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Ditch Computer Eye Strain With These 8 Free Apps

Ditch Computer Eye Strain With These 8 Free Apps

Computer eye strain is an unfortunately common part of 21st-century life that can do long-term damage to your vision, not to mention causing sore eyes and headaches in the short term. Recent studies have shown the bluish glow of our screens also reduces the body’s melatonin levels that we need to naturally sleep, causing people to stay up later and have more difficulty falling asleep when they do go to bed.

Doctors often recommend taking breaks from looking at your screen to prevent eye strain, but not everyone is so good at sticking to schedules on their own. Here are eight free web or mobile apps to help keep your eyes healthy and pain-free!

1. Awareness (Mac, Windows)

awareness
    image source: Cult of Mac

    Awareness is a free app for Mac and Windows that gets you to take regular breaks without getting in the way. It’s super inconspicuous as far as these apps go; it sits on your menu bar while you go about your business, quietly counting the minutes until your next small break. You set the time limit for chunks of uninterrupted work yourself, as well as how long your breaks are. Once you’ve been at the computer for your set amount of minutes, Awareness plays the steady tone of a Tibetan singing bowl to let you know it’s time for a break. And it actually makes sure you take that break by monitoring your app/browser usage for those minutes, but doesn’t lock you out. This is probably the simplest, easiest app to use if you’re looking for break reminders that get you to actually do them without being intrusive.

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    2. F.lux (Mac, Windows, Linux, and iPhone)

    flux2
      image source: AddictiveTips

      I installed this app a couple years ago on my laptop and have used it ever since. F.lux adjusts the glow of your monitor based on the time of day; not just brightness, but tint as well. Without that glaring blue glow, I actually have to go to sleep at a reasonable hour because I get sleepy. Which, ya know, is supposed to happen! F.lux has an incredibly detailed list of research on this issue here. It’s an easy install and it runs on a bunch of operating systems. This is probably my #1 recommendation from this list.

      3. ProtectYourVision (Chrome, Firefox, Safari app)

        One of the most popular apps out there is ProtectYourVision. You can customize its break plan, though the default “20-20-20” plan is a commonly used technique with many supporters. ProtectYourVision beeps when it’s time for your break, and temporarily blacks out your screen for those few minutes. So, it’s a little disruptive in that way, but you can choose not to take a break when prompted, meaning the screen won’t black out until you say you’re on your break. If you really need to, you can override the break-time blackout as well. Plus, the app gives you suggestions for eye exercises to do during your break, and it has an adorable robot mascot.

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        4. Twilight (Android)

        twilight

          Since F.lux has a version for iOS but not Android, I found this app that has largely positive reviews from its users. Twilight also operates based on research done on the effects of blue-tinted light on the circadian rhythm and overall quality of sleep. The developers also cited special interest in research showing people who used a tablet or smartphone for a couple hours before bed fell asleep about an hour later than those who did not. So if you have a mobile device that runs on Android and want to employ this technology to protect your eyes and stop having trouble getting properly sleepy, get Twilight.

          5. Time Out (Mac)

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          timeout

            Time Out is exclusive to Mac and is a good app for those who aren’t sure how to space out their breaks. It gives you a set break plan that involves 50 minute chunks of working with 10 minute breaks, as well as “micro” breaks throughout your work time, 10 seconds every 10 minutes. (They can still be customized, however.) The micro breaks are helpful for those who find themselves unintentionally tensing up as they work, giving you a brief but consistent reminder to relax your muscles and adjust your posture. If you only want one kind of break, you can disable either of them. The breaks will fade your screen to let you know it’s time, and then fade back in when the break is over.

            6. eyeCare (Chrome app)

            eyes

              If you like your apps connected to your browser for a little extra convenience, eyeCare is a Chrome extension to help remind you to take those eye-resting breaks. Like ProtectYourVision, this app recommends the 20-20-20 plan, but you can of course customize your schedule. Regularly schedule breaks for your eyes is the most frequently recommended method for preventing eye strain. The extension also gives you instructions for eye exercises. It’s a one-click install, and it has a 4.5/5 star review by users.

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              7. Nocturne (Mac)

              nocturne

                This is another Mac-only app with a unique approach. Nocturne is an older display-altering app to reduce eye strain, but it does so by giving you options to change your display via using a monochrome scheme as pictured above, inverting colors, disabling shadow effects, and adjusting tints. You can adjust screen brightness as well. Again, it’s a somewhat dated app, but it is free and offers a unique approach to reducing eye strain at night.

                8. Eye Pro (Windows)

                  Eye Pro is a Windows app that seeks to reduce eye strain but also focuses on keeping your eyes properly moisturized. Not satisfied with only preventing eye strain, the developers designed the app to get you to blink more while at the computer. Research shows that our blink rate tends to decrease significantly when we use a computer. Eye Pro displays occasional notices encouraging you to rest your eyes and blink to restore natural moisture. There are short and long breaks, which you can skip if you need to, and plenty of tips for eye exercises and overall protection.

                  Featured photo credit: working in the dark/George Whitaker via flic.kr

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                  Last Updated on March 13, 2019

                  How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                  How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                  Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

                  You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

                  Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

                  1. Work on the small tasks.

                  When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

                  Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

                  2. Take a break from your work desk.

                  Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

                  Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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                  3. Upgrade yourself

                  Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

                  The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

                  4. Talk to a friend.

                  Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

                  Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

                  5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

                  If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

                  Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

                  Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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                  6. Paint a vision to work towards.

                  If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

                  Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

                  Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

                  7. Read a book (or blog).

                  The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

                  Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

                  Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

                  8. Have a quick nap.

                  If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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                  9. Remember why you are doing this.

                  Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

                  What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

                  10. Find some competition.

                  Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

                  Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

                  11. Go exercise.

                  Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

                  Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

                  As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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                  Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

                  12. Take a good break.

                  Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

                  Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

                  Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

                  Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

                  More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

                  Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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