An Insanely Simple Tip That Will Make Your Writing Sessions Fly

Ditch your clock!

I mean at your workspace.

I got this idea this summer, when I was doing a lot of tabling (at the farmers market, PRIDE festival, etc.) for our group Vegan Kalamazoo.

Each gig was between three and six hours. On days when I wore my watch or kept my cell phone on, it was hard not to check the time every few minutes—and so, just as it does for bored schoolchildren or office-workers who watch the clock all day, the day draggggged. (Note: tabling isn’t boring! I love meeting new people and talking about veganism. But there’s no doubt it’s work.)

But on days when I left my watch home and shut off my phone, I entered a kind of time-free zone, and the day was much pleasanter and seemed to go much faster.

Eventually, it occurred to me that if I got rid of the clock on my computer screen my writing sessions would seem faster, too.

And I did, and they did!

This isn’t a new idea, by the way. It’s why, for example, you’ll only rarely see a clock in a supermarket, store, casino, arcade, or any other place where they want you to linger (and spend money).

A couple of notes:

  1. Outside your workspace, you want LOTS of clocks. Clocks are a great time management tool. (People tend to keep phone calls and meetings short when there’s a clock.)
  2. I time my writing sessions, and you should time your writing and other important work, too. (See Solution #4 here.) But position the timer where you can’t see it.

That’s the insanely simple tip! Try it and leave a comment letting us know how well it works for you.


  1. Hi Hillary, thanks for another great post. I have been experimenting with clocks and timers for at least a decade, since reading The Lifelong Activist and many other productivity books. I too have found that when I eliminate clocks and timers I enter (what you called) “a kind of time-free zone.” In some situations, this experience is desirable, as you describe so well in your post.

    However, it has also been my experience that this “kind of time-free zone” can be conducive to what you have elsewhere called the “trance of procrastination.” So I have found that my use of clocks and timers requires continuous adjustment: I increase their use whenever they are needed to maintain a schedule or to counteract procrastination or other obstacles, and I decrease their use whenever they seem to be distracting from the task at hand.

    For those situations when clocks and timers are helpful, I have found that audio is helpful: In the “Date & Time” preferences on my (Mac) computer, I activate the preference to vocalize the time every quarter hour, and I also use a timer app (called Minuteur) that can vocalize the elapsed or remaining time every 1, 5, 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes. Again, as you said in your post, there are situations where this is contraindicated, but in other situations it is very helpful.

    • Hi Nathan, Thanks for your great comment. The ultimate rule in productivity work is “whatever works for you,” and the ability to be flexible and boldly try new things is a manifestation of empowerment, which is really the fount of all productivity.

      Your point about audio cues is also very helpful. I will check out Minuteur and another great choice is the Insight Meditation Timer, which has lovely bells and tones.

      And then there’s this: The classic.

      • Thanks again, Hillary. I would add to my previous comment: In my experience, one of the benefits of an audio clock (and/or audio timer) is that it eliminates the need to check the clock visually as you describe in your post. I can relax and let go of the urge to check the clock visually because I can trust that the time will be announced vocally when the time comes.

  2. Hillary,
    Thanks for another insightful post. But… as one who is about to turn 70, the last thing I want to do is make time go faster!!!
    Just another perspective 🙂
    Keep up your great work!

  3. Great tip about timing one’s work. I have seen a clear uptick in focus and productivity when I set my iPhone timer for 90 minutes and then delve into a task — especially tasks I don’t particularly want to do. The timer tells me that “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” and that I will soon be enjoying a cup of coffee on my back porch, feeling satisfied that I’ve produced something. Why 90 minutes? I read some research that said it’s an optimal amount of time to get immersed in a task but it’s not so long that you get burned out. It seems to work.

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