My life is lived by a timer. I use them for everything. I used them for potty training (potty attempts every 15 minutes), I use them for timeouts, I use them for cooking, I use them for cleaning up (15 minutes of work before a break), I use them for reading (my daughter gets a break after 20 minutes), and I use them for writing.

As a stay-at-home mom of three, I have to keep my priorities straight. I absolutely love writing, and I can easily get lost in my characters. To help keep that under control, I use a timer. I write for an hour, and then I start a load of laundry. I write for an hour, and then clean the kitchen. This steady rhythm between housework and writing allows me to fulfill both my duties and my passion.

The same holds true when my kids are home from school and preschool. If I set a timer and let them know that if they give me 15 uninterrupted minutes of email time, I will give them 15 uninterrupted minutes on the Wii, they are much more likely to cooperate.

Image from iprole on www.sxc.hu

Timers are a great way to stay on track, and their usefulness may astonish you when you really think about it. Here are some creative ways you might implement a timer.

1. Budgeting: Require yourself an allotted number of minutes each day to calculate your actual spending and see how closely that matches to your budget. Keeping up with it daily or weekly helps it not be quite as much of a shock at the end of the month.

2. Exercise: If you have a current lifestyle change underway, consider setting a timer to make sure you get in the amount of exercise you have committed to.

3. Research: Rather than allowing yourself to get lost in the web of information that is the internet, consider setting a timer and only allowing yourself so much research a day.

4. Discipline: If you are trying to set limits on TV, video games, or telephone use for your kids, a timer can be a great way to set boundaries without having to be a constant nag.

5. Daydreaming or napping: Allowing yourself some downtime to cat nap or daydream is not a bad thing. A timer is a great way to allow your mind to take a break without guilt.

Since many people find alarms to be, well, alarming… experiment with a variety of sounds to see what works best for you. I find the variety available of my iPhone to be ideal for setting different tones for different events.