Introducing Wellness Alerts in RescueTime: Protect your vision, sleep, and physical health from excessive screen time

According to the latest Nielsen stats, the average US adult spends 9 hours and 20 minutes staring at screens each day. Yet while most of us know how all that screen time is wreaking havoc on our minds, we don’t realize just how much damage it’s also doing to our bodies.

How many times have you gotten deep into a task only to realize your shoulders are tighter than a pickle jar and your eyes are blurring? Or what about trying to go to sleep only to realize you’re wide awake from scrolling through a feed of flashing images and videos for the past half hour? 

We talk a lot about how to use RescueTime to protect yourself from mental issues like burnout, overwork, procrastination, and a loss of motivation. But you can just as easily use it to improve your physical health during the day.  

Rather than setting a reminder on your calendar or phone, RescueTime Alerts observe how you work so you set custom reminders to move, stretch, or take a break based on your actual behaviors.

In this post, we’ve put together a list of one-click RescueTime Alerts you can set up to help protect your vision, posture, sleep patterns, and overall physical health during the workday. 

Jump to the Wellness Alert you want:

  1. Protect your vision with the 20-20-20 Alert
  2. Set a regular reminder to get up and stretch
  3. Use “Bedtime” Alerts to help get a proper night’s rest
  4. Limit excessive screen time with a total device time Alert
  5. Learn to customize Alerts for your unique wellness needs

Alerts are a RescueTime Premium feature. Sign up for your free 14-day trial and see how they help!

Protect your vision with the 20-20-20 Alert

Screen time takes a serious toll on your eyes. In fact, an estimated 58% of people suffer from what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome, which causes eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, and neck and back pain. 

To give your eyes a break during the workday, the Canadian Association of Optometrists suggests following the 20-20-20 rule:

Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away

This is great in theory, but harder to remember when you’re deep in work. 

Using this RescueTime Alert, you’ll get an alert after every 20 minutes of device time reminding you to take a few moments to rest your eyes. 

Set up the 20-20-20 Alert

Note: This Alert is only triggered after your first 20 minutes of device time each day. To help build my own habit, I created multiple time filters for my mornings and afternoons and set 20-20-20 Alerts for each one.

You can use this method for any Alert you’d like to happen multiple times throughout the day.

To set up a custom time filter:

Select “Advanced Filters” from your RescueTime tool menu.
Create your time filter. For example, this one will only trigger Alerts from 6am to noon.
Choose the time filter for your Alert. For example, setting my Alert for “Weekday Mornings” means I’ll only get it after 20 minutes of device time during that schedule.

“Sitting is the new smoking”: Avoid the damage of deskwork with a regular reminder to get up and stretch

One of the side effects of using computers, phones, and screens more is just how much more we’re sitting. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with everything from obesity to high blood sugar, excess body fat, and even higher risk of death!

Luckily, even just a small amount of daily physical activity can counter the effects of all that sitting. 

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic suggests:

  • Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes
  • Stand while talking on the phone or watching television
  • Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting

Using this RescueTime Alert, you’ll get a notification after 30 minutes of device time reminding you to take a few minutes to stretch, go for a quick walk, or do some other form of exercise. 

Set up the Stand up & Stretch Alert

Note: This is also a great solution if you’re prone to repetitive stress injuries (RSI). A regular reminder to stretch and move means you’re less likely to hurt yourself. 

Get a proper night’s rest by setting up a “Bedtime” Alert on your devices

Your phone, computer, and other digital devices emit what’s called “blue light,” which helps boost attention, reaction times, and mood. This is great during the day but can seriously disrupt your sleep patterns. 

In fact, researchers found that exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin—the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle—by up to 85%. This means that using your devices at night makes it harder to sleep (and we all know how bad poor sleep is for productivity).  

While many devices now offer some form of “night shift” that changes the color of the light emitted, there’s still the issue of scrolling through flashing gifs, images, videos, or even stressful emails at night. (Our research found that 40% of people use their computers after 10pm)

With RescueTime, you can set up alerts based on custom schedules. This way, you can limit your overall device time, social media time, or anything else during your evening hours. 

A custom time filter called “Bedtime” will only trigger Alerts during the evenings.

For example, I have a daily “Bedtime” schedule from 9pm–12am. During this time, I’m limited to 15 minutes of social media, email, and mobile time after which FocusTime (our distraction blocker) is enabled for the rest of the night. 

Set up the Better Bedtime Alert

Be aware of excessive screen time with a limit on your total daily time

The more obvious solution to all of these issues is simple: Spend less time on your devices. With more than 50% of your waking hours spent on a screen, there’s most likely room for improvement. 

For example, according to our research of over 185 million hours of working time, most people only have around 2 hours and 48 minutes of productive device time a day. Yet we spend over 5 hours of the working day actively using our computers alone! 

One of the best RescueTime Alerts you can set up for your well-being is a notification when you’ve hit your daily goal for all device time (desktop and mobile).

You can make this anything you want, but I find a reminder at 5 hours is a good way to understand how much you’re using your devices during the day. 

Get the Daily Device Limit Alert

You can customize these Alerts to work for you!

The beauty of RescueTime Alerts is that you can customize them to work for you. Change what behavior triggers them. When they’re active. And what they do (i.e. send you to a custom URL or enable FocusTime and block distracting sites). 

While each of the Alerts above will give you a good starting point you can change them based on your own needs. 

Start by heading to Tools > Goals & Alerts

Then, select Alerts & Notifications.

From here, you can choose which Alert you want to customize and update it with:

  • Trigger: When do you want this Alert to be triggered? (i.e. after 15 minutes)
  • Behavior: What behavior triggers this Alert? (i.e. email)
  • Schedule: When is this Alert active? (i.e. during Work Hours or a custom time filter)
  • Notification: How should you be notified about it? (Email, Desktop and Mobile, or both?)
  • Custom message: What do you want your Alert to say?
  • FocusTime: Will this Alert trigger FocusTime and block distracting sites? If so, for how long? 
  • Custom URL: Do you want this Alert to send you to a custom URL? 

Here’s an example of an Alert I have set to be triggered after 15 minutes of email each day:

The rest is up to you! You can create Alerts to help with just about anything, track your progress, and keep you mindful of how you’re using digital devices.

If you want some ideas, here are 9 RescueTime Alerts you can use to stay motivated, track progress, and guard yourself against distractions each day.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Want to learn more about spending your time well and doing more meaningful work? Get our latest blog posts in your inbox every week.

Jory MacKay

Jory MacKay is a writer, content marketer, and editor of the RescueTime blog.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for these, I have set up the mobile device usage and the late night alerts. However, I have a lot of RescueTime notifications set up and have lately been wondering whether I have too many – a lot of the articles on this very blog talk about how distracting notifications are and encourage screen time.

    On another note, I haven’t checked, but wondered whether Android’s Digital Wellbeing has alerts for all mobile use? I’ve done a bit of digging and found it has app timers, which shuts off whichever app if you exceed the time you set. That’s a more robust way of discouraging mobile use.

    1. Thanks Dean. I’ve definitely been in the same boat of having too many Alerts set up at once. To solve this, I’ll regularly do a bit of an “Alert audit” and either a) use time filters to get more specific about when an Alert is triggered. B) Make sure the only active Alerts I have setup are helping guide me towards current goals. When I have too many Alerts set up, I end up mentally blocking them out or just ignoring them. So taking the time to make sure you have only the *right* ones (whatever that means for you) has been a big help in keeping them useful.

      As for Android’s Digital Wellbeing tools, I haven’t personally played around with it much. However, I’ve found the app limits on iOS ScreenTime to be too easy to get around (and largely ineffective). I would love to hear your take on these sorts of apps once you’ve spent some time with them!

Comments are closed.