Your brain needs a break — these apps are here to help
The human brain wasn’t built to go at full steam for hours on end. Studies have shown that performance suffers when you spend prolonged periods focusing on the same task. Brief mental breaks can help you stay focused, as well as give your mind the freedom to wander (which is necessary for creative and complex problem-solving).
Entrepreneurs, knowledge-workers and freelancers are responsible for their own break schedules. This means it’s up to us to figure out when it’s time to step away from the computer. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps to help us create better, healthier and more focused work habits. Here’s a sampling:
Apps for the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management strategy. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, this method of working separates time into work phases and break phases. You work for x minutes, break for y minutes, and repeat.
The frequent breaks help keep your mind fresh, while the focused work blocks create set time limits that encourage you to complete tasks faster. For example, if you have a dedicated work block that’s 25 minutes, you are more likely to dive in and get a task done in those 25 minutes (rather than spread it out the over an hour).
The concept is simple, yet very effective. You don’t need a fancy app to help… a simple timer app will do. The name “Pomodoro” comes from kitchen timers, which were often the shape of tomatoes. You can find many free timer apps to help you create your pomodoro’s; note that for trademark reasons, most apps won’t actually bear the name Pomodoro. Try out a few and find an interface that appeals to you.
- Focus Keeper Free (iOS, Free)
- Focus Keeper Work and Study (iOS, $1.99)
- Flat Tomato (iOS, Free)
- ClearFocus (Android, Free)
- Focus booster (online/desktop, Free trial & monthly subscriptions starting at 2.99/month)
- PomoDoneApp (Mac, Windows, Linux, Web, integrates with popular tools like Jira, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and Slack)
Apps to Get You Moving
You’ve probably read that too much sitting is bad for your health. Research on the matter is mixed, but some studies have linked sitting for long periods to a range of health concerns. Either way, getting the blood circulating is critical for a healthy body as well as a clear mind.
There are many apps and browser extensions that walk you through some basic exercises and stretching. For example:
- StretchClock Break Reminder (Firefox add-on, Free) Reminds you to take a break from the computer and guides you through some basic stretching and yoga exercises.
- Wherever Workout (Android) Offers basic exercises and complete workout routines to add throughout the day. The app covers a variety of scenarios…whether you are in a hotel room, the office, or a cramped space like sitting on an airplane.
- Stand Up! (iOS, Free) This app is pretty much a work-break timer, but does encourage you to stand up and move during the break time.
If you’re not a fan of any apps or their routines, just opt for a change of scenery and take a walk outside. The fresh air will clear your head and help you work through any complex challenges.
Apps to Help You Relax
Meditation has had a very positive impact on my life; dedicating a few minutes to meditation in the morning and throughout the day gives me greater clarity and positivity as well as a calmer mindset. If you’re just starting out with meditation and find it difficult to shut out external and internal distractions, try one of these apps or websites:
- Calm (website, iOS, Android, Free with in-app purchases to unlock some features) A simple mindfulness meditation app that walks you through a meditation break (you set the duration) with nature sounds and narration.
- Meditation Made Simple (iOS, Free) Free meditation app from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons
- Ananda Premium (iOS, $2.99) Helps with both meditation and sleep. You choose the session length and theme (conscious thinking, meditation, etc.).
- Breathe2Relax (iOS, Android) Teaches a stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing). This kind of breathing has been used for centuries to activate the body’s relaxation response.
No matter what kind of app you choose to use, it’s important to appreciate that frequent, purposeful breaks can boost productivity and focus while working. Find the time to chat with a co-worker, tune out with some music, go for a walk or do some deep breathing exercises. These are all important tools for recharging your brain.
Originally posted on http://mashable.com/2016/11/07/activty-and-break-apps-productivity