Shawn Razek
4 min readJan 9, 2017


The number one rule of productivity is that you don’t fixate and focus on something 24/7. By over thinking and pondering about the same thing over and over again, you stress your mind too much. This is why productivity maximizing techniques such as the ‘Pomodoro’, where one works for 25 minutes and takes a 5 min break, fosters a more efficient working environment. A similar type of psychology can be applied to understanding the effectiveness of countdown timers. From retail websites that use timers to boost their sales to a study that showed that countdown timers near traffic lights improved driving in people, many people have begun to see countdown timers as a great time management tool.

By knowing exactly how much time you have remaining to complete a task, instead of stressing about it, you will be able to better allocate your time for the assignment. In fact, a timer also acts as a secondary motivator and reinforces you to complete your task before the deadline. In other words a countdown timer can reinforce discipline in regards to time management and help you minimize drifting between one task to another, both of which will reduce the possibility of a splintered focus. So, here’s a look at the psychology behind countdown timers to understand how they can help you become more productive.

Countdowns give you a sense of control over time

In the absence of a timer, you might jump from one task to another with little to no accountability of the time spent. But with a timer, you can set realistic task completion time estimates for yourself and in the long run it can help you maximize your productivity potential. Once you know exactly how much time you need to finish one particular task you will feel more in control. Many psychologists assert that a sense of control over things ranging from the color code of your project to the time you have to complete it can pave the way for a boost in self-confidence. With a timer you know exactly how much time you have and ensures you do not procrastinate.

Countdown timers can also act as great incentives. Psychologists believe that completing a task before the timer ends gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, countdown timers provide its users with a sense of urgency to prioritize accordingly.

Countdowns can make you more creative

When you allocate a particular time period of your day towards a specific task, it can boost your creativity by helping you avoid mental fatigue. The sense of urgency established by the timer can cause you to think and dissect problems in a more unique manner. Several studies have shown that putting a time limit in meetings and sticking to it actually helps to boost the overall productivity of the employees. This is why, artists such as Damien Correll and Austin Kleon use timers to channelize their creativity.

Timers makes you focus and enjoy your play-time better

Timers give you the opportunity to make you feel like you’ve actually earned the break. By deeply focusing and proactively working on your task within the set duration (and not thinking about anything else), you can enjoy your break completely free of guilt. With a countdown timer, you force yourself to be productive in the given window of time. In case the task does not get completed by the end, with countdown timers you will still feel thankful that you did not waste time.

The next time you wonder why crosswalks have countdown timers for pedestrians, remember, the anticipation as the countdown timer ticks to zero can make you focus and help you get to the finish line on time. So, why not translate the same situation to your work environment and become more efficient?

Originally published on Wordpress