Did you know optometrists can take a picture of the inside of your eye? Me neither. This replaces dilation. Seeing the inside of my own eye is a freaky, out-of-body experience. But, I’ll take a dilation-free exam any day!
My optometrist asked what I did for a living during my latest check-up. As soon as I said I was a trader, she stopped me abruptly. “How long do you sit at your desk each day?” she asked. Eight to ten hours a day, I guessed.
She became intensely concerned for my eye health. I didn’t see (pun intended) the big deal.
Then I realized. I’ve only got two eyes and these puppies must last my lifetime. No replacing them like light bulbs in a lamp. So, my doctor gave me strict instructions on how to take better care of my eyes.
Why was she so concerned?
Digital Eye Strain Explained
As traders, we spend vast amounts time in front of our computers. Office workers average seven hours per day in front of theirs. But traders spend at least 30% more time at their computers (although researchers have yet to study solitary traders working from their home offices).
To put it plainly, staring at your screen for long periods of time causes far more fatigue than we realize. The American Optometric Association explains:
Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. Often the letters on the computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.
In other words, your eyes get overworked.
As WebMD explains it, your eyes are constantly adjusting to compensate for poor contrast. Your eye has a hard time focusing on your computer monitor’s flat surface.
Your eye was designed to see depth in a mix of natural lighting conditions. Computers produce artificial depth. It’s like a magic trick that your eye doesn’t understand.
The problem compounds as you age. Your ability to focus on near versus far-away objects diminishes after age 40.
Key contributors to eye fatigue include:
- Poor office lighting
- Poor posture / office setup
- Not taking breaks
- Computer settings that aren’t tailored for your eyes
As odd as it sounds, this problem has a name: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or, as it is commonly known, Digital Eye Strain.
According to the AOA, some of the most common symptoms of CVS or Digital Eye Strain are:
- blurred vision
- dry eyes
- neck and shoulder pain
What can you do to avoid digital eye strain? Here are 3 tips to make trading easier on your eyes.
Tip #1 – Change Your Office Lighting
The number one thing you can do is to change the lighting in your workspace.
Adjusting the lighting in the room can dramatically lower your eye fatigue. One of the biggest sources of eye fatigue is poor lighting contrast.
Aim for even workspace lighting without shadows. Avoid over-lighting your workspace until it’s washed out.
Specifically, here are a few adjustments you can make to create contrast between the background and foreground:
- Turn up your computer monitor’s brightness. Brighter monitors reduce the ‘flicker rate’ that can cause fatigue.
- Lower the brightness on overhead lighting, if possible.
- Place low wattage lamps on either side of your desk. (I have a lamp sitting directly behind my monitors as a backlight.)
- Do not place lights in front of the monitor since these will cause glare, which in turn will cause eye fatigue.
- If you still can see glare, try to adjust the position of the monitor until it no longer reflects the light.
Tip #2 – Take Frequent Eye Breaks
Another big thing you can do for your eyes is to become more disciplined about taking breaks.
When I get focused on my work, I have a hard time breaking away. I now realize that’s a terrible excuse.
Optometrists suggest you use the “20/20/20 Rule” to avoid eye fatigue during the day. Every twenty minutes, take twenty seconds and look away from your computer. Focus your eyes on something that’s at least 20 feet away.
Translation: Look out the window for 20 seconds to let your eyes rest from near-sighted work.
If you have a hard time remembering when to take a break, set a 20-minute timer on your phone, or use a timer app on your computer.
Tip #3 – Adjust Your Computer’s Display Settings
To ease eye strain, the most important display setting on your computer is the font size.
You’ll know it’s time to increase the font size when any of these situations occur:
- You’re having a hard time seeing the print.
- It seems to be taking more effort to read the print.
- You’re having a hard time staying focused on the print.
Fortunately, if you are experiencing one of these problems, adjusting the font size is easy. The option for increasing your computer’s default font size is in your system settings. And I’ve written about this previously, here.
Do this for your trading platform as well. Most brokerages’ trading platforms allow you to customize their interface to suit your needs. This means increasing the size of text, numbers, etc.
If you need to increase font size on the fly, control-mouse-wheel works in most apps.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably been taking your eyes for granted. But smart traders understand that healthy eyes are a crucial component of successful trading.
You can hold your mental focus longer if you’re not struggling with headaches. You can trade well into your retirement years as long as you can continue to focus on the screen.
Being a better trader starts with simple fundamentals. Start today to improve your office lighting, take periodic breaks, and set software to a comfortable font size. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.
We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250