Originally Posted by flashlight
I've experimented using a timer set to a variety of periods to knock me back into awareness. It's been somewhat effective. When I forget to turn it on though, the whole day can disappear without a hint of presence sneaking into my awareness.
What about you? Have you found any tips or techniques to keep you in awareness while working at your computer?
I can definitely relate to your plight. Many a time I have found myself glaring into my computer monitor, trapped in a hypnotic state where hours seem to pass as fast as minutes and my awareness is nowhere to be found.
Not too long ago I invested a fair amount of time investigating computerised timer and alarm clock software to combat this dilemma, however much to my chagrin, my investment didn’t yield the results I was expecting. The only thing I learned was that computerised timers and alarm clocks are inherently annoying and probably detriment to my goal since I often found myself lowered to the level of consciousness known as “anger”
as I was forced to contend with obstructive display prompts and pop-up reminders that insisted on minimising my applications and covering my screen space.
The next thing I tried was a digital kitchen timer that, while inexpensive, had all of the features that you’d expect (a start and stop button, the ability to increment both the minutes and the seconds, and the very useful function of being able to have the timer automatically revert to the previous time that you set it to rather then just having it reset back to zero). I experienced reasonable success this time around, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Like you, I found that I often forgot to set the timer after it had gone off, and once I did that it was all over.
Then one day I stumbled upon a rather unorthodox, yet effective technique. For some reason I seem to drink a lot more then the average person, and I’m frequently getting interrupted by the need to make use of the amenities, lest I be left with a rather embarrassing mess. While I made my way back to my computer though, instead of returning directly to my station, I often found myself getting distracted. These distractions serve as useful, somewhat unintentional breaks away from the computer and help to keep my awareness at a reasonably high level or at the very least, stop me from turning “just a few minutes
at the computer” into five hour marathon of unconscious computer usage.
For the longest time I glazed over the subtle connection between drinking lots of fluid and frequent, awareness maintaining urination breaks, but it eventually dawned upon me and now I have been able to successfully maintain a high level of awareness while using the computer, while keeping my thirst at bay and preventing dehydration.
Seriously though, I recommend you give my technique a try. It may sound more humorous then effective, but not much is more compelling then the need to urinate, and what better way to knock back those eight glasses of water a day, all the while ensuring that you are highly conscious and aware! There are one important thing to take note of, however – you must be sure to drink enough liquid (ie. water, fruit juice, and other healthy, non alcoholic, readily accessible beverages) so that you literally need
to get up and relieve yourself. If you can “hold it in”
you likely will, and by doing that you defeat the purpose of this whole exercise (probably not as much as one of these
I usually aim to drink enough so I have to get up about every hour or so. Initially you may have some trouble determining how much you need to drink in order to ensure that you get up within the time period you alot, but with enough experimentation you’ll eventually figure it out.
Also, if you find that these frequent trips to the lavatory aren’t enough to jolt you into awareness, I suggest making some sort of sign with the words “Stay Conscious and Aware!” on it and plastering it somewhere where you can see it after you’ve relieved yourself – perhaps on your toilet wall, the bathroom door, or some other area that you are likely to see it on your way to or from the nearest facilities. And if you have any guests in your house that ask about your poster you can use it as a discussion piece for your consciousness transformation and an excuse to introduce them to Steve’s website. No need to tell them about the “technique”
you use the sign with.
Now if you’d like to take my technique to the next level, I recommend you read one of Steve’s articles entitled A Simple Productivity Tip
. While you may want to mix up your choice of beverage with something like a tall, chilled glass of fruit juice or a steamy cup of tea, if you’re looking to be super-productive, I think water is probably the (cheapest) weapon of choice (you can also buy some decent flavoured water, so even if you don’t like the taste of water you can still use my technique without having to go to the refrigerator every few minutes for a beverage that has to be chilled). To quote the article:
Originally Posted by Steve Pavlina – A Simple Productivity Tip
If you drink a lot of water during your workday like I do, you probably find yourself getting up from your desk several times during the day to get more water. I hate it when I’m working in a productive flow, getting thirstier and thirstier as I periodically glance at my empty cup to see if it’s magically refilled itself yet.
While it’s fine to take an intentional break, thirst can nag for an otherwise unneeded break. And if you work in a busy office, a short trip to the water cooler can become a long distraction if you get stuck in idle socializing, especially if it breaks your previous flow state.
You can put a small refrigerator or your own water cooler in your office or cubicle if you have room. Or you can get a really large cup or drink from a 2L bottle. But a simple solution I use is to buy a case of small water bottles and stock a file drawer with them. I can fit 24 half-liter bottles in the file drawer of my desk, which is within arms reach. Whenever I finish a bottle, I return it to the drawer and grab a new one. I usually pour the water from the bottles into a cup or glass, so the bottles stay clean and don’t accumulate mouth mud. When all 24 are empty, I pull out the whole drawer and carry it to the water cooler to refill them all. I drink about 2L of water per day (4 bottles), so the case lasts me a week.
On the other hand, if for some reason you are against drinking water and various other beverages and are looking for a more computerised reminder tool, out of all the timer and alarm clock software I tested, I found Stretch Break
to be among the best. Paratec, the creators of Stretch Break, give you the opportunity to download the full-featured 10 day evaluation version of their software (after which you have to pay $44.95 USD if you wish to continue to use the software), but if you’re looking for a free alternative, you can always download the Kids version of Stretch Break
(free of charge). For more information about what the features are available with Stretch Break, check out the screen shots page on the Paratec website