Taking a Break From the Screen

As a software engineer, I spend a lot of hours every day staring at a computer screen, and chances are if you’re reading this, you do too.

However, if you work at the computer for too long without a break, you can start having problems like eyestrain and dry eyes. Air-conditioned offices won’t help much for the latter either.

You can find out more about the medical aspect on webmd.com and other sites, but a typical piece of advice is the so-called 20-20-20 rule.

The 20-20-20 rule is:

  • every 20 minutes
  • look 20 feet away
  • for 20 seconds

Intead of looking 20 feet away (might not be possible where you are), you could close your eyes for 20 seconds.

Other advice says you should take a 5 minute break every hour, so I combine the two to have two 20 second breaks 20 minutes apart, and then a 5 minute break every hour.

I’ve written a little .NET application which reminds me to do this which you can get from the Softwariness site on Github:

Just put the executable wherever you want it to run from in future, e.g. your Documents or Downloads folder, and run it once. After it’s been run once, it will automatically run when you log in to Windows.

It runs minimized, so to configure it, or to see how long until the next break, click on the “eye” icon in your taskbar, which brings up this window:

Break Reminder Configuration Screen

Break Reminder Configuration Screen

If you don’t want it to run automatically when you log in to Windows, uncheck the “Run at start-up” checkbox.

If you’ve been away from the screen for a while, and want to reset the timer so the next break won’t be for another 20 minutes, click on the “Reset” button.

When it’s time for a break, a window will pop-up on screen to remind you.

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