it!

    You know, Mary, I do the same thing--start something in the kitchen or washing machine and then completely forget about it. In fact, I can start across the house with a particular goal in mind and by the time I get where I thought I was going, I have no idea why I'm there. So this is a learning disability? I thought it was an aging thing. And I'm not sure a timer would help--LOL!

  19. Mary C.,

    I'm with you regarding attention deficits. I use a timer daily.

    Once I started the water going into the washing machine and went to find the clothes I planned to wash. By the time I remembered my purpose, the entire cycle had run without any clothes in there.

    Now, I was pregnant at the time so I'm thinking the brain cells were a bit weaker than usual, but still!!

    I would only admit this among friends. :)

    Janet, I've been to Cracker Barrel but will have to try Crackle Barrel :)

    (My writing results weren't what I'd hoped today. I have to let off steam somehow.)


  20. Hi Shirley! Great to see you this morning. The Rule of Six pushes writers to dig deep. Love it!

    Cathy, I'm having a good writing day. Now yesterday...not so good.

    You don't have to eat at Cracker Barrel if you want to just shop the gifts. Though if you do, I like the meat loaf.


  21. Hi Glynna, sorry to chime in so late but today is my class day. Hey I love those timer ideas. I use a timer always, especially when cooking MARY. But you added some great tips. I'm going to practice them. I love the see how much you can get done in 15 minutes of housework. I need to put that one to work in my office.

    Are there any apple dumplings left?

    Congrats Glynna on all you accomplish and do. You're a remarkable woman.

  22. I learned the benefits of using a timer after being a part of Fly Lady's routine to combat clutter and chaos ( Now a timer is an important tool on my writing desk. A writing friend and I started doing timed writings where we wrote whatever flowed into our heads. She said those were her most productive writing times.

    Tina, I just found the stopwatch/timer on my iTouch. Now I'm hooked! :)

  23. Glynna, this is such a simple concept. Why does it take a smart gal like you to remind us of a simple way to stay focused and on task????

    Thank you for this! Without little pings of reminders, I get lost in my stories, lost in the garden, lost in schoolwork with leastuns and just lost, regardless.

    I love timers and you've given me extra reasons and ways to use them.

    Bless you!


  24. thanks for stopping in, Shirley! I took your Rule of Six last year -- and am also "lurking" in your writers-on-line class right now. Good stuff (!) but I've gotten WAY behind on the posts since my page proofs arrived.

  25. Glynna,

    Didn't know you were on there!

    That's the great part about online classes, though -- you can lurk and just save all the e-mails for later! But there will be three more opportunities to post and have your work critiqued, so if you have time and the inclination, watch for those! :-)


  26. Mary -- sounds like you've mastered the art of The Timer!! I use timers all the time for cooking, too -- and since I can't hear when the washer or dryer goes off when I'm elsewhere in the house or outside, I estimate when a load should be finished up and time it so I can start the next one.

  27. Ann -- great idea to use The Timer for computer dispute settlement!

  28. Lisa -- I've heard of Fly Lady, but haven't checked into it yet. Probably should!

  29. If you have a software program on your computer such as Lotus Notes, those also have a timer function so a reminder window will pop up in the middle of your screen. I use that ALL the time at work to remind me of meetings and other things I need to attend to.

  30. There are also timers that clip to your belt -- which are great if you're going to be moving all over the house or are outside.

  31. You've given some really great ideas of how to break the habit of procrastination.



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