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How to Prevent Eye Strain and Improve Productivity

by Tianze Li

Over the past few years, the internet has become a technological necessity, especially because of online learning. The downside is that screen time has a negative effect on eye health, leading to headaches, bloodshot eyes, and an increased risk of myopia. In the digital age, are eye health and work mutually exclusive? Well, here’s a list of tips to prevent eye strain and improve productivity. 

The 20-20-20 Rule 

The 20-20-20 rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, a person should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. In 2013, a study involving 795 university students found that those who looked at far objects in-between the work had fewer symptoms of computer vision syndrome, which include blurred vision, dry eyes, and eye fatigue.

In addition, the 20-second break serves as a brief diversion from the task, which improves focus. In 2011, a study led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Alejandro Lleras investigated the effectiveness of prolonged work without a break. In the study, 84 subjects were divided into four groups to perform a repetitive computerized task for about 50 minutes. The control group worked for 50 minutes without a break. The “switch” group and the “no-switch” group memorized four numbers before the work period began, and were instructed to respond if they saw one of the digits on the screen during the task. The digits appeared twice on the computer screens of the “switch” group and didn’t appear for the “no-switch” group. The “digit-ignored” group was shown the same digits presented to the “switch” group[ but was instructed to ignore them. For the control, “no-switch”, and “digit-ignored” groups, performance progressively declined. In contrast, the “switch” group remained sharp until the end of the experiment. 

“SMART” Goals

SMART is the acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, “I’m going to improve my time management skills” isn’t SMART, but “I’m going to improve my time management skills by auditing the time management course on Coursera for two days a week until September” is. Setting SMART goals is a way to improve work efficiency because it provides direction and improves accountability. If you think about it, improving productivity and preventing eye strain go hand in hand because getting the work done faster allows you to go make bubble tea and sleep instead of keep staring at the screen.

Keep Your Phone Away

First of all, the blue light from phones adds to eye strain. According to a recent study published by the Journal of Scientific Reports, blue light exposure leads to macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss. 

Your phone is a distraction. A 2017 study in the Journal of the Association of Consumer Research suggests that the mere presence of your phone reduces your cognitive capacity. Therefore, it’s not enough to just put it on airplane mode or turn it off. You actually need to tuck it away, as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to keep your phone away forever. In fact, you can even designate a specific time of the day as “phone time” (just keep in mind the 20-20-20 rule).

Outdoor activities

Take a walk outside with your dog! No, seriously. For those of you who don’t have a dog, you can still take a walk outside with yourself. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that outdoor activities resulted in a reduced incidence rate of myopia. 

Outdoor activities also help with productivity. Research from the University of Michigan found that taking a walk in nature improves memory and attention span. In fact, University of Michigan psychology researchers Marc Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan found that “memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature.”

That’s it for today. If you found this article useful, be sure to like, comment and share it with family and friends!

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