I have found a wonderful little program to save me from myself.
As many of us know, computer work (or even play) has a tendency to suck us in for hours at a time, during which we sit on our butts and stare fixedly at a point of near focus. That’s not exactly a recipe for health, but it’s hard to break away.
Enter Time Out, a small (1.4 MB) program which gently but firmly reminds you that it’s time to take a break. It offers Micro Time Outs and Normal Time Outs, which are defaulted to a 10-second break every 10 minutes (Micros), and a 10-minute break every hour (Normals). You can modify these to your heart’s content, including the lengths of the breaks, the time between them, the time of the fade-in and fade-out…
Ah, I didn’t mention the fades. Time Out knows that our first tendency when confronted with a reminder to take a break will be to work straight through it. Cleverly, it prevents us from doing that by slowly fading out the work screen, covering it instead with a gauzy veil of color. You have time to save your work, but you can’t continue once the fade-in is complete.
If you’re really ripping along, you have the option of postponing the break or skipping it altogether. But I have found that most of the time, I’m grateful for the reminder. The 10-second Micro Time Outs don’t really break my flow, they just force me to look up and away from my computer screen, focusing on a distant point to relieve my eyes. (Focusing on my wife has also been beneficial, I’ve noticed.) And the Normal Time Outs are perfect for quick exercise/stretch breaks, but that’s just me. Other users might find it better for bathroom breaks, petting the cat, or fixing a snack — anything to get you up and out of the chair.
You can even program the Normal Time Out with sounds (predefined) or music (from your own files) at the beginning and end. Want to force yourself away from the computer? Tell Time Out to play the worst song in your collection.
My only quibble with the program is that there’s no way to ask it not to put an icon in your dock. I keep a clean dock and hate extraneous icons in there, so I used a separate program to remove the thing (and Launchbar to call up the preferences if I want to make changes). But that’s a small issue, especially given the cost of the program…
…which is free.
You can download Time Out from Dejal.com, or from the App Store. Impressively, it works all the way back to OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and if your system is even older than that, there’s a legacy program for OS X 10.3.