The 20-20-20 Rule

We don’t know the long-term ramifications of looking at our devices all day, but we do know the short term impact. The average eye blink is 18 times per minute (tpm), and goes down to 4 tpm when working off a digital device. This indicates that when we work on our digital devices, the eye blink rate decreases of by 70%. The eye blink average is 18 times per minute (tpm), but it goes to 4 tpm when working off a digital device. The blue light we are constantly staring into causes eye strain, and the main concern with eye strain is that it often causes our entire body to feel tired.

To help combat eye strain and increase productivity, I began testing the 20-20-20 rule:

  1. Every 20 minutes, take a strategic break for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Physically move—usually, this is as simple as standing up or walking to the drinking fountain.
  3. Look at a fixed object at least 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds (e.g, tree, sign).

The 20-20-20 rule was popularized by Dr. Jeff Anshell, a specialist in “vision ergonomics.” Dr. Anshel came up with the idea after seeing many patients coming into the office with “strange” vision concerns. The only common thread he found were patients using computers for extended hours.

The basis behind the 20-20-20 rule, according to Dr. Anshel, comes from studies that found the benefits of shorter, more frequent breaks for musculoskeletal disorders. He adapted the information to the visual system. [Chou, Brian, “Deconstructing the 20-20-20 Rule for digital eye strain,” Optometry Times, February 22, 2018,]

While twenty minutes works for most people, it isn’t for everyone. You will need to test what works best for you. Some of you might work best in 30 or 40-minute segments. While the 20-20-20 rule works best for me, here are some other popular power break techniques.



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About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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