We come across great ideas all the time. We can totally see how implementing these ideas can dramatically improve our lives in some sort of meaningful way. Yes, we should totally declutter and get rid of all the unnecessary things in our lives. Yes, we should absolutely eat healthier food and exercise more often. The thing is that many of these ideas remain precisely that — just ideas — until you give them structure. And the 20-20-20 rule is an excellent example.

Basking in the Warm Glow of the Internet

As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Maybe a little less now that I’ve taken on significant duties as a stay-at-home dad, but it’s still very substantial. Depending on your line of work, chances are that you get to stare at a computer monitor all day too. This is true whether you work out of a home office or you commute somewhere. A screen is a screen is a screen.

And as wonderful and magical as these computer monitors may be, operating as portholes into a vast digital world filled with endless possibility, they can also be remarkably harmful. Your eyes get tired and dry. No amount of blinking seems to help. You might find yourself clenching your eyelids shut in an effort to reset the system.

We’ve all been told that it’s a good idea to look away from your computer monitor on a regular basis in order to minimize eye strain. We know that eye strain can cause terrible headaches, lead to greater fatigue, and increase our stress levels. So, we should look away.

Like I said, though, without a structure in place, we forget. And then our eyes hurt.

The 20-20-20 Rule to the Rescue

The 20-20-20 rule provides exactly the structure we need. The idea is simple.

Every 20 minutes, gaze at something 20 feet away from you for a period of 20 seconds. Ideally, the object of your gaze should be green, as green things supposedly boost productivity. This is another reason why it’s preferable to place your desk near an exterior window. That way, you can gaze out at the neighborhood trees or some other green point of interest. The natural light is a huge bonus.

Countless timers exist, both online and offline, to remind you that 20 minutes has elapsed and you should now avert your gaze away from the glowing screen in front of you. Even better, you might choose to combine the 20-20-20 rule with the Pomodoro technique for maximum benefit, both in terms of health and productivity.

In this way, maybe it’s better to think about this as the 25-25-25 rule, as the standard Pomodoro session lasts 25 minutes. I don’t think you’ll do yourself any harm by looking at something 25 feet away for 25 seconds instead of 20 and 20. You just lose the nerdy connection to 20/20 vision.

Either way, it’s probably better if you spend that five-minute Pomodoro break staring out your office window rather than watching another YouTube video on your Windows PC. Or you should stretch. Or stretch while gazing out the window. And while you’re at it, clean up your desk. It’s a mess.