App Review {Productivity Classic}: Time Out Free

Meet my personal wellness assistant that could help YOU get through your working day more relaxed, too!

Today, we’ll collectively get rid of toxic habits of NOT having breaks, NOT staying hydrated and NOT having lunch.
Shall we?

If you’re a MAC user, you probably know Dejal, the software studio that brought us Caboodle, Blog Assist and Simon (a site/server monitoring tool). Now, Time Out Free is what its developers call a “break reminder tool with micro-breaks“, it’s free, tremendously easy to use, and it has been around since 2006 (thus “Productivity Classic”).time-out-free-time-for-a-breakI chose to feature it, because I know a bunch of new MAC users who have never heard of it, but desperately need it.


The app is pretty easy to use. You need to set up your preferences and enable the app to start automatically when you log in to your computer – otherwise you might forget to start Time Out Free in the first place.

The Preferences menu is pretty self-explanatory and offers four options – General, Normal, Micro, Exclusions. The General menu enables you to choose or to deny following options:time-out-free-general-settingsAs you can see, I have checked “Autostart” and “Show a confirmation when restoring defaults” for my convenience and control; while the “Quit confirmation” to me is just one more nuisance [OK] to click when you shut down your computer.
The menus for “Normal” and “Micro” are pretty identical and really the heart of the app: this is where you define your breaks – normal breaks and micro breaks. And here’s the hack: you can use micro breaks as reminders. For example, to drink a glass of water every 20 minutes or so. You can define the computer behaviour during the break, the start of break phase, and the back to work phase. Define colours, images, sounds, videos – knock yourself out:time-out-app-preferencesThe “Exclusions” menu comes predefined and gives you control on exceptions. For example, you don’t want your screen to fade to grey to the matching tune when you’re in s Skype telco, right?
Select wisely which active apps and programs mean “no sleep for the wicked”, and Time Out Free will obey.


Once you have activated Time Out Free, it will remind you of major breaks – you could define a lunch break if you keep forgetting your lunch, or have a break every three hours, which your eyes will thank you for – and of smaller ones. For example, just a 3 second (!) break every 15 minutes helps me prevent tired eyes in the evening.time-out-app-short-breakMy micro-breaks come with a white screen, which is for me the reminder of keeping a clear mind, and the zen-like approach to life’s noises; and my major breaks are coloured a refreshing, holiday-feeling turquoise green:time-out-app-10-minute-breakAs you can – probably – see, in the beginning of the break the screen says “Time out due now”, and once the break has begun, you can postpone or skip it.
Of course you can define and own this “postpone” function in the Preferences, and make it match your personal working schedule.

WHAT IT CAN (and cannot) DO

This app is not a break wizard – it can only remind you and softly force you to have a break.
How and whether you use it, is up to you.

If you let it, it can help you:
1. Plan an efficient working day.
If you know there are breaks, you know there are working hours. You plan your tasks accordingly so you don’t waste time.
The app is a brilliant reminder how fast the hands of time are turning.
2. Remember to stay hydrated.
“Hack” it to your personal need, baby! Are you one of those people who remember they could drink another glass of water as soon as the sugar cravings at 3pm kick in? Why not pick a nice picture of a water carafe and have your micro break remind you of that?time-out-app-big-pause3. Remember to have lunch.
Your normal break could be something that reminds you to go out and have lunch. Productivity is not about working non-stop.
Oh, and by the way…
Science proves that multitasking does not exist. What we actually do when we think we multitask, is fast sequential work. Micro-slices of tasks. Real productivity though is all about task bundles. Go figure!
Now that we’ve put this idea out of your head…

Do you use productivity apps?
Could you use a cleaner agenda?
Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

12 Responses

      1. So true. Many of mine are probably unimportant but I can see why people who want to write often lock themselves away in a garden shed, far from the house!

  1. Din

    It’s too sad we have reached the time we need to schedule our breaks, but it helps – my mind and back 😀 What I usually do is to stand up whenever my phone rings. Also my family is a helping hand with calling me and remind me in a cup of tea from time to time… Anyway, I will try your ‘green light’ now.

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