The average normal human attention span is 10-12 minutes. That’s basically how long a person can stay really focused to the task at hand. Surely, this figure varies from person to person but it is the general opinion that a person’s productivity will decrease after this time frame.
Have you ever taken a minute to just close your eyes and take a deep breath after an hour of work? Ever stopped to just stretch your legs and walk around? That’s your mind telling you that you have to rest. Ideally, we should take short breaks every 15 minutes and a long one after every hour. But most of the time, it doesn’t happen. We’re usually too drowned with work to bother about resting – that’s how certain diseases occur, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for example. It can be easily prevented by taking frequent short breaks and stretching.
Besides taking breaks to reduce work-related physical strain, it can also increase your mental acuity if you job demands for creativeness. Stopping for a moment to recollect your thoughts and setting your mind at ease will actually let the ideas flow in much easier.
Enter Dejal Time Out. This application runs a counter in the background. After a preset amount of time, it will bring itself to focus and dims the screen. Break Time! Initially, I got pretty annoyed with it because it kept popping up every 10 minutes telling me to take a 15-second break. But you know what? Once I gave in and took a break every time it told me to, I sort of worked with a more relaxed mindset. For me, the breaks prevented my stress from building up. In the long run, I was more productive because my train of thought flowed better.
Dejal Time Out works like this: there are 10-minute Normal Breaks which occurs once after 50 minutes; and Micro Breaks which lasts for 15 seconds every 10 minutes. You are able to configure all of these numbers to mold a break schedule to fit you and your capabilities.
When it’s time to rest, Time Out will slowly dim your screen and its meditation logo will be brought to the foreground, along with a timer to show you how long your break will last. If you’re in the middle of something important, you can delay that break by postponing it by 5 or 10 minutes. Again, these times are totally configurable.
Time Out also can also be set to automatically play your iTunes when a break is taking place. Just make sure that the playlist is already set to something soothing because it only sends a Play command to iTunes. It will then pause iTunes when work time resumes.
Try Time Out to see how taking frequent breaks actually improve your attention span and productivity. Not to mention, it will also save you a lot in doctor’s bills.
If you’re running Windows, Saikat wrote about Workrave which is a similar type of application.
How do you cope with long hours of work? Are there any other techniques you use besides taking breaks?