Get Things Done with Windows 10 Timer

For years, I frowned at the idea of timing my work—“I write dude, I’m not getting paid by the hour!” I repeated myself. But I was wrong. Sure, I’m not paid by the hour, or it would be a misery if not less than that, but writing takes a lot of time and one’s time is limited. One’d better know how and where one spends it.

Timing my writing, in fact all of my work, was the best change I’ve ever made to my work routine. And it is still is, even if the way I do things, and the time I need to do them, constantly evolves.

It helps me to roughly know where I’ll be at the end of every day, no matter what. It’s also very useful to realize where I waste most of my time during any day, and to fight procrastination.

Every morning, accompanied by a big cup of coffee, I will start working around the same time (very early) for a 45’ or a 2h session, depending on what I want to do. I’ll take a short break after that first session, and have breakfast. Then I’ll start another session often, but not always, followed by another break. Rinse and repeat, until a day’s worth of work is done. After that, I’m free to do whatever I want.

During a session, I’m not allowed to go check my emails, Twitter, and so on. It’s just the work to be done, and me.

Here is another trick I use: to make sure I’m not tempted to waste my time online, I have a separated ‘work’ account on my computer, where I don’t have Twitter or email configured, no games either. Nothing but my word processor, a couple dictionaries and the notes I need in order to write (using OneDrive for storing my files, makes it really easy to share the one I need between my two accounts). During a session, I’m allowed to not write if I feel like it but the thing is that I quickly found out that looking at an empty screen, with nothing else to do but stare at it, is quite motivating to start working 😉

As you can see, beside the use of two separated accounts, there is nothing fancy in my ‘method’, that is merely a stripped-down version of the Pomodoro technique. And there is nothing complicated to it: it doesn’t require any sophisticated app, any timer should do.

To my surprise, I discovered that Windows 10 comes with its own timer. I wasn’t expecting much of it, but I thought I could give it a shot before spending money on yet another app.

You now what? It does the job.

Windows 10 Timer

In the Start Menu, open the Alarms & Clock app, click the Timer tab. Here is mine, with all my timers:

It’s barebone, but you get the idea: you can configure multiple timers (and run more than one at the same time). To add a new timer, click the + sign in the bottom right of the window. Optionally, you can give each timer a name.

One last tip: for a quicker access to your list of timers, click the Pin timers to Start, in the window’s bottom right corner:

And voilà! Your Timers readily accessible in two clicks, no matter where you are in Windows:

Pros

  • Free.
  • Preinstalled with Windows 10.
  • Can manage multiple timers.
  • It gets the job done.
  • Use Microsoft’s Modern design, which I like (and which is great for accessibility & for its dark theme support).

Cons

  • No advanced features: no stats, no graphs like you may find in some dedicated pomodoro apps. Nothing.
  • We can’t reorder, edit or rename the timers. The only solution is to delete and recreate each one.
  • The user interface needs more love. The main window is fine, for the most part, but the New Timer window? Sure it’s functional but, I mean, come on Microsoft don’t you think it’s a little too hastily done? At the very least, add a few of the missing features, like a ‘Rename’ and ‘Edit’ button. It’s not like you were running short on space in this window.
  • No settings. Nada. Can’t customize the notification or the background color in full screen (it uses Windows’s accented color).
  • No syncing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have our Microsoft timers synced on all our machines, through our Microsoft account?

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