Four Simple Timers That Remind You to Take Breaks from Your Computer

Whether you're working on your computer or just enjoying a long gaming session, it's important to take breaks regularly. Getting up for walking, having coffee or stretching helps reduce eye strain, prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI) and is just right for you. And a study by the University of Illionoise at Urbana-Champaign shows that breaks could even improve productivity by increasing attention.

So it's a good idea to take regular breaks, but when you're at the heart of something, it can be easy to forget. Fortunately, there are timers there to call you back. Some offer notifications, others just make a noise. Here are the four best break times we found.

Big Stretch Reminder (Windows): a customizable tool with notifications or pop-up windows

Big Stretch Reminder is a simple but almost perfect tool. It's light, free and very customizable. By default, it offers you a simple notification every twenty minutes.

The idea is to get up and stretch whenever you see the notification. You can adjust the frequency of these pauses in the settings.

You can also change the discreet notification in a micro-pause window, which will appear above what you are doing and count down for you.

It's great if you're the type of person who tends to ignore simple notifications. By default, this app displays RSI prevention tips in its notifications and windows, but you can turn it off with motivational quotes or a custom message if you want.

WorkRave (Windows, Linux): Three Different Types of Breaks

WorkRave an open source tool, is a bit more complicated. It offers three types of breaks: micro-breaks, breaks and daily limit.

You will see a pop-up window whenever any of these is triggered, reminding you or possibly forcing you to take a break.

Micro-breaks are just that: a little reminder to look away from the screen and stretch a little. The breaks are longer: ten minutes by default. You can customize all this behavior in the settings.

Installation on Windows is easy, and Linux users should check their package manager. On Ubuntu, the installation is simple: sudo apt install workrave will do the trick, but it varies of course depending on the distribution you use.

Stretchly (Windows, macOS, Linux and FreeBSD): Cross-Platform Popup Windows

Stretchly is unique in this list in that it works on all conceivable desktop platforms, thanks to Electron. Every ten minutes, he encourages you to take a break of 20 seconds.

Every 30 minutes, he tells you to get away from your computer for a five-minute break.

You can customize the invertvals between and the duration of breaks in the settings, where you can also change the colors and sounds.

It's simple to use.

Consciousness (Windows, macOS): the choice of the minimalist

Awareness is different from all these tools because it completely waives notifications. Instead, this application emits a sound at set intervals, one hour by default. This is perfect if you are the kind of person who knows that breaks are important but can not handle interruptions.

Awareness indicates how long you have been on the computer in the macOS menu bar and in the status bar under Windows.

Every hour you will hear the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl. Take a five-minute break from your computer and the timer will reset; do not, and the timer will continue to show how long you have been working without interruption. This encourages you to take a break without being intrusive.

There are not many settings: you can change the interval between and the duration of the breaks, and change the volume.

This is the minimalist's favorite tool for work: effective without being intrusive.

An Alternative: The Pomodoro Method

Some break enthusiasts will note that I have completely neglected The Pomodoro Technique a productivity philosophy that encourages 25-minute work periods followed by five-minute breaks. There are all kinds of timers for this method, and I do not want to diminish their effectiveness by not including them in this guide. Timers like Be Focused for Mac or Flowtime for Chrome work well for that, if you're curious. I just wanted to focus on the timers that specifically encourage regular breaks, outside of any specific productivity framework.

Photo credit: Kyle Meck

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