Help me deskercise!
February 16, 2012 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I sit at my desk all day and forget to move, focus elsewhere, stand up, drink water, stretch. You get the idea. I want a regular reminder to take a moment to do these things. I've searched apps and freeware and have come up empty. Help?

The closest thing I found that I thought would work was an app called Stretch Relief, but it doesn't appear to actually exist.

I want a simple something that pops up a regular, frequent reminder to do something, possibly with a little guidance.
Do 20 squats.
Do 10 pushups.
Drink a pint of water.
Do 5 sun salutations.
Stretch your quads.
Sit at the wall for 3 minutes and close your eyes.

Or desk stretches. Or whatever. Just something useful.

About me: I have my own office, enough floor space for a yoga mat, a fair amount of privacy. Every day is casual day, so I'm not usually dressed in uncomfortable clothing. FWIW, I cannot bike or walk to work. I don't like sitting on a yoga ball.

Another one I found, Big Stretch Reminder Program is just plain stupid. But since I downloaded it anyway, it now gives me a small pop-up every 30 minutes that says "MOVE YOUR ASS!" At least that's something.
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You could schedule your breaks using your Outlook or Google calendar....
posted by elizeh at 7:24 PM on February 16, 2012

I don't understand. Why can't you calendar an alert in Outlook or iCal or whatever you use to stay on task during the day for each of those things?

So, for instance, you write an alert that says "refill your glass" and set it to go off at 8:30 10:00, Noon, 2:30, and 4:30 every weekday and commit to finishing whatever's in your existing glass and refilling it whenever the alert goes off. Schedule this the way you would a recurring meeting or something.

Maybe I'm missing something about your question. Can you elaborate?
posted by gauche at 7:27 PM on February 16, 2012

I've found that I drink more from a bottle. Of my current pair, the smaller is around 30 ounces. For some reason it's just not the same when you finish that as finishing 30 ounces of water from smaller cups.
posted by theichibun at 7:56 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the Pomodoro Technique could help?
posted by hms71 at 8:03 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd advise against using your calendar program for many frequent reminders. It clutters the interface and makes it difficult to scan your calendar to find real meetings and other events.

Speaking as an ADHD super-fidgeter who has to be corralled frequently to come back to the desk, try an app like Procrastination Killer or Instant Boss or some other countdown timer. These were designed to bring you back to work, but it should be easy to re-conceptualize them for getting you off your butt. These may not have room for the details of the actions you want to take when the timer goes, so you can supplement any of these with a printed calendar of some sort. Timer goes off at 10 AM? Look at your analog calendar: time for squats!

If you have Thunderbird, ReminderFox looks interesting.

(I haven't tried any of these apps: other people may have good suggestions.)
posted by maudlin at 8:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

A friend has a bottle that he's marked with 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock etc etc, and it helps him keep track of how much water he's drinking
posted by mooza at 8:11 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This water bottle is AWESOME. Besides being a an example of simplistic but extremely well thought-out and executed design, it has a sly little ring near the spout with numbers on it that you can adjust as you refill to unobtrusively keep track of your water intake
posted by sarahnicolesays at 8:36 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

And this website Core Performance

Has a lot of tips geared towards health in a corporate environment- and how to effectively do small things for your body during a mostly sedentary workday.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 8:41 PM on February 16, 2012

Just drink 600mL water. You will not forget to get up. And then, every time you get up, drink another 600mL water. Empirically, this enforces a roughly hourly break schedule.

(For appropriate values of 600mL, of course.)
posted by d. z. wang at 8:45 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Workrave.
posted by hooray at 8:56 PM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You can download the dekstop versions of Stretch Break here, although if by "doesn't exist" you mean "not compatible with Windows 7," you're right.
posted by one_bean at 9:02 PM on February 16, 2012

Seconding Workrave. It's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by southern_sky at 9:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding Workrave. Seriously, that's what you want.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:08 PM on February 16, 2012

Standing desk + an eclectic playlist that includes music that makes your butt want to move.
posted by egypturnash at 11:05 PM on February 16, 2012

Thirding Workrave. It will totally do all of this for you. You can set it to whatever intervals you want, and ask it to be as strict or lenient as you want. Works great.
posted by bardophile at 1:45 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: @ErgoBot tweets periodically with reminders to stretch, drink water, etc.
posted by clearlydemon at 5:34 AM on February 17, 2012

YES WORKRAVE WORKRAVE WORKRAVE. Coincidentally, while I was looking at this question, my workrave window popped up and told me to take a 30-second microbreak so I got up and filled my water bottle and now I am happier.
posted by mskyle at 6:34 AM on February 17, 2012

Does anyone have suggestions for a Mac program? Workrave is window/GNU/Linux only.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:19 AM on February 17, 2012

I like pomodoro technique too. I have an app on my Android phone (PomLite) so I work for 25 mins and break for 5 mins. During the 5 mins I stretch, walk around, get water. I have a mental list of stretches and exercises; 5 mins isn't enough to do all of them, so whatever I don't get done in the first break, I just do it in the second break, on and on. Love it.
posted by foxjacket at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Put a bottle of water right in front of me, you'll be getting up more if you have to pee!
posted by radioamy at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have to say, radioamy is correct.

Keep a water bottle at your desk and drink from it constantly. I like this one because the straw lets me read or write while drinking as well as continuing to keep up a fast pace while on a treadmill or elliptical (don't have to tip my head back and either feel unbalanced or lose my concentration while working, but that's me).

Mouth a little dry?
Drafting an e-mail in your head?
*drinks water slowly until some inspiration is found*
Reading an e-mail or report?
*gulp gulp gulp*
Need a break?
*drinks the last of the water and then announces to anyone who cares/needs to know "I'm going to go use the head/fill up my water bottle."*

Take it with you when you go to meetings, other offices, etc. Also, when I go fill up on water, it encourages me to take a quick walk around the building, usually going up and down the stairs about 4 or 5 times a day.
This will also help relieve your joints/muscles, especially if you start exercising during your breaks.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:17 AM on February 17, 2012

Workrave is so cool! My coworkers are really excited about it, too. You've saved our office :o) Thanks, hooray!
posted by xiaolongbao at 11:49 AM on February 17, 2012

I just downloaded Workrave and going to recommend it to my boss! Thanks!
posted by Danithegirl at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses! I've gone overboard with trying different tools and am still determining over the long term which ones are really effective.

Workrave truly is great, but I wish there was more variety in the exercises. Now if only I can quit clicking on the Skip button... STILL, it reminds me I need to be moving, and that's good.

A bit less effective, but another I still added and like is the WorkSafe Sam "Stretch Prompter,"which is sometimes useful in movement suggestions, but not so much when it tells me to get my eyes checked or to make my desk more ergonomic. Still, I keep him because he's cute and sometimes useful.

Some combination of the above two would be ideal. Something cute and fun and with a menu of stretch and exercise suggestions (e.g. choose 20 pop-ups that will appear on your screen at random intervals) so the user may tailor it to his/her own needs.

I also set my iPhone alarm to quack on occasion so I'll drink more water.

Thanks all!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 5:29 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: OH! Meant to also say that the @ErgoBot tweets are really awesome! My last one reminded me to stretch my hands wide 10 times. I'm not a tweeter, so I set it to send me a regular text. Highly recommend it.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 6:03 PM on March 23, 2012

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