Use Big Stretch Reminder to Manage Your Attention

Are you creating busy work to avoid focusing on important items? That’s a question asked in the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. As much as I enjoy browsing the web, I’ll admit that it is not always productive. With constant online availability comes constant distractions. One way I regain focus and manage my attention is to use a simple reminder pop-up tool called Big Stretch Reminder.

Limiting distractions is hard, but I think I’m good at controlling my work environment.

  • I rarely text.
  • I don’t turn on my phone’s ringer.
  • I manually retrieve my email when needed.
  • I avoid social sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc.

My weakness is when I’m online, I can get distracted. I’ll see an interesting item, and my attention shifts to that site. Later, I’ll notice several browser tabs open and wonder what my initial purpose was.

Refocusing My Attention

My solution was to create a popup reminder that asks one of two questions at timed intervals.

  • Are you inventing work to avoid the important items?
  • Are you working on your most important task?

I’m sure there are many ways to create such a system. First, I tried Microsoft Outlook but wasn’t satisfied with the reminder notification. I knew having the flashing icon wasn’t enough for me. I wouldn’t say I like having Outlook open all the time.

I needed something on the screen that required me to act and dismiss the reminder. I also didn’t want something too distracting such as sound or animation. My first success came with ConceptWorld’s versatile sticky note program called NoteZilla . That worked well, but its feature set offers much more. Moreover, people asked if there was a free solution.

Many free reminder services exist, but I wanted one that could sit in the Windows system tray. I also wanted to be able to customize or add my messages. Most of the programs I looked at were again too complex until I found one.

Big Stretch Reminder in system tray.
Big Stretch Reminder in Taskbar

Big Stretch Reminder

At first glance, you might think it’s like Stretchware, which I’ve previously mentioned. While that program is focused on stretches, this program has another option. It’s a simple reminder program that is easy to configure and can show in your Windows taskbar. Four sections are available from the left side.

Big Reminder config panel.

As you can see, the screen is well laid out and not cluttered. This is evident when you go to the Messages area. While my primary focus was to build my reminder pop-up messages, I was intrigued by the motivational ones. You can select the radio button and then Show Example.

Example of Big Reminders motivational quote.

The example in the screen snap above shows how unobtrusive the reminder is and its size.

Adding My Focus Questions

While the motivational quotes and RSI information were good, my goal was to add my 2 questions. This was very easy; I could add multiple messages up to 250 characters.

My Big Stretch custom reminders.
My 2 focus questions

Initially, I used one focus reminder every two hours. While effective, I knew I needed more prompts. I created another reminder with a different question and time. Each reminder goes off every 40 minutes.

Although these reminder questions are an interruption, they make me think about what I’m doing now and if it’s relevant to what needs to be done. The answer is immediately apparent to me. In your office, the distraction might be lengthy phone calls from friends. Regardless of the source, these reminders can help you limit distractions and regain focus.

You can get the Windows program for free from the author’s site. He does have a web version called However, it didn’t quite suit my needs.

Big Stretch Reminder Program: