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The surprisingly effective way I solved my computer eyestrain problem

By early afternoon, my eyes were killing me. Then I did this.

Like a lot of people -- many people? most people? -- I spend a good chunk of my day in front of a computer. Because I work from home, I often move from room to room, just to change up the scenery, and even alternate between standing and sitting.

But no matter where I go, I suffer from eyestrain. And recently it's gotten a lot worse: On some days my eyes are so tired and achy, it's hard to continue working. (Thankfully, I have the world's most forgiving editors.)


I tried lubricating eye drops; no help. Then I remembered the 20-20-20 rule I'd read about many times, the idea being that every 20 minutes, you should take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away.

I'd always scoffed at this. Interrupt my workflow every 20 minutes? No, thank you. And, really, like a 20-second break was really going to help.

But I was desperate, and realized I was going to need some kind of automated timer. That's when I discovered EyeLeo, a freeware utility designed to help computer users reduce eyestrain.

Let me just say I was extremely skeptical at first, because the program is even more intrusive than 20-20-20: It hits you up with eye exercises every 10 minutes and imposes a 5-minute break every 50 minutes. As a writer, I find it difficult to cope with interruptions, and I fully expected to hate EyeLeo.

Guess what? I love EyeLeo.

Every 10 minutes, a cute little leopard face appears onscreen and gives me an 8-second exercise to do: look left/right, blink my eyes, roll my eyes in circles, and so on. Turns out those interruptions are brief and innocuous enough, I don't mind them at all.

When I hit the 50-minute mark, EyeLeo gives me the option of taking a full break or, if I'm right in the middle of something, waiting another three minutes. (All these timers are user-adjustable.)

The very first day I used EyeLeo, I experienced almost zero eyestrain. Still skeptical, I used it for a full week before writing this post; it's still doing the trick. Color me gobsmacked.

Although I don't like being "forced" to stop my workflow, EyeLeo made me realize that I previously stared at my screen for very long stretches. When those 50-minute breaks come up, I think, "Wow, already? Feels like I just had one." That's how I know I was my eyes' worst enemy. And I use those breaks to accomplish things I normally put off, like walking the dog, emptying the dishwasher, etc. Nice little productivity boost!

Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you're experiencing eyestrain issues, I definitely recommend giving EyeLeo a try. I haven't loved a leopard this much since "Bringing Up Baby."