Awareness is an App I’ve been using for the past week to remind me to take a break from writing once in a while. It’s simple and un-intrusive (except when it’s not, of course) and it’s had an unexpected side-effect: the reduction of achy wrists and other painful RSI symptoms.
Awareness, a free app for Mac and Windows, sits in the menubar and waits. You can set two parameters: time spent working, and length of break. And that’s it. Mine’s set to 30 minutes and two minutes.
As you work, a counter counts up to tell you how long it’s been since your last break, and after half an hour (in my case) it sounds an alarm, which uses the peaceful sound of a Tibetan singing bowl.
Then the app uses some voodoo to check you’re actually taking a break. I think it just checks to see if any of your apps are actually doing anything. After 2 minutes (or more if you like) the timer resets to zero. If you don’t take a break, it keeps on counting and sounds another alarm in another half hour.
And that’s it. Sometimes the app doesn’t believe I’ve taken a break, but I think it’s getting hung up on some Mac process that the app thinks is actually me. It doesn’t matter, as the only difference is an extra 30 minutes in the timer.
What I like about Awareness is that it doesn’t get in the way, or stop your Mac working or any other annoying crap like that. If I’m two clicks away from publishing a post when the chime rings and then the app locks up my Mac, then I’m deleting that app as soon as I get control back. If Awareness bongs when I’m busy, I just finish what I’m doing and take a break.
I take those two minutes to do a few stretches, mostly related to back, shoulders, chest and arms. Nothing crazy, just simple stretches that open up the body parts that tense up the most while sitting and typing.
I used to do these stretches once a day. Or I was supposed to – I never did. Now, every time I hear that Tibetan bong (which is a great name for a weed-smoking device BTW), I’m up at my office window, easing the tension from my tendons and so on.
The difference is amazing. I no longer sleep with a dead arm, or feel like my wrists are burning. Oh. There goes the bong. Apparently I haven’t taken a break for 90 minutes and it’s going crazy.