How to Be Ultra-Productive in Just 15 Minutes

Image of an Online StopwatchFor the past couple weeks I’ve been tied up with projects apart from my main site here. You may have noticed it was quiet for a bit.

There was also the little snafu with my brother to tend to; family is important.

But before this busy spell, I used a neat trick to be more productive when it came to sitting down to work at the ‘puter.

The trick helps limit my distractions, ensures I get more done, and it frames my task schedule into manageable and predictable blocks of time.

I enjoy it because of the challenge.

You’ll enjoy it because it’s:

  • Simple to implement
  • Free to try
  • Actionable immediately after reading this article

How to be more productive

Establish a time of your day to implement this strategy. It’ll only take 15 minutes of your time (or more if you have multiple tasks) and you may even like the challenge of it.

Here’s a word of caution: It’s your mindset that is the biggest obstacle with this strategy. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

First visit:


It’s nothing more than a full screen timer. It offers a stop watch option (count up) or a count down function.

My suggestion is to click on the Count Down arrow and then you’ll be prompted to enter the amount of time you wish to set.

Image of Online Stopwatch

When the timer reaches zero, the system sounds a buzzer and flashes red on the screen so you know your time is up.


  • Keep your speakers on
  • Keep the timer open in a new tab or window

Easy as pie.

Why time yourself?

I’m not going to cite psychological studies or research on the effectiveness of working against the clock. This recommendation is based solely on my real world experience; the positive experience I’ve had over the past several months using this method.

When I set the timer to count down from 15-minutes I get right to work. Now, when I first started doing this it was tough. I had to reset the clock and give myself a couple extra minutes to complete tasks. So it’s okay if you strike out your first time at the plate.

It happens.

Just stick with it and you’ll condition your mind to spring into action in timed bursts.

Do you think 15-minutes isn’t enough time to complete a task? Fine. Do what works best for you but don’t give yourself 30-minutes so you can squeeze in lolcat or casual email checking. This is for work only.

The 15-minute mark kept me from becoming restless. For some, if we set a 45-minute period of time to work straight through, we are tempted to open an email window or Facebook tab or some other attention-devouring screen.

What happened for me was conditioning. My mind learned to fire off ideas quickly when I started the count down and I got a kick out of occasionally finishing a bit early. After trying this for a couple weeks I found joy in completing my tasks in 15-minute windows.

Bottom line: timing got the job done and I enjoyed doing the work. Win-win.

Productive tasks to complete

Here is a list of 10 things you can try to accomplish in the 15-minute time slot (then practice, practice, practice):

  • Write a 500 word article
  • Add 10 friends to your Facebook profile and introduce yourself
  • Prepare content in 9 minutes for: two 3-minute screen capture videos that each focus on answering one question from your market (use slides or speak facing the camera)
  • Answer comments left on your articles
  • Comment on 3-5 website articles
  • Share other people’s content on Twitter
  • Reach out to people on Twitter who are having problems that you can solve
  • Answer emails (important/urgent ones only)
  • Jot down 10 ideas for future article topics
  • Open a PayPal account

You get the idea, there’s a lot you can complete in 15-minutes.

Stop procrastinating

Most of us say we’ll do “this or that” next weekend and then what happens? The work expands to fill all the time we allow. We push out our deadlines and the projects become drawn out.

The trick is to stop allowing each task to take so much time. Just say no.

And stop putting off the real work by doing busy work. Let’s keep control over our time; are you with me?

Photo: julianlim

10 Responses to How to Be Ultra-Productive in Just 15 Minutes
  1. Marlee
    August 10, 2011 | 11:48 am

    Hey John,
    This is solid advice. I use the same online timer and it’s great. My only problem is sometimes I override my own time limits. LOL. A lot of good that does me.

    Nevertheless, if you can stick to the time restrictions – timing yourself is great for productivity.

    • Jon
      August 11, 2011 | 9:34 pm

      Thanks, Marlee. Yeah like I said, in the beginning I had issues with over-runs but committed to improving and I love it!

  2. Eugene
    August 10, 2011 | 1:59 pm

    The timer thing is a great idea. I often find myself multitasking without even realizing it. Like I’ll start writing something that wander off to Twitter for a couple of minutes. Or I’ll be reading a post and wander off to another one.


    I think the timer idea is good to keep your focus on one thing at a time. Could be really useful for me.

    • Jon
      August 11, 2011 | 9:36 pm

      Hey Eugene,

      The timer helps me with that task-hopping. It helps because you know the reward is that you’ll be done doing “Task XYZ” once the timer goes off. That reward is incentive enough for me to stick to the program. Let me know if you give it a shot.

  3. Murray Lunn
    August 10, 2011 | 3:27 pm

    Hey John,

    I can’t remember the tool at this time but I was doing this for a while; it would give you a set limit of time and then you needed to break for 5 minutes at a time.

    Doing the 15 mins on, 5 mins out (or so) plays with your psyche from what I found; you seem to be super productive for that time limit and then cool down during the break but during that time you get pumped to jump right back into work because you HAD to stop. The stop and go nature of it makes you want to work faster to get more done else you’ll get hit with the “time out”.

    I highly recommend what you’ve covered to anyone that seems to be slogging on their work.

    • Jon
      August 11, 2011 | 9:39 pm

      Hey Murray!

      Glad you support the idea. It’s good to know that folks can see the value in this. All I can do is share what’s worked and hope that it does the same for you. You’re right about wanting to dive back in because you stopped abruptly. Without any boundaries we tend to drift off and get distracted further diminishing our focus and desire to work at all!

  4. Timo Kiander
    August 10, 2011 | 11:58 pm


    Great advice!

    I have used a timer myself and I couldn’t even image how it would be possible to work without it.

    In fact, I happened to write with this same topic just a while ago and I agree with you – the focus you get when using a timer is just unbelievable.


    • Jon
      August 11, 2011 | 9:32 pm

      Hey Timo,

      I’m glad it has worked for you as well. There’s real power in this.

  5. Allie
    August 12, 2011 | 10:54 am


    This morning I am running into so many short and sweet posts that give amazing advice.

    Now, I usually use my iPhone’s timer. Do you think the online timer would work better?


    • Jon
      August 21, 2011 | 9:58 am

      Hey Allie!

      Glad you had a good morning of short useful posts. I love those days especially when they lead to using a tool I’ll enjoy for a long time. The advantage of using your phone timer is you don’t have to keep a tab/window open on your computer’s browser for just the timer. All else is the same really and I hope you give it a try.

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