Question: What’s the #1 thing you can do with your computer to overcome RSI? Answer: Tame your time and stop using it!
Here’s how to do just that without giving up your job.

tame your time

What if you’re stuck in a role where you sit at a computer all day, but circumstances mean that you have to stay where you are? Some RSI sufferers may be radical enough to change their job, but for many people, that simply isn’t an option. The answer is to tame your time and stop using your PC.

Of course, I don’t really mean to stop using your PC, not altogether. I do mean that you can stop using it on a regular basis throughout your day. I also mean that you can use it in different ways at different times.

The way to do that is to tame your time. Within that, there are two important, but often overlooked, concepts:

  • Taking breaks
  • Changing tools

By understanding and implementing these concepts, not only will you keep your job, but you will actually be more productive as a result.

Tame Your Time: The #1 Ingredient That Transformed My Life

For me personally, taming my time has been the number one tip for avoiding, overcoming or preventing RSI. It has literally transformed my life.

As I discuss in my Ergonomic Toolbox online course, I’ve tried out pretty much every ergonomic gadget you can think of:

I’ve worked with trackballs, vertical mice, adjustable chairs, one or more movable monitors, mouse mats, wrist rests and typing/spelling/shortcut/clipping programs, and so on. You name it and I’ve tinkered with it, played with it or worked with it (oh, except for ergonomic keyboards).

Many of those gadgets were genuinely helpful and some devices felt like a revelation. However, I’ve found that even the best of them can’t beat good old-fashioned rest.

Regularly taking breaks [link to importance of breaks] and changing up my tools has transformed my life. And you can experience the same thing.

How To Tame Your Time

Repetitive Strain Injuries are caused by *repetition of movement*, so there are two basic strategies we can use to tame your time and decrease that repetition:

  1. Reduce the total number of times you repeat those movements during the day.
  2. Manage the length of time that you continue to repeat the same movement in one work session.

Breaks address the first strategy and changing your tools deals with the second.
Practically, you can achieve this through the following ways:

  • Be clearer about your start and end times. You don’t have to work to rule, but you can work on cutting down on those early mornings and late evenings.
  • Make sure you get the rest you need. Be strong with yourself when you get home. If you’re already in pain or discomfort, then don’t do anything to aggravate things.
  • Take those breaks! Make sure you get a lunch break, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Get away from your desk. Use phone calls and schedule your meetings to break up your computer work.
  • Use break reminder software. It’s all too easy to get lost in a mountain of emails or that important report you have to finish. If you’re using Windows, Workrave is a good, free option.
  • Break up different activity types. Find out the shortcuts and hotkeys for your most used programs. You can swap to the keyboard when your hands and wrists begin to ache from mouse use.
  • Touch type. If you don’t already know how to do this, then learn! Not only is it a valuable skill, which can increase your productivity. It will also help spread the ergonomic pressures across all your fingers, not just one or two.

Tamed Time = Efficient Workers

If you tame your time, you’ll be more efficient.

Studies have shown consistently (see here, here and here for examples) that taking regular breaks makes employees more efficient, not less. So it’s a win – win situation for you and your employer. And don’t forget, if you’re an employer (or self-employed) it applies to you too.
Question: What’s the single biggest thing holding you back from taming your time? Leave your answer in the comments below.
Next time, I’ll be looking at that most evil of computer gadgetry: the (seemingly innocent!) mouse.

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