On the list of things I do a lot, typing is up there close to breathing. It started with the Apple II forever ago and now it’s now and I’m still typing every single day and each day I wait for the sharp pains to start racing up my forearms My only guess that I haven’t been afflicted with carpel tunnel or some other repetitive stress injury is that I’m either genetically predisposed not get it or I’m not repetitively injuring myself.
My guess is the latter. I don’t think whatever genes prevent repetitive stress injury have had the necessary time to bake. You’ll have check-out my great-great-great-great grandson who will either sport these evolved RSI-friendly genes or a plug in the back of his head. Depends who wins.
A repetitive injury-free lifestyle involves adjustments to habits and environment. The single best habit you can have is a short attention span. Nothing is repetitive when you can’t focus. You think I’m joking and I kind’a am, but my understanding is that much of the RSI issue is that you stay in the same position for long periods of time where the muscles keeping you in said position get angry. This paragraph is five sentences long and I’ve changed position twice.
If you don’t have NADD, well, then you can change your environment and your environment is your desk. Here’s are my favorite desk accessories:
First, the Big Three. Monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Let’s straighten one thing out first. Any tool which is physically betweteen you and your content is worth investing in. Stop worrying about your processor speed or your front-side bus. Focus on nailing the big three, starting with:
Monitor. I’ve been here. A couple of times. Your monitors are your eyes to your content and if you aren’t spending dollars here to get two flat panel monitors then you’re spending your time organizing your content, not surfing it.
Keyboard. I used to be fussy about my keyboard. I’d swear by the Microsoft Natural keyboard, but I’ve been on Apple’s standard keyboard for many years and I don’t have any complaints. Keyboard characteristics that I care about are feel and sound which, oddly, intersect quite a bit. A semi-padded “click” is what I want to feel and hear when I hit the letter R. Too clicky, too hard, or too deep a push and I’m no longer thinking about what I’m writing, I’m thinking how annoying my keyboard has become.
Mouse. Two essentials here. Wireless and shape. I’m using a Microsoft Wireless mouse, which is a mouthful, but it feels natural in my hand. I can’t live without a right click and a scroll wheel and the mouse has both… and a bunch more buttons that I never use.
Regarding Wireless. A good measure of any tool is the average number of times a week you pick it up and throw it across the room. My average for wired mice was once a month. See, your wired mouse doesn’t stay in one region on your desk. It wanders depending on how your sitting in your chair, your posture, and how much coffee you’ve had. Each time I was sitting in odd position on a caffeine induced writing episode, my wired mouse would find that region on the desk that was inaccessible via a wired mouse. I wouldn’t notice that subtle tug the first three times I tried to drag the mouse to the unreachable… or would I? The fourth time I’d yank the thing out of it’s USB and sling it across the room. It’s one thing to have your significant other interrupt The Zone, it’s a other thing to have poorly designed non-sentient piece of crap get in the way.
Speakers or Headphones? I’ve got both and I use them depending on what I’m doing. Right now, I’m cranking Local H and sitting at my desk with my wireless headphones and a terrific glass of Pinot from Nicholson Ranch. If you walked in my office, my headphones are a handy visual clue, “Don’t bother me”. If I’m doing the same thing with speakers, I’m not in the Zone, I’m just filling time. Wireless is also essential for headphones. I’m using Sennheiser’s right now and I’m going to give them a solid B mostly because I’m so happy about not having to replace the busted headphones I kept tossing across the room. With wireless, I still need to fuss with various controls from time to time, but they work perfectly 90% of the time and they never get wrapped around my chair.
Huge Stack of Paper. Do this right now. Go walk to the closest laser printer and grab a healthy stack of paper and plop on a non-intrusive corner of your desk. Why? Because you sometimes need to write things down on paper. I know you’ve got to-do tracking application or maybe you’re using your mail application to get things done. In both cases, you still need paper. The act of writing down a something on a piece of paper gives that something more reality and if you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, well, all the more reason to pilfer some paper. Don’t worry, we’ll make more.
Wander Spots. My desks at work and home have visually interesting places to take mental breaks. A stack of books, a photo… any sort of nerd knick knack that feeds your brain. This is where you stop to reflect on the last thirty seconds of your life. How am I doing? Is this feeling right? Maybe I should take another sip of wine. Ok. Back to work. These frequent mental breaks may sound like a lot of work, but these micro-breaks may very well be the reason I’m not wearing braces on my wrists. I stop. I wander. And I return to what I was doing. Sometimes.
Direction. I’ve been flip-flopping on this for years. Do you face the people who walk in your office or do you show them your back? The argument for the back is that anyone who wants to invade your space not only needs to come into your office, they also need to ask for your attention. My theory is that some small percentage of folks will spend the eighth of a second between when they walk in my office and when they ask for my attention asking themselves, “Do I really need his attention? He looks busy.” If the answer is “No”, we both save time. Whether this is true or not, I recently returned to facing my door because folks were scaring the shit out of me walking in my door, sitting down, and then asking for my attention. WHO IN THE. WELL HI.
Since my return to facing the door, I’ve realized that, as a manager, you’ve gotta face the door. That eighth of a second between when you see someone walk in the door and they say something is invaluable. Are they pissed? Is this important? Are they confused? What hat do I need to wear? All of this analysis goes down before anyone says a thing and that analysis prepares me for whatever has just walked into my space.