When You Lose Something, Set a Timer

When you’re running your own business, it’s easy for time to slip away, even on silly things.

When I woke up this morning, I was looking for my notebook for me to write down some ideas for the day. It was most likely to be in one of four places in the house, as I was using it last night. I knew it was unlikely to have been touched by anyone else in the house.

I had a brainwave before I started looking for it. I set a timer.

Time How Long It Takes To Find

It took me 2 minutes, 45 seconds to find it. If I'd left it in the same place last night, it would have taken me maybe 45 seconds, and saved me the frustration of looking in the four places it might be.

Now, you might say that saving two minutes is nothing to obsess about, except it could have been much longer than two minutes. For that matter, I might have given up searching for it and started the day frustrated with myself, and feeling like I was running behind.

Lessons from this

  • The notebook was just a paper notebook and I could have got by without it. It wasn't like I'd lost my car keys. It was "just" a notepad. This meant that I was less emotionally invested in knowing where it was, so I took less care with having a place where I could find it in the morning.

  • For people who aren't good at setting goals or changing habits, this one was super easy and very spontaneous: setting a timer only when I realised the notepad was missing and I needed it.

  • Some people are tidy, neat and organised, but for people who aren’t tidy, this system will still work.

  • The awareness of how much time I might have wasted looking for something has helped me reinforce the habit of taking care to put it in an easy-to-remember place last time. By preparing at night time where I'm going to find the notebook in the morning, I'm investing in my future (the next morning).

  • Most importantly, I’m not just investing in saving myself that time searching for the notepad on one morning. I’m saving myself that time every morning. And that can be applied to other things that I don’t necessarily remember to keep in the one place.

Anthony English