We spend too much time in front of screens. 8 hours a day doing our jobs, we go on our smaller screens when we take a break, then when we finish we go home and watch a bigger screen for a few more hours. Or if you’re an indie hacker, you’ll look at the same size screen you’ve spent the first 8 hours at for another 5-6 hours. Before we go to bed we’ll spend some more time looking at the small screen.

When do we switch off? The gym for a couple of hours? When cooking / doing chores? Then we inevitably go back to our screens.

I didn’t think much of my screen time, but I probably spend more time than most at my laptop / desk. With my full-time job, my side projects and freelance work, I often spend upwards of 12-13 hours starting at my screens. I take regular breaks - my attention span isn’t good enough to spend hours on end there. I have a good screen position, a nice seat and my office is well-lit. I thought my setup was perfectly optimised.

It was all going fine until last week when I started getting extremely painful headaches. I thought it was a one-off, so took a paracetamol and went to bed. Then the following day I had the same, then the next, then the next etc. I thought it could be a few things, including spending too much time at my screen, but I tried to get more exercise, drink more water, eat more healthy. Nothing seemed to kick the headaches.

I figured if I got a doctor’s appointment they’d tell me to get an eye test first, maybe my eyes were being strained from looking at the screens. So went ahead and got them tested. I didn’t think they’d find much because my eyes have always been good and I’ve never had any trouble seeing short or long distances, or reading text.

Can you win an eye test?

As a competitive person and someone that wants to win everything, I wanted to pass the eye test. My mum explained to me that there isn’t a pass mark for the eye test and it could actually help me, so I conceded to try and give accurate responses to the eye test (this was harder than I anticipated).

Turns out, my eyes aren’t quite perfect. When I had the test lenses on it was quite impressive how much clearer I could read text. It wasn’t a huge difference, but certainly noticeable. They’ve given me a tiny 0.25 prescription glasses to try, with anti-blue light and reflection. They’ll be arriving on Friday so I hope that my headaches will ease when I’m wearing glasses while using my screens.

Limiting my screen time

I got the eye test last Monday, and the headaches are persisting, albeit not as painful as the week before. This is because I’ve been making an active effort to limit my screen time as much as possible - which is much harder than you think.

While at work I’ve been trying to do as many audio calls instead of video calls, limiting the longer sessions looking at the screen doing emails or writing documents. I’ve almost completely paused my side projects, no editing Indie Bites which pains me, but health comes first. I’ve not plugged into my desk setup, trying to do work just on my laptop or my iPad, which has also been surprisingly helpful.

What do you do, when you can’t look at screens?

In the meantime I’ve had to find something else to do while not looking at a screen. Luckily for me, at the start of lockdown 1.0 I started learning leathercrafting and it’s been pushed to one side since my other work has ramped up. Earlier this week I dusted off the tools and started creating some small leather wallets.

And oh my word, I forgot how much I enjoyed making these.

There is something about creating something from a bunch of raw materials with your hands. Something that is beautiful and practical. Something to be proud of once you’ve made it. The whole process is fun; from the cutting, to the gluing, to the hand-stitching to the finishing.

I’ve had so much fun this last week taking time away from the screen and making the leather wallets, I hope I can continue doing it when I ramp up my work again.

If you’re interested in buying a leather wallet, for you or a present for someone, I’m selling them here. You know what, I’ll give readers of this blog 20% off - use ‘IREADTHEBLOG’.

Spend time on your hobbies... away from a screen

Most people I know enjoy their time indie hacking and building cool businesses, it is genuinely a hobby for them as it is for me. But what I would say is that this last week has made me realise how much fun it can be to not be racking up the screen time and learning a skill that involves me using my hands, not just my keyboard. I’d recommend everyone to try and find a hobby that is away from their screens, I’m going to do the same. Here’s some of the things I plan to do more of;

  • More outdoor walks / hiking
  • Tennis
  • Cycling
  • Board games
  • Cooking
  • Reading

So I’ll be making an active effort to spend less than 12-13 hours at my screen and you should do too!

In other news

I’ve missed doing this section! A few of the things I’ve found around the internet (and not this week).

? Corter Leather have some relaxing and informative YouTube videos on leather crafting. I’ve learnt a bunch from their videos.

? This Indie Hackers podcast episode with James Traf about the $280,000 he made selling icons last month, is a wonderfully inspirational story and a great conversation about how you can make your own luck

? I’be been reading The Food Lab by Kenji Lopez-Alt and I’ve learned a bunch already. Very amusing and informative. I now know much more about eggs than I once did.

? My friend Dan Rowden launched Gloat Hosting, a way to get a hosted Ghost blog for just $149 a year (compared to £30 a month Ghost Pro).

?️ Pieter Levels has a 50% offer on his Make book. I’ve just bought it this evening. I’ll let you know what I think!