Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Kind of Power in a Stopwatch

Stopwatch by Wouterhagens of Wikipedia CommonsNow that I've spoken about using a sports tally counter, I'm getting myself all enthused about self-improvement gadgetry, and am recalling all the aides that helped me so much. It's restoring much needed interest, for I realize I was actually foolish to cease habits of using certain gadgets that have proven their worth so many years ago.

For example, the simple stopwatch.

Years ago, I discovered that using a stopwatch in the right contexts was a great psychological motivation tool. Having gotten my first job at a restaurant, I wanted to improve my speed, and I got a stopwatch so I could set precise records in certain tasks.

What kind of practice you'd want to set up, if you wanted to try it, will vary with interest, of course, but for me back then, I went through the pains of setting up a word document to record my times at work. I would set a definite start and end to a task, such as mopping a certain section of the floor, utilize my stopwatch, and record my time.

The most intriguing effect is that it causes a surge of motivation to flood me whenever I used it. Activating it, it became very emotionally real that time was passing and there was a recorded document stating how well I should perform at the task, and I would erupt in a flurry to meet or beat my record. "Working fast" feels totally different when you formally time yourself.


Plus, another aspect is that it can turn some boring things into a game. Instead of droll monotony, your object is to drive the numbers down and down, and that can make for excitement. It definitely contributed to me becoming one of the fastest employees at my restaurant. I loved it.

Though, with trial and error I've realized there's many pitfalls to watch out for, otherwise using a stopwatch could too easily become over-stressing and become a discarded habit, so let me elaborate the mistakes I've had to overcome.

For one, be judicious on what you time, how you define the start and end of the timing, and how often you time it. One time I got to attempting to time something so little as how fast I made my bed and got dressed, which was too stressful since I wasted time recording times for tasks so brief, and the element of trying to rush through so many things is just too prolonged of stress to bear. I'd be better off timing the hours-long task of raking leaves over making bed and breakfast. Judge what's really important.

Plus, I've also come to terms that it's okay to be arbitrary with how often you time things. It puts a lot of pep in your step at work -- but sometimes it's okay to simply not do it, lest you blow a gasket for, again, enduring stress to too long of a time.

Another thing to make peace with is to be okay with approximate times. In a restaurant, for instance, the variables aren't always controllable, such as someone bringing me a huge stack of dishes 20 minutes into when I've started closing down my station, which means I can't always achieve my record or beat it. As long as my effort is sincere and intense, I'm still being efficient by and large; it's okay to be off by five or ten minutes sometimes.

Lastly, the final thing I've learned is that it's best to keep the stopwatch on your person, either hanging around your neck or in your pocket. (The pocket, for me, since physical work makes the lanyard give me a friction burn.) When I successfully habituated this practice I got really panicky, frustrated, and flustered, as when I left my stopwatch running on a surface and a coworker would pick it up and start examining it, which terrified me into thinking they might press the stop button and mess up my timing.

Ha, I once took the practice so seriously that when either myself or someone else pressed stop I felt obligated to freeze in place, and did so. All for the precise timing!

If you're sincere in speeding up some areas of your life, especially some mundane tasks at work, a stopwatch can be precious. It prods you to move fast, encourages you to better yourself, and helps you pep up if you happen to see yourself failing to meet an prior established record, encouraging you to work harder to catch up.

However! If you intend to buy a stopwatch, then I think this one is probably your best bet, which I have ordered a replacement of. Ever since my first one, this brand, petered out, I've been surprised as how dismal the quality of stopwatches are at the store. Out of the several I've bought at Wal-mart and other places, they always had the fatal flaw of fussy buttons, buttons that wouldn't activate on command, causing me to press them several times to either start or stop them, thus never having accurate times, making them virtually useless.

As time goes on I've cover more helpful gadgets. They aren't necessary to self-improvement, of course, but some devices are too helpful to pass up.

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