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

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, Ask.com, 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 google.com (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

Tips for Keeping Warm at Work This Winter

Friday November 11, 2011

A study conducted by Cornell University found that working while cold severely decreases your productivity. When people have cold fingers while typing, they make twice the number of errors and type more than 50% slower. Unfortunately, cold fingers and toes are just a part of winter for many office workers. Try these tips to help keep you warm and productive at work.

Get Up! When you sit for too long, your circulation slows down and your extremities start to cool off; yes, this means cold fingers and toes. Every few minutes wiggle your toes and make a fist with your fingers to raise the blood flow to these extremities. And get out of your seat at least once an hour to walk around for a few minutes.

Decrease your coffee intake! It is so nice and warming to drink hot coffee on a cold day, but caffeine constricts blood vessels decreasing the circulation in your fingers. After your cup or two in the morning, try switching to decaf or an herbal tea.

Try these heated tools. These have to be some of the best winter products ever, and they only use about as much electricity as a light bulb.

  • A heated keyboard – This warming keyboard warms your fingers as you type, resulting in less errors, faster typing and increased productivity. The heating element can be turned off during the summer months, or turned from low heat to high for those extra cold days.
  • A heated footrest – The heated foot rest is a fast, easy way to keep your feet warm at work. Take off your shoes and warm your feet directly on this pad, or tip it up to use it in radial heat mode.
  • A mouse hand warmer pouch – This pouch, or pocket is perfect for keeping your mousing hand warm. Slip your mouse inside and warm your hand whenever you reach for your mouse.

Try these tips for those days when you just can’t keep your fingers and toes warm at work. And check out the available products, such as the heated keyboard or the heated footrest, that can keep you warm and help recover your lost productivity.

Posted in foot rests , heated footrest , heated keyboard , mouse hand warmer , productivity | Make a Comment

Tips for Setting Up an Ergonomic Work Space {even in a small spaces}

Thursday November 10, 2011

One of the most exciting, and admittedly most challenging and even stressful, parts of a new job is getting a new work space.  Granted most of us aren't given the luxury of a corner office, or even an office with a door.  But regardless of what space we have to work with, it's important to set it up as ergonomically as possible so we can decrease possible strain and injuries, while increasing productivity.  There are some basic work station set-up principles that are always true.  That said, here is a list you can check out as you set up your space or as you re-work the space you already have.  Next time, we'll look at an example of a small office and what this worker has done well and what he could improve!

Ergonomic Work Station Set-Up Principles

  • Raise your monitor.  This is an oft-overlooked tip.  Regardless of what kind of computer you're using, be sure the screen is at eye level and roughly 20 inches from your body.  To achieve this, try a monitor lift as a very cheap and easy fix.  Your neck and eyes will thank you as experience less neck pain and strain.
  • Try an adjustable, ergonomic chair.  While it may be quite pricey to buy one, many offices have them if you just ask.  Plus, it may be that your current chair is adjustable.  Be sure to adjust the height, back support, and arm rests.  Your feet should rest flat on the floor, your back should be well-supported {you can even try portable lumbar support}, and your arms should be able to slope slightly downward to reach your keyboard without cocking your wrists.   
  • Ask for a wrist rest.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common office injury and be easily avoided by practicing good wrist positioning.  However, a wrist rest is poorly named- it's really meant to rest the palms of your hands in between periods of typing. 
  • Try an ergonomic keyboard.  There are more options out there than you can imagine, so finding a good fit is just a matter of preference and trying out a couple.  Ergonomic keyboards can be especially helpful as an add-on to your docked lap top.  They are much more comfortable for long periods of typing and can be moved closer to the body while your screen is elevated.
  • Request a document holder.  It's such an easy fix, but elevating notes or documents that you frequently reference truly keeps you from straining your eyes and your neck.  Who likes to go home with a crick in their neck?  
  • Lastly, try a sound machine, or even this free online generator, for fewer distractions.
When you spend a lot of time in an office, it's crucial that you find the right ergonomic fit- that's why we have a great return policy- you can order any number of products, try them out, then return what you don't like as much.  Thus, whether you're a 9-5 cubicle worker, a teacher/professor/lecturer, or a grad student, making ergonomic adjustments can only help you keep your focus and stay productive.  

Posted in adjustability , back support , carpal tunnel syndrome , document holder , ergonomic chair , eyestrain , productivity , Small Spaces , sound machines , Uncategorized , wrist rest | Make a Comment

How Adjustable Hieght Desks Help Your Back, Your Health, & Your Productivity

Tuesday November 8, 2011

Back Pain at Work?

Does your back hurt by the end of the day?  How about after a whole week of work?  By the weekend, you may feel ready to just throw in the towel and lay down.  While constant back pain, soreness, or achiness may seem an inevitable part of having a desk job, the good news is that you're wrong!  Just because you work on a computer and from a desk does not mean that have to suffer from back pain.  In fact, most cases of back pain {other than actual injuries} are due to sitting too much at work.  Again, it may feel that there's not much you can do about too much sitting.  However, there are several ways to reduce the amount of sitting at work.

First, make sure you take breaks to stand up and stretch.  Besides normal break times, try returning phone calls on your feet, too, so you can stretch out your back and give it a break from sitting.  

Next, try an adjustable height ergonomic desk. As you know, an ergonomic desk is designed to fit your and your body comfortably and to house all your essential items within close reach for less strain.  So, an adjustable height desk is one that allows you to change the position of the work surface, and therefore your own position, by raising and lowering it as needed or desired.   

Not sure?  Check out the following benefits of these ergonomic desks:

Comfort

Sitting at a computer all day puts enormous pressure on your back and even your shoulders.  While standing up for breaks and phone calls is a good start, it's ideal if you can maintain a standing position for longer periods of time. A recent study with adjustable height desks at Cornell University reports that most people reported reduced muscle strain when they switched between sitting and standing while at work.  As an added bonus, if you suffer from pain in your neck and shoulders, the flexibility to both sit and stand at your computer can significantly decrease your muscle strain at work.

Productivity

There's a reason kids take afternoon naps.  There's something about a full morning of work and a full belly that makes one quite lethargic, and less productive, in the afternoon.   This after-lunch time is a great time to try out standing at work, which will improve circulation and increase productivity. A study at USC discovered that just standing up can increase brain function by 5% to 20%!

Health

Health experts tell us that too much sitting is linked to cancer.  Rotating between sitting and standing while at work can help provide for better overall health. Medical research has shown that, in general, standing at your job is healthier than sitting. At the University of Missouri a recent study found that standing up can also have a significant impact on weight loss and calorie burning. It may be time to try standing up for part of your work day!

Collaboration

An additional plus to an adjustable height desk is that the standing position makes co-worker collaboration more feasible.  One of the more awkward work moments is having someone bend over your see to see your screen as you work together, or you having to bend over someone else's, especially for sustained work time.  An alternative is to both stand to collaborate and enjoy the benefits of standing together.

With an adjustable height ergonomic desk, one swift move can raise your monitor, keyboard and, in some designs, even your work surface to the perfect standing height.  Standing up for part of your work day can help decrease pain in your back and shoulders and provide better comfort and increased productivity. Try upgrading to an ergonomic desk to enjoy the benefits of being able a sit or stand while working on your computer.

Posted in adjustability , adjustable height desks , back pain , Ergonomic Desks , neck pain , productivity , Uncategorized | Make a Comment