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Three ways to give yourself a timeout

Linnet Hunter /

Look around you. Do you see people peering at screens? You may be on a train, reading this from a screen yourself, or you may be in a vast labyrinth of desks and cubicles full of people looking at screens.

 

Wherever you are, whatever you do, chances are it involves a lot of screen time, and the experts are all saying: Stop it or you’ll go blind!

 

No, actually they are not quite saying that but there is general agreement that taking a break actually contributes to continued productivity.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the world will continue to function if we are away from the desk, the computer and more vitally the internet for a few hours (or less), but it generally does. Try it and see.

 

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Here are my three ways to have a break, apart from having a Kit Kat:

 

1. Stop briefly

 

There’s an app for that. Of course. Probably there are hundreds.

 

The one I use is the free Time Out. It comes with a cute green yoga figure that sits in the middle of my screen and freezes my activity with a green film every 50 minutes.

 

He (she?) reminds me to walk around, stretch, talk to somebody or just look at grass to rest the eyes. It’s amazing how quickly those 50 minutes come around!

 

Micro breaks of 15 seconds are programmed every 10 minutes and also make quite a difference – no more cricked neck!

 

While it can be very annoying, there are preference settings and I find it a timely reminder of how long I have been scrunching my head forward without noticing.

 

2. Walk away

 

Look, Betty can walk. John can walk. I can walk too. Except I seem to have forgotten how.

 

So, walking somewhere, even if it is to the end of the hall to talk to someone instead of using an email, can be an excellent break.

 

Even better is up and down the stairs, something I try to avoid in the Hub building since there are 91 of them.

 

Or round the block, or if you have the weather and the opportunity, out into the world. What is the point of working for yourself if you can’t negotiate a little sun time?

 

3. Switch off

 

More and more people are taking a Digital Detox. In extreme cases they have to pay someone to take their phone away, but you don’t have to have a feast or famine scenario.

 

There is the middle way (must be the green yogi speaking): Maybe just schedule a time in the week to be away from email, phones, Skype, Facebook and all things digital and demanding.

 

Studies of groups who have tried to do this for one day have found that the stress level was impossible.

 

They spent so much time worrying about what they might be missing that they had to get back to their phones. So find what’s comfortable for you and do one hour more than that.

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