Stressbuster Challenge: Try a Computer Timer App

Photo credit: Scott Marquart from One Week Without 

Photo credit: Scott Marquart from One Week Without 

The last post was about finding your ideal ratio for work time vs. break time. For the computer workers, the next hurdle can be finding a fun and not-too-intrusive time-keeper so that you will actually take that break. You can definitely use your iPhone to set alarms, but in my experience, if I don’t find a pleasant sounding alarm, I risk just hastily turning it off and getting back to work.

There are cool timer break apps available for free on the internet. This week’s Stressbuster Challenge is to give them a try and see which one works for you.

Protect Your Vision is an online application aimed at protecting your eyes against Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). On the main page, you can select the 20-20-20 setting so that a little robot will pop up on your screen every 20 minutes and block you from working on your computer for 20 seconds, during which you will be prompted to look at something 20 feet away. PYV is a browser-based application that does not require installation, since most work computers do not allow this. It is easily customizable as well.

EyeLeo is another downloadable application, but only available to Windows and XP users. You can customize your break and work times, and during the breaks, a little computer-animated leopard will pop up to remind you to do eye exercises. It also blocks your screen during break times, preventing you from continuing computer use.


For less intrusive options, check out the ones below.

Awareness is an installable application that sets a timer in your menu bar, tracking how much time you have been active on your computer. Once you reach an hour without taking a break, the sound of a bowl will play, reminding you to step away from the computer. Once the app senses inactivity for 5 minutes, the timer will reset. If you keep skipping breaks, the next time the timer goes off, it will ring twice. This app does not force you to stop using the computer and provides a gentle awareness of non-stop time spent on the computer. Awareness is available for Mac and Windows.

Lastly, DeskActive is not free, but there is a 14-day trial. It is a downloadable or browser-based application that not only reminds you to take breaks, but an avatar will also show you a stretch or exercise to do during a break. You can customize and select which exercises are suitable for you, such as “seated only exercises.” A physician and a physical therapist have also reviewed and approved all of the info and exercises.

Which application did you try? How did you like it?