You know how everybody says you’re supposed to take about a short break from the computer every hour if you want to keep your sanity? Chances are you’ve heard of this but don’t really practice it. Time moves differently while you are working on a computer, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of how long you’ve been in front of the screen.
Today we are reviewing an app called BreakTime that reminds you of when you are supposed to take breaks from the computer. But how well does it work at keeping you away from the computer once you have those scheduled breaks? Let’s see.
How Does It Work?
BreakTime is a very lightweight and simple app that sits in your menu bar, quietly counting away the minutes until you need to take a break from your computer. You have a few settings that you can tweak to decide how often you want to take your breaks and how long you want them to last. After you tweak them, the clock will start counting away the minutes until your next scheduled break. You can check the time left until your next break by clicking on the menu bar icon, which will also show you an on/off button and a progress bar.
A few seconds before your break starts, the clock will automatically show a countdown so that you are aware that your computer is going to be disabled for a little while. Once the countdown is over, your screen will fade out a little and in the center you’ll be shown a “break window” with a small progress bar, some snooze buttons with one, five and ten minute settings and a “Done” button which will disable the break. After your set time is done, the progress bar will turn from blue to green, but the clock will keep going.
Now, there are two ways to go around using this app. If you use the “Enforce” mode, you won’t be able to quit a break in the middle, in fact, you can do nothing but wait until the break is over. If you do not activate this feature, then you can stop the break anytime you’d like. There’s also a very cool feature where the app will monitor your activity, and if it doesn’t detect any, then it will reschedule your breaks as it thinks you’ve already taken them (you can deactivate this feature if you’d like).
Do You Need It?
If you spend a lot of time on the computer because of your job (I’m pretty sure I just described all of you), and are concerned about your mental/physical health during your work hours, then you could give this app a try and see if you enjoy the little breaks it “enforces” you to take. I like to think of it as a little game where you have to work as much as you can before the clock runs out and if you run out of time, it allows you to do other interesting stuff while you are on a break.
You should be careful with how you use your break times. If you are going to use them to check your phone or make some advances on your newest iPhone game, then it really isn’t doing much work at keeping you away from the screen, but distracting you from your work. Sure, finding some time to check on your messages or playing a little game might be useful at dealing with stress, but ideally you’d want to use this time to take a break from electricity altogether and go find a glass of water, someone to talk to, and you know, stretch your legs.
You should also be careful if this app is making you less productive at work. People work differently, and I know a lot of people (me included) that find it very hard to concentrate on something after they have been interrupted at it. When I used this app, once the break started I tended to end my “productivity time” and once the break was over I would use the time to check my Twitter feed and my email before going back to work.
I’m always a fan of these type of strange apps that want to help you do something like focus more on what you are doing or keep you away from working or procrastinating too much. The thing is, I always use them for just a little while and then I get bored with them and they end up getting lost in my Applications folder.
For example, FocusBar seemed like a good idea at first, but I haven’t really used it since a few days after I got it. Granted, these two are different type of apps, but they fall into the same kind of weird productivity app category.
I could see myself using this app for a few days and being excited about it, but once the novelty was over I’d probably just go back to not using it. It’s a pleasure to use, the design is nice, the idea behind it is great and the details included in it are all well-thought, which makes it not be as annoying as it could; but I just think with time this app would become a burden and it’d be something else to distract me from doing real work. It’s a good idea, but it’s probably not for me, and especially not for the type of work that I do, which needs a lot of concentration for long periods of time. What about you? What do you think of these type of apps? Would you use this app, or do you use anything similar?