The 20/20/20 rule

Suffer from eyestrain or headaches when working at your desk? Looking away from your screen at regular intervals might help.

Short version

While working at a desk, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.


  • Reduced risk of eyestrain and related problems, headaches etc.

How to do it

Nothing complex about this one. Simply, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.


Make this a habit whenever you’re working at a desk, or otherwise focusing on something close-up for long periods of time (e.g. reading, watching TV, etc.)

Why it works

The idea is, when you’re at your desk looking at your monitor, your eyes are focusing at one single distance for extended periods of time.

In order to focus on something close, the muscles around the lens of the eye contract, making it thicker. If you’re sat looking at a screen you’re essentially holding these muscles in a contracted state, for long periods. Some believe that, just as holding your bicep contracted all day would lead to a sore arm, holding your gaze at the same distance for long periods leads to sore eyes.

When you look at something further away, the muscles around the lens relax, making the lens thinner and bringing the long-distance view into focus. So the 20/20/20 rule is just a quick and easy way to make sure you’re giving the muscles that adjust your eyes’ lenses a little time to relax.


Andrea Piacquadio