Eye strain is a killer . . .

A productivity killer that is.

eye-strain.jpg

If you’re like me (for your sake I hope your not) you spend a lot of your time staring at screen. I mean I am a computer teacher after all. That being said, I also spend a lot of time looking at my iPhone, my friend’s computer screen, and let’s not forget the old boob-tube (that’s a TV folks-get your mind out of the gutter). Needless to say staring at a screen for too long can easily tire out your eyes and there are plenty of articles out there talking about what eye strain is and how to prevent it. Here are some symptoms (from the Mayo clinic’s website).

  • Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sore neck
  • Sore back
  • Shoulder pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light

But let’s be honest, it is easy for one to get lost in their work and just push one self until staring at that screen is just way too difficult. A good way to combat eye strain is by taking frequent breaks. One rule that helps many is the 20-20-20 rule (read about it here and here). It basically says that every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that is over 20 feet away. This will help keep your eyes fresh.

Of course keeping an eye on the clock and then forcing yourself to stop working every 20 or so minutes ain’t the easiest thing to do (don’t shake your head, you know you’re guilty of working too hard at times). That’s why there are programs (free ones) out there that can help remind you when it is time to take your hands off the keyboard and focus your eyes and relax that mind of yours from time to time.

For Mac – TimeOutFree
Windows – WorkRave
Windows – EyeDefender

There are others that are also free, but I like TimeOutFree myself as it is fully customizable (you can set how long you should work, and how long the break should be, etc.).

Sometimes taking a break is just part of the solution. Often people work on computers whose screen is very bright. While dimming the screen on most computers is usually a few keystrokes away, it is often something that people aren’t aware of. That’s why there is f.lux (not to be confused with Flux for the Mac which is a program to develop and build websites).

f.lux runs automatically in the background of your computer. Basically it works with your time and location and dims (or colorizes) your screen based on if it’s night or day. At first glance it looks like my screen is failing as it turns yellow, but you get used to it. It is actually much easier on my eyes as opposed to my regular bright and beautiful screen. Check out my video below to get a better idea of what it looks like and does. Oh yeah it’s free too.

So before you chuckle and scoff at this piece, and say “Not me, I never do this.” Think of all those emails, your electronic gradebook, the worksheets and unit plans, or websites you wish to check out for your classes, and then think of how long you were staring at that screen. Do yourself a favor and give your eyes and your mind a short break every now and again. I think you’ll find that you’ll be able to work a little longer and feel a lot better afterwards.

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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