The 20/20/20 Rule for Micro-breaks

The 20/20/20 rule has changed how I work, for the better – and not just for my eyes!

A few months ago, I started noticing my eyes becoming increasingly dry and tired after a long day staring at my computer screen. It’s so easy to forget to take breaks when you’re in the zone, and I realized I was becoming increasingly guilty of this.

When I started thinking about how I could build more regular breaks into my routine, I remembered something my optometrist told me about: the 20/20/20 rule.

20 minutes, 20 seconds, 20 feet

Here’s how the 20/20/20 rule works:

Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by focusing on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This helps relax your eyes and goes a long way to prevent eye-strain from screen use.

(The sole disadvantage of the metric system is that 20/20/6.096 just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But I digress!)

There are lots of apps that help automate this habit: I ended up settling on Intermission for macOS, which is simple and flexible.

The 20-second check-in

Following this rule has definitely helped with my eye strain – I’ve even got my coworkers in on it when the reminder pops up during a screen share!

But it’s not just my eyes that have benefited from this. I’ve started using the breaks in a few different ways:

  • Avoid rabbit-holing. If I’ve been stuck on something, I’ll ask myself during the break: what’s the real problem I’m trying to solve? Have I made any progress, or should I change my approach / ask someone for help?
  • Take a step back. How am I feeling? Am I stressed? Am I in the zone?
  • Move around. I’ll shake out my wrists or do some neck stretches while I stare off into the distance, and I might use the opportunity to switch from sitting to standing.

Give it a shot!

I’ve really started to enjoy the cadence of these quick micro-breaks. One of the downsides is that it makes you extremely aware of the passage of time – especially if you use an app that never ceases to remind you. But overall, I’ve found it works well for me. My eyes certainly thank me for it!

If you also find yourself in need of more breaks, I’d encourage you to give the 20/20/20 rule a try!