Ergonomics Made Easy Blog

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Tips for Boosting Productivity: Part 1

Thursday January 26, 2012

Tips for Productivity

I love being productive and getting things done, whether at home or for work.  I thrive on being efficient and staying on top of things before they get out of control.  However, as much as I naturally love efficiency and productivity, I still have those days {or weeks} in which I just can't find my groove...or stay in it longer than half an hour.  I felt this way as a teacher and I feel it now as a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom of three.  I am often conflicted with how to divide my time between work and parenting, which is why being as efficient as possible is crucial for staying sane and keeping all the balls in the air.

Thus, I have come up with 3 steps for boosting productivity that I think are somewhat obvious, but still quite helpful.

Step 1: Getting rid of distractions

Distractions are a real time suck, as their name implies.  Whether it's noisy co-workers, neighbors, or even your own children {like my daughter asking me right now if I'm choosing to ignore her?}, these distractions interrupt our train of thought and therefore stifle creative thought as we struggle to wrangle our minds back into gear.

So, for those of you who work from home, I can’t emphasize how important it is to set up good boundaries for actually getting work done at home so you still have a place to work and place to relax at home.   For work, it's important to have a good home officewhite noise, and general organization.

Once you've protected yourself as much as possible from distraction, you have to discipline yourself to use your time well.  What do you do if you are fresh out of ideas?  Or if you have a great one but can't develop it due to other commitments?  This is where step 2 comes in to play.

Step 2: Getting rid of writer’s (worker’s) block

So, here are few tips for breaking the barrier when you’re staring at a blank screen:
  • Sit and think for 10 minutes.  Seriously, before you give yourself (another) break, try to come up with a starting point.  It’s not that I don’t value breaks- in fact I have a lot due to the nature of my work day and kids.  However, I think it’s easy to procrastinate by allowing yourself too many.
  • Make a list of things that need to get done and start doing them- it may be that you have a break-through as you make the list or start checking things off.  Sometimes, the feeling of accomplishment is enough to get your mind going.
  • If you’re writing, do a google search and see what others have written.  Sometimes this is good fodder for a new idea or a response to someone else’s.  I find that I write best {i.e. not plagiarize} if I read an article and then close it, whether I agree with it or not.
  • Since I do work from home and also have small children still at home, I don’t work 9-5.  So, I have a couple hours a couple times a day.  I push it hard while I have the peace and quiet to do it, then when I’m on with the kids, I keep a pad and paper by me so I can jot down any ideas that come to mind.  That way, I’m not working while the kids are around and I also don’t lose an idea.
  • Take breaks.  See, I do value breaks.  I just think they need to be earned.
  • Frequently, I work on an idea in the back of my head…maybe it’s a real life experience, maybe it’s not, but either way, I find that my best ideas come when I am not technically working.  I usually mull them over in the back of my mind as I wash dishes {we live in the UK- no dishwasher, so there’s lots of that} or pick up toys or even play with the kids.  Then, I either work on it the next chance I get, or I at least write it down so I don’t forget.
If you're struggling to be productive, rework your work space for minimal distractions, then discipline yourself to actually work.  Be sure to check back next time for Part 2!

Posted in children , productivity , sound machines , Uncategorized , white noise , working from home | Make a Comment

Taking Care of Wrist Pain By Day & By Night

Tuesday January 24, 2012


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been around awhile, but is being reported more and more frequently as our computer usage goes up.  Not only do we type, text, and mouse all day at work, we do it on the way to work, on the way home, and at home for personal time.  Plus, possibly quite unaware of it, we strain our wrists as we sleep.  If you don't believe it, pay attention tonight as you position yourself to fall asleep.  Check out all the crazy positions you try out as you attempt to find the perfect sleep spot.  Often, we prop ourselves on our sides by our wrist(s) or just fold them funny as we tuck in.  Thus, our poor wrists never catch a break- not even at rest time!  This problem is only worsened with pregnant women, who are already swollen and have a fairly high chance of experiencing CTS during their pregnancies.  Pregnant women are known for interesting sleep positions, so they, too, stress out their wrists as they toss and turn throughout the night.

It may seem as if CTS is an inevitable part of a computer-users' life.  Fortunately, that is not true.  First, be on the look-out for the symptoms: pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in any part of your hand, wrist, or fingers.  Next, check out the following habit and posture changes you should make immediately.

  • Correct your posture.  You may not realize that there is proper and improper hand and wrist positioning.  Essentially, DON'T bend or cock your wrists.  DO everything you can to avoid cocking or bending of your wrists.  If you feel pain as you are typing, texting, or mousing, stop what you are doing and re-position yourself.

  • Try ergonomic products.  In particular, an ergonomic keyboard is designed to better your hands, while an ergonomic mouse makes mousing more natural and less straining for your wrists.  Regardless of what keyboard and mouse you're using, be sure to keep them side-by-side and on the same surface to reduce movement and therefore injury.  So, lastly, a keyboard tray will store both and at a lower spot so your arms, wrists, and hands can work more comfortably.
  • Wear a wrist splint. If you're already experiencing wrist pain, one of the trouble spots is night time.  So often, we flex our wrists and sleep with them in quite odd positions, never even aware of it.  Thus, wearing a wrist splint at night time can protect you from doing more harm.

Using an ergonomic keyboard and ergonomic mouse at work and wearing a wrist splint at night can greatly reduce wrist pain and injury so you can keep working without excessive pain.

Posted in carpal tunnel syndrome , ergonomic keyboards , hand pain , repetitive strain injury (RSI) , wrist pain , wrist pain , wrist splint | Make a Comment

The Many Benefits of an Adjustable Height Desk

Thursday January 19, 2012

Medical experts are telling us that sitting is literally killing us... Sitting is killing you Via: Medical Billing And Coding 

Just in case those numbers didn't grab you, let's sum up:

  • sitting more than 6+ hours a day increases risk of death up to 40%...even if you exercise!!
  • obese people tend to sit between 2 and 3 hours more than thinner folks {obesity has doubled 20 years...the same years that internet and gaming exploded}
  • chewing gum burns more calories than sitting
  • people who sit for work have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than those who stand for work
Essentially, what they're saying is that sitting is not only not neutral, it is quite detrimental to your health.  Additionally, matching your sitting with other forms of doing, even exercising, does not counter-act the effects of too much sitting overall.  Basically, you just need to sit less.  Ergonomic experts have been saying the same thing for years- sitting is killer on your back, neck, and shoulders, when done for too long.  They may not get quite so dramatic, but they're on the same page.

So, what's a desk worker to do?  It's one thing to be an athlete and sit less, and quite another to have a computer-based job that seems to require a lot of sitting. How do you complete your job and manage to sit less???

Enter the adjustable height desk.   I seriously love the idea of a sit or stand desk- I figure if my children have the option to sit or stand when being strolled, I should have the same option when working.    The concept is the same- you can choose when to sit or when to stand.  The work surface literally adjusts height with the flick of a wrist- you don't even have to get whiny first. As an added bonus, those who have tried this kind of desk have reported passionately about the results: ewer back problems, better team collaboration, better circulation, and since they're all alive, sustained life, too. 

Medical experts tell us that sitting is killing us.  Your back already knows this- why not try an adjustable height desk?   

Posted in adjustability , adjustable height desks , back pain | Make a Comment

Free Tips, Tools, & Resources for Boosting Your Productivity

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Productivity Boosters

Getting it all done, and on time, has become increasingly more complicated and therefore challenging.  With the advent of great new technology {I shiver when I think of the pine system of email I logged into for college just 12 years ago} comes a new era of distractions.  Besides the typical office noise we all face, we're distracted by our own gadgetry as well. While I love being productive and crossing tasks off my to-do list, I can always tell when I'm in a mood for distraction by how frequently I refresh my email, Pinterest, blog stats, or Facebook.  I don't think I'm the only one either.  Guarding ourselves from ourselves can be just as difficult as protecting our time from office time sucks, such as seemingly pointless meetings and co-worker chatter.

Thus, in case you are not totally tech-savvy like me {meaning I'm not at all}, here are some productivity boosters you may not be aware of.  I have broken them into several categories: free Firefox add-ons, a free white noise online generator, and some ergonomic products known for efficiency.

First, check out these great Firefox add-ons.

  • LeechBlock: a Firefox add-on that allows you to block sites so you can avoid their distraction.
  • Customize Google: CustomizeGoogle is a Firefox extension that enhance Google search results by adding extra information (like links to Yahoo,, MSN etc) and removing unwanted information (like ads and spam). All features are optional and easily configured.
  • FlashGot: Download all the links, movies and audio clips of a page at the maximum speed with a single click, using the most popular, lightweight and reliable external download managers.
  • StatusBar: View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar - without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing.
  • Flashblock: Flashblock is an extension for the Mozilla, Firefox, and Netscape browsers that takes a pessimistic approach to dealing with Macromedia Flash content on a webpage and blocks ALL Flash content from loading. It then leaves placeholders on the webpage that allow you to click to download and then view the Flash content.
  • URL fixer: URL Fixer is an extension for Mozilla Firefox that corrects typos in URLs that you enter in the address bar. For example, if you type google.con, it will correct it to (asking first, if you enable confirmation).
  • Tab Mix Plus: Tab Mix Plus enhances Firefox's tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager.
  • ScrapBook: Helps you to save Web pages and organize the collection.

And, a final productivity booster for any browser:

Now, take a look at these ergonomic products that maximize on comfort and minimize movement, thus making any workspace more efficient.
  • Ergonomic Mini Keyboard: a smaller, more compact design helps minimize movements for faster typing
  • Ergonomic Mouse:  a handshake grip like this Evoluent mouse offers is much more comfortable and prevents straining; pair it with a slim-lined ergo keyboard that lets you pull it in close, and you have an efficient little typing space!

Finally, be sure to take a look at these productivity tips for mousing and a mini keyboard.

Check out these free productivity add-ons, a free white noise generator, and efficient ergonomic equipment to get a little boost at work.

Posted in ergonomic keyboards , ergonomic mouse , mini keyboard , productivity , Uncategorized , white noise | Make a Comment

The Benefits of a Left-Handed Keyboard for Any User

Thursday January 12, 2012

Hand and wrist pain is a common problem for frequent computer users.  And these days, who isn't?  Even my 5-year-old daughter comes home from kindergarten with computer sheets to help her figure out a keyboard.  I realize she will be using one soon enough, but I am sad to say "figuring out" a keyboard can be fairly challenging.  When I recently had my laptop stolen, I borrowed several different computers from generous friends.  I had a variety of keyboards, none of which were natural fits for me.  Some were tiny, others were ginormous.  Some I had to practically pound to get the keys to respond, while others were pretty touchy.  All in all, I had a very interesting time of trial and error as I got accustomed to each one before thinking through ergonomic keyboards and which ones are best.

There are many ergonomic keyboards to choose from.  Just to shake thing sup a bit, I'd like to look at the left-handed keyboard and how it can benefit any user, even righties.

Ergonomic comfort

Left handed keyboard mouse placement comparisonPart of ergonomic comfort is keeping neutral typing posture, where you keep your muscles and limbs as natural as possible and as relaxed as possible.  This is where left handed keyboards come in.  They have standard QWERTY keyboard set-up, with the number pad on the left side instead of on the right.  This allows you to pull in your mouse closer to the keyboard- see the image.  This minor change reduces the strain caused by reaching out for your mouse.  By keeping your arms closer to your body, you will lessen the strain in your arms and shoulders. A left-handed keyboard lets you move your mouse closer where your key pad would have been, making your typing more ergonomic and more comfortable, whether left- or right-handed.

Increased productivity and efficiency

A left-handed ergonomic keyboard, like all ergonomic keyboards, is designed to minimize effort while type, making every keystroke more efficient. But the left-handed design can further increase your productivity by allowing you to multi-task with your hands. For example, instead of moving back and forth between your number pad and mouse during spreadsheet data entry, you can use the number pad with your left hand and the mouse with your right hand.  Gamers also benefit from using the number pad and the mouse on your right simultaneously when game function requires concurrent actions.

In recent years, left handed keyboard have increased in popularity with right handed users because of the benefits they provide. The ability to use the mouse and the number pad at the same time can increase your productivity and efficiency on the computer. And as with all ergonomic keyboard they also provide better comfort and ergonomic protection.

Posted in ergonomic keyboards , left-handed keyboard | Make a Comment