Tips for writing productivity and ergonomics

Is your desk set-up secretly causing aches and pains?

I used to be the go-to person in my last few job positions for health and safety when it came to setting up workstations, specifically the ergonomics. With a massive pool of employees that either worked in customer service, or 2D and 3D animation for film and television, people were sitting at their desks for long periods of time, and frequently complained of back, neck, and shoulder strain… enter my lovely smiling face to visit their work area and help set things up so they could be more comfortable.

The biggest issue around back, neck, and shoulder pain mainly came down to muscle fatigue from prolonged amounts of time in a fixed position. It’s important to get up and move around every 45 min to an hour. In fact, I set a timer when I work to remind me to get up and do something else. Typically, I will spread my chores through the day for these intermissions. It not only gives your body a break from being in a seated position, but also helps reduce eye strain from staring at a fixed depth (of the computer screen) and a reprieve from monitor glare.

The next important issue has to do with posture and placement of the keyboard, monitor, mouse and other regularly used items. Without getting into all the specific angles, I’ll attach a few diagrams for reference. But the best gauge is that your feet are meant to comfortably reach the floor (flat feet,) with no pressure on your thighs, elbows level with, or slightly higher than the desk surface, and your monitor positioned straight in front of you. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should hit around the top of the monitor. Regularly used items (keyboard, mouse, etc) should be easily reachable with your elbows near the sides of your torso. Items used a lesser amount can be placed further back on your desk.

All of this keeps you in a natural seated, and relaxed position, avoiding having to hold your body or limbs in unnatural positions for any extended length of time.

From there you can address if you need lower back (lumbar) support cushions, seat framing to keep your hips even with a shaped cushion, or even a shoulder/back harness to stop you from slouching forward. There are other elements you can use to help set up your workspace, like footrests, laptop stands, a standing desk (you can purchase ones that can convert from seating to standing with the press of a button these days.) Different types of chairs, or the kneeling seats or even the exercise balls instead of a chair to force you to use your core muscles to keep you stabilized. It’s important to find what works best for you to avoid injury from strain, or being frozen in a fixed position for too long.

Of course all hazards and wires are safely stored with cable ties and the like. Ensure you have adequate lighting and try to avoid clutter on your work surface.

I only just gave my workstation an ergonomic assessment as I was finding the number of hours I could work comfortably in a day was reducing… it turns out my monitor was too low and off to the left side, and as the day went on I was hunching over more and more until I started getting a lower back ache or headache. Now that everything has been correctly situated, my productivity is picking up and the niggling pain dissipated.

When I originally organised my home office, I had set it up to be aesthetically pleasing using some gorgeous Pinterest pictures as inspiration. And yes, it looked pretty, but was not necessarily the best functioning. I feel like such a doofus for not thinking about the ergonomics earlier.

How did your workspace fair after reading this information? Do you get eyestrain or back pain from the hours you spend writing… let me know if any of these tips help you.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring Clean Your Office – Spring Clean Your Brain

My workstation was starting to become overgrown with work and novels, and it was hard to concentrate on my writing. However after de-cluttering my work area my concentration was suddenly razor sharp.

Spring Clean Your Office Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I wasn’t getting writers block, just feeling a little stunted and claustrophobic while working due to the piles of books and scattered piles from the many projects currently on the go.

Maybe my biggest problem is tackling too many projects at once – but that is something I’ve always done and not a trait that will ever change, so I simply need to create a space and method to maximise my need to multitask.

That means, a very organised diary, and a bookshelf full of folders.

About once or twice a year the organising gene must slip into remission and everything becomes cluttered. So it becomes time to spring clean…

An added heath benefit means you eliminated dust particles and any possibility for mould to develop (not to mention sneaky little spiders and other insects that love to hide in your papers). I know that makes me sound like a slob, believe me I’m not. It’s just that if I wiped down every book, every bookshelf, moved furniture about to get in the hard to read spots; and wiped over electrical cables… well it would take all day.

Spring Clean Your Office Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe psychological benefits are infinitely better. It creates a sense of a job well done after the effort I expended to beautify my place of work. The elimination of clutter also removes distraction and gives me the room to think.

So last week I undertook the bi-annual declutter event. And the results are as expected – I’m back on the productive train again!

This event has become even more important recently – only because since moving from Melbourne, where I had a custom built workspace and library, to a small cottage while building a new home. My workspace consists of a small table (dominated by a computer) and one small bookshelf. The rest of my bookish belongings are in storage or organised in easy to get to containers and boxes. Believe me, I can’t wait to get a decent sized room again and set up a library.

Sometimes organised chaos works for me, but when I hit a point where I couldn’t type another word because of that claustrophobic sensation, I revel in the task to make the place feel brand new again.

How do you work best when writing? Do you have a clean and clear spot, devoid of distractions; or love the action around you and work in a coffee shop? Do you surround yourself with inspiration or face a blank wall?

I’d love to hear all of your methods to coax prose from your grey matter…

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.