There are all sorts of wonderful time management systems and programs to help you organize your life and keep moving in the direction you want. But the humble alarm has, perhaps, the greatest value in helping you use your time in a focused and productive way.

We all have limited time available. Most of us have enough to do that we have to schedule our day. We have a certain amount of time for exercise, prayer, getting the kids off to school, before a particular appointment at work, before dinner, etc. The result is that while we are doing all the things we need to do our minds are subtly watching the clock. It’s like a background process on your cell phone that is always running and using up your battery even though you never see it.

Setting an alarm will change all that. Of course you can keep track of the time, but why should you use up the tremendous creative and productive power of your brain for something so mundane? If you have ever checked the clock while you are working on a project, then your brain is running its time-keeping app in the background and sapping some of your creative energy. (This doesn’t apply if you are working toward a hard deadline for completing a project, of course.) If you have noticed that you keep an eye on the clock when you are playing with your kids, then your brain is running its time-keeping app in the background and subtly distracting you from being fully engaged with your children. If you take time to read/pray/journal/meditate and check the clock in the middle of your time… well, you get the idea. Executives with personal secretaries do this all the time: “Don’t disturb me for the next 90 minutes unless it’s an emergency.”

Setting an alarm frees your mind to focus on the task at hand. Setting an alarm frees you to fully give yourself to whatever you are doing. Setting an alarm can help you minimize distraction. Setting an alarm will help to maximize the focus and creativity you can direct at whatever you’re are doing from playing to working to praying.

Setting an alarm frees you to be more fully in the moment if you have a schedule to keep.

Alarms aren’t for every task. When you do use an alarm, it can either be setting aside a block of time (like the executive’s 90 minutes mentioned above) or an alarm to make sure you stop in time for the next thing you have to do.

If you start setting alarms, I bet you will find yourself much more fully in the moment. You will be immersed in the task at hand, present for the energy, creativity and joy that come with undistracted engagement.

Instead of watching the clock, set an alarm and forget about the time altogether. Try it and see.