You can make your computer or mobile device remind you to practice good work ergonomics and break habits all for free with these five apps.
Working too long without taking a break can have a toll on your mental, and physical, health. We're all guilty of sitting in one position for too long, not getting up to stretch, and ending up sore, strained, and fatigued because of it.
When this article was initially published in 2015 it listed five desktop apps for Windows, Linux, and macOS that reminded users to take breaks, stretch, and stay healthy. With major tech companies like Apple and Google now all in on using their devices to help create healthier lifestyles it's time to revisit apps that help us improve our computer use habits.
1. Time Out
Time Out is a macOS exclusive, and it's one of the more popular apps for break management out there.
Time Out allows you to customize how often breaks happen, how long they are, and more. It comes with two kinds of breaks by default: A 10-minute one that will pop up once an hour, and a 15-second one that alerts you every 15 minutes and reminds you not to tense up or sit in a poor position.
Time Out provides a lot of usage information too—it shows how long you spend in each app, when you took breaks, and shows when scheduled breaks are due. It's a highly customizable platform perfect for those looking to be better about using their Mac.
2. Pomodoro apps
There are numerous apps that use the Pomodoro technique, which breaks work sessions into 25 minutes of intense focus broken by five-minute breaks and one 10-minute break every hour.
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You can feel free to check out all the different Pomodoro apps to find one you like, but TomatoTimer may be the easiest to use: It's a web app that doesn't require any installation and will work across platforms.
TomatoTimer allows customization of audio alerts, length of work/break times, and other essential settings. If you want simple you can't get much more basic (yet effective) than this.
3. Break Timer
This timer functions as a Chrome addon and is available in the Chrome Web Store. It works both in Chrome browsers on standard operating systems and in Chrome OS as well.
Like other timer apps, Break Timer allows you to customize the length of your work and break periods. One of the more interesting options in Break Timer is the ability to set a beginning and end of the workday so that alerts will only appear when you're on the clock.
If you don't want an intrusive break reminder that pops up on the screen, surprises you, or becomes an annoyance, you need Awareness. Available for macOS and Windows, Awareness doesn't do anything besides ping you with the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl whenever a specified period of time has elapsed.
The subtle nature of Awareness makes it great for those who want a minimal experience to remind them to stretch, relax their eyes, or get up and walk for a few minutes.
5. Eye Care 20 20 20
Widespread eye strain is a problem unique to the modern world, and it's obvious what the cause is: All the screens we're constantly staring at.
Eye Care 20 20 20 is an app for iOS and Android that uses the 20-20-20 rule recommended for preventing eye strain: Every 20 minutes take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. It's a simple solution to help relax your eyes, and it doesn't take more than using this app to get in the habit.
When you sit down to work simply open Eye Care 20 20 20 and click Start and the app will remind you every 20 minutes to relax your eyes. The great thing about using the 20-20-20 method is that you don't even really have to stop working—I take short breaks to stare across the room all the time and I can still write while I'm doing it.
Do you have a break timer app that you've found beneficial? Share it with your fellow TechRepublic readers in the comments below.
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