You need to step away from your computer. Probably now.

If you are a developer, designer, writer, editor, or any sort of person who gets so absorbed in your work that you can start in the morning and then be shocked by the time on your watch when you reluctantly force yourself to stop in the evening — then you probably need someone to remind you to take breaks from your engrossing and exciting creative work (which is a great problem to have, to be honest).

You need this:

Yes, this.
(photo by Andris)

…yet keep forgetting about it. So I'll share a small gem of a tool I am using for this (on Windows) — WorkRave.

It is a small tool that sits in your tray, with a possibility to show a tiny countdown panel, which will remind you to take your prescribed break at preset intervals of time. You can use this time to relax your eyes, stretch your legs, take a walk to get another cup of tea or (even better!) pure water, breathe some fresh air* and smell the roses. Unless you're allergic to those.

* — smokers, as I understand, don't need an external reminder, yet I would hardly call such breaks healthy.

You can configure micro-breaks (to close your eyes for a second, I suppose), rest breaks, and a daily limit. I only use rest breaks, here's the configuration (5 minutes every 45 minutes):

I wouldn't call WorkRave unobtrusive, yet that is the idea, isn't it? When the time comes for your configured rest break — you will get a floating pop up which will allow you to lock the PC, skip the break (sometimes you have to), or postpone the break:

The tool also tracks periods of inactivity (i.e. lack of keyboard / mouse input — it cannot see your deeply thoughtful face when you do nothing), and doesn't ask you to take a break after you just got back from a long meeting away from the desk.

I recommend this to colleagues too — doing the same thing for too long causes issues for productivity, and sometimes stepping away for a couple of minutes may help your brain (i.e. — you) solve a problem that you could not crack open for hours.

You can download it here. It even shows a Linus version, yet I didn't try it.

My main issue, and it has nothing to do with the software, is that I “postpone” way too often — looks like I have a cool job after all! :) Otherwise, it helps me take much needed breaks and thus keep my health, my eyesight and my sanity (however relative) in check.


  1. Actually, it would be interesting to hear recommendations (not ads! :D) of good eye exercises. Because, y'know, age and all that…


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