The best advice I ever received on managing my time was to break my day into 15 minute sections. 30/30 by Binary Hammer helps users do just by using a timer interface similar to apps such as Readtime.
30/30’s interface is simple. The home screen is a clock representing the total amount of time it should take you to complete a set a tasks, and those tasks are listed below it. There is a litany of gesture and swipe based controls for the app, but most people will be better off scrolling and tapping rather than trying to master the three-finger swipes and vertical-spreads proposed by the app’s tutorial. You can add as many tasks you like and set estimates for how long it should take you to complete each—or maybe just how much time you can afford to spend on a longer project during this session. Once your tasks are locked in, you tap go, and press that nose to the grindstone.
Setting mundane tasks such as reading chapters for class or finishing a blog post to a timer strips away that voice in the back our heads that tempts us with procrastination. By clearly stating how long you want to spend on a project and leaving that timekeeping to an independent source adds just enough pressure to stick to your schedule. The urge to say, “Thirty minutes is loads of time” is quickly broken during your first sessions with the app; if you dawdle, it throws off your entire schedule, animating the consequences of sluggish work ethic. 30/30’s distraction-free interface lends itself well to this no-nonsense approach.
The more you use the app, the better you get at managing blocks of free time. Setting aside an hour or so at the end of each day to go back and put the finishing touches on other tasks will discourage rushing through any single item just because time is running out. Racing the clock can become a game and you will develop many tricks to keep yourself ahead of the clock without sacrificing the quality of your work.
A traditional task app or calendar can be a good compliment to 30/30 since the app is more suited to mapping out consistent blocks of time, but those other solutions lack the breathing-down-your-neck sensation that the timer provides. The jarring revelation as the timer goes off that your thirty minutes to research your paper are over and the thirty minutes to get caught up on office work has already begun creates a mission-like atmosphere for those proficient in using the app.
Like a strict teacher with a ruler, 30/30 will break you of your procrastinating ways and put you on the right track to a productive state of zen-like bliss.
30/30 is an iOS app that can be downloaded for free in the App Store.