I used to use Windows programs like CookTimer and Orzeszek Timer. I found it handy for tasks that I wanted to do for, or within, a specific amount of time. (I also used it to time my stereotypical college dorm ramen noodles.)
Recently, I found myself needing a Windows Desktop timer again, under the idea: Both time-constrained tasks, and untimed mind-wandering and exploration are valuable tools for a creative goals and creative development. Both. So turn off the timers to get deep into a thing. But if I’m starting to get random distractions, time-constrained tasks helps me not only focus, but also have a checkpoint to self-check if I’ve done enough of that task.
Depending on the circumstances, some tasks also have a bit of an uphill start. I’ve found that setting a 5 or 10 minute timer to do nothing but try to start the task you want to do, really helps get over that initial hump.
There are plenty of apps, and even built-in functionality in most phones, that let you set a timer. I use those too when I happen to have my phone or tablet next to me. The fact of the matter though is that I don’t, and I try not to be one of those people who end up compulsively checking their phones and tablets. For that same reason, I sometimes like to use the Forest app, which is sort of a mini-timer game with a mechanic that incentivizes you to leave your devices alone for that period of time.
But if my devices are already far away from me while I’m working on the desktop, so I find myself not really wanting to use my devices as a timer anyway. If I’m on the go and have my device with me, I’ll use it.
You can also just search for something like “15 minute timer” on Google and it will start that timer for you right in the browser. The problem with that is that you need to leave your browser (and browser tab) open. Something about that is unappealing to me so as much as it’s convenient, I don’t really like to use that method.
Windows 10 has a timer app, but it’s very touch-centric at the cost of being really annoying to use with a mouse and keyboard. As pretty as it is when the timer is running, it’s just really terrible to use and lacks a lot of basic customizability.
Anyway. That’s where I found the Hourglass program, which is Chris Dziemborowicz’s successor to his original Orzeszek Timer. It has all of the original features of the Orzeszek Timer and more, but is easier to spell!
It has lots of nice features and customization options, but the interface isn’t messy or distracting. Custom sounds. (I made mine sound like the hourly chime on a Casio watch). Custom colors. Lots of helpful little options like “Always show on top” or “Pop up when expired”.
(This is not to be confused with the Jehova’s Witness Hourglass App. That’s totally unrelated.)
As usual, you have to be weary of downloading these rando programs, but Chris has a good track record. Orzeszek was originally open-source, so you knew there was no monkey business in the code. Hourglass unfortunately isn’t even source-available. But at the very least, I’m willing to trust it. (I really really hope this isn’t mining bitcoin or encrypting my files to hold them hostage.)
I’ve also been looking for a nice physical sand-filled hourglass timer so I don’t need to have my computer on. But I haven’t found a design I liked yet, and it has its own downsides, like not making a sound when the time elapses, and not being able to specify and change the amount of time.