Shana Galen
Shana Galen


Our Books, Shana Galen, Writers and Writing

Recently I potty-trained my three-year-old daughter. Well, actually she kind of just did it when she decided she wanted to, and she ended up training me to ask if she had to go all the time. When she got resentful of me telling her to go, my fellow moms Robyn DeHart and Emily McKay suggested I use a timer. That way it would be the timer telling her to go and not me.

I remembered we had gotten a potty watch from my parents a few months back, and I pulled it out, and—what do you know—that technique worked! I could set the watch for 30, 60, or 90 minutes, and when the time expired it played a little song and she knew it was time to go.

But the watch didn’t just train her. It trained me. I would often forget to turn it off when she was at school or asleep, and it would go off every 30 minutes. So if I was on Facebook and it went off and then it went off again, and I was still on Facebook, I’d know I’d just spent 30 minutes of my precious writing time surfing my friends’ statuses and I’d get to work. It also helped me keep working. If I was feeling tired and wanted to get up and walk away from the computer for a while, I’d tell myself to wait until the potty watch went off again.

I’d used online timers before to keep myself productive, but I had to remember to go online and set one. And, of course, once I was online, I might end up going to the timer website and I might stop by Twitter or this blog. But the potty watch was already set. I didn’t have to do anything because it was going to go off whether I wanted it to or not.

And then I remembered I also had a timer I’d bought to keep my daughter in time out. I’d put her in time out, set the timer, and she could watch it tick down. If she got up, then it started over again. She learned very quickly to stay in time out.


After my success with the potty watch, I would sometimes grab the timer when I was having a hard time getting started and set it for 10 minutes, figuring I could write for 10 minutes and then stop. Most of the time (not all of the time), by the time the timer went off, I was well into the scene and wanted to keep going.

What about you? Do you have any tricks you use to keep yourself productive or to trick yourself into doing things you don’t want to?

18 thoughts on “The Potty Watch and the Time Out Timer

  1. No – but I think I might have to get a potty watch for myself! I’ve turned into the worst dawdler. 🙁

    1. Shana Shana says:

      I’m sure you could use an app or function on your phone, Margo. But I sort of stumbled on this accidentally.

  2. Connie Fischer says:

    My trick is a built-in nag button. When I know something NEEDS or SHOULD be done, my internal nag button keeps going off until I get up and do it. Sigh….

    Congratulations on reaching that huge potty-trained goal! Whoopee!

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Connie, it is nice to have the potty-training done! I have that nag button too, which is why it irks me when something still needs to be done and I’m not doing it!

  3. CateS says:

    Break big jobs down into small steps.. not so overwhelming… do something for just 10-15 minutes..

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Cate, I am so bad at this but I really need to do it more. I could get so much done if I didn’t wait for blocks of time.

  4. catslady says:

    My biggest addiction online is playing games. I try to say I will play a certain amount but that never worked. Now I make a goal of so many points etc. and that seems to work a lot better lol.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      catslady, I do the same thing with my writing. I used to say, “I’ll write for 2 hours.” But I can write very little in 2 hours. Now I have to make a certain page goal.

  5. Cindy Kirk Cindy Kirk says:

    Great post, Shana!

    When I’m doing a rough first draft of my book, I set the timer on my iPhone to 12 minutes to do a page. I usually write a page every 8 minutes but setting the timer for 12 ensures I’m always successful. 🙂

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Cindy I love that idea! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ann s. says:

    I love the idea of a timer. When I am doing a chore I really despise, like dusting the inside of the china hutch. I clean while having Project Runway on and allow myself a break to watch the runway show and then it’s back to work.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Ann, I used to listen to audio books when I cleaned. It made it go a lot quicker.

  7. Rita Wray says:

    I write lists and cross things off as I do them. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. My sister in-law said I’m the most organized person she’s ever met. I’ve always written lists, I started as a teenager many years ago.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Rita, I am a total list-maker. I love them. I started in middle school, making lists of what I would wear all week and ensuring I didn’t repeat outfits.

  8. Gayle C says:

    I need a timer for myself when I am doing housework. I am so unmotivated, but if I tell myself I am going to clean for a certain amount of time, then I seem to do better. I have also used it for DD’s homework, as it helps her see how much she is wasting.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Gayle, that’s an excellent idea for homework. I know a lot of kids have difficulty with open-ended time frames.

  9. Shanah says:

    Truthfully, I am very undisciplined still. I also probably allow my 3yo to interrupt me way too much. My excuse is that I am still on this learning journey and my distractions are based in discovery for and of myself…I feel kind of like a kid again.
    Lately, however, the NaNoWordSprints from NaNoWriMo has been keeping me on task. Never worried about word count before. Just another one of those discoveries. Finding out that my writing app has a word counter will carry me through when NaNoWriMo is done.

  10. Shana Shana says:

    Shanah I don’t know how you can stop a 3-year-old from interrupting. Mine does! I go by page count rather than word count, but both work well.

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