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Too much computer time is making me a slug. That’s no surprise. In an effort to be less slug-like, I decided I needed something to force me to get up and walk away from the computer for a little while. Enter Workrave.

Workrave is a little application that sits on your desktop and pops various screens on your computer at set intervals to remind you to take a break. There are three timer levels to Workrave: the micro-break, the rest break, and the daily limit. The micro-break is typically set for more frequent intervals than the rest break, but doesn’t last as long. The default setting is for a 30-second micro-break. The rest break is supposed to be longer, with the default setting at 10 minutes, and the screen that pops up shows various eye and stretching exercises to get you moving. The daily limit is supposed to help you set the maximum amount of time you want to be on the computer in a day.

The purpose of Workrave, according to its About Workrave screen, is to “[assist] in the prevention and recovery of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).”

All of the timer settings can be adjusted according to your needs. I’ve been fiddling with the settings for a week now, trying to get them to work with my rhythms. So far, I’ve determined that I need more frequent micro-breaks, but that they can be shorter than 30 seconds. I have them set for 20 seconds every 10 minutes. My rest breaks are scheduled for 5 minutes every hour. My daily limit is set at 6 hours, even though the default is 4 hours. I could set it for less time, but Daughter uses my computer, sometimes for a couple of hours in a day, and that eats into the time I have set.

The mere fact that I’ve put the program (oops, micro-break time!) (okay, I’m back) on my computer makes me more conscious of how much I tend to stare at the screen, which makes me take more frequent breaks on my own.

The only trouble is that when I’m on fire with writing and a rest break appears, I feel stymied, but Workrave has a solution for that. There are two buttons that appear with the rest break screen. One allows you to skip the break; the other allows you to postpone it for a bit.

Oh, and the Workrave icon is an adorable sheep that sits in your tool bar. Nothing like an adorable sheep to get you to use a program.