time for a break


A sedentary life can shorten your lifespan. Our ancestors moved a lot more than we did. They didn't need special exercises to remain active. Very few people had jobs that required them to sit at a desk for 8 hours or more at a time.

Years ago, most people who worked in offices usually found some reason or another to get up from their desks from time to time. One might need some coffee, or to make a copy. Or maybe one needed to deliver a memo in the days before email and instant messaging. Do they people in Mad Men ever sit and just work? Many people now work from home and can do most tasks with barely stretching an arm. Those at home don't have the water cooler to walk to and chat for a few minutes. Instead of small glasses that need to be refilled every hour or two, we get insulated cups which hold 20, 32 or more ounces. Except for bathroom breaks, we can sit in our $800 designer chairs for hours. Chairs that are too comfortable that we never need to move.

The way we watch television is also a factor. We used to watch live broadcasting and use the commercial breaks to get up go to the bathroom, or get a snack. Now we can sit and watch endless episodes without commercial breaks. Bathroom break? We only need to pause. But what happens if you have everything you need? You sit and watch, and sit and watch. We can continue watching and sitting for a long time. Too long. We used to have one phone attached to wall. Now we have then in our pockets.

Research suggests that we get up from out desks every twenty minutes. We only need to to stand up, stretch our muscles and we are good to go for another twenty minutes. 

What happens when you are in *the zone?* You aren't watching the clock and time has no meaning. You can set and alarm in our smart phone, or a stop watch if you are old school. Or you can get an app made just for this purpose. 

I purchased BreakTime for my desktop computer. It is easy to use. The default is set at 20 minutes with a two minute break. The sliders made it easy to change. The menu bar icon is a clock face that fills as the allotted time goes by. When there is less than 10 seconds left, a notification box shows up near the menu bar. When the allotted time is up, your screen darkens a bit and a dialogue box appears. You can choose to "snooze" and ask for a minute or two or click OK and begin your break. You cannot do anything on your computer until you make a choice to move or stay.

A timer begins while you are on break with a countdown to when you should return to work. A low beep sounds if you fail to return to work. I can imagine that employers might like this feature. 

You get back to work and begin the cycle over again.

BreakTime is available in the Mac App Store for $4.99 but there is a free trial available at the developer's site. BreakTime is available for iOS. I have it installed though I haven't tried it yet.

I like that this reminds me to move. And I like knowing I have just two minutes to stretch, take a break or do a quick task. Being at home most of the day, I have loads of little tasks that can be done in less than two minutes. Putting away a book may seem trivial but I am moving, and working to clear the clutter.