I own three kitchen timers (not counting the ones built into the microwave and oven) and they get a lot of use.
I use them for timing naps, internet surfing, exercise, solitare games, cleaning, beauty treatments, sodoku, and writing.
Right now I'm using them to get through the interviews and guest blog posts I have to do for the launch of CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. If I look at the pile I have to do, it's overwhelming, but if I set a timer and tackle one for 15 minutes, the job suddenly becomes more doable.
Most of the time though, I use my timers to help me write books. Specifically they get used when I'm stuck or just don't want to write (which is most days, since I'm rarely "inspired"). Telling myself I only have to write for ten minutes, usually is enough to at least get me started. Some days, it isn't. Then I time my breaks (which is why solitaire, internet surfing and sodoku are in the above list). I'll write for ten minutes and break for ten minutes....all the live long day if that's what I have to do.
Sometimes, if I'm really desperate, I'll put the timers aside and log into WRITE OR DIE....cuz there's nothing worse than watching your hard-won words disappear forever.
What tricks (or common household products) help to keep you on track with tasks you'd rather not do?
Just an FYI: Be sure to check back later this month when I'll post interviews with my agent, Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider and with my editor, Lucia Macro, of Avon/HarperCollins.