As coders, we spend longer and longer periods stuck in front of our screens. Because we love the digital realm so much, we often spend much of our spare time in front of a computer as well. There are a few simple things that you can keep an eye on that will help you stay fresh for longer and help prevent yourself from being burnt out.
Are you Sitting Comfortably?
It almost goes without saying that your chair is possibly the most important part of your working environment. A good office chair will be adjustable and be intending for use while typing (not an executive style chair). Ideally you want to have adjustable seat height, arm height, back angle, seat angle and lumber support. If it has all those options, you will be able to get yourself into a good position to work from. This will help prevent back issues and RSI in your wrists or elbows.
You should also have a clear space under you desk so that you can site either with your legs bent and placed naturally as well as being able to stretch them out for comfort without any obstruction.
How you approach this will partly depend on whether you are using a laptop or a desktop computer. Ideally, the keyboard will sit exactly where your supported arms naturally rest with a mouse to the side. Your screen should be placed at eye level – you shouldn’t be looking up or down as this can cause issues in you neck and upper back. If you are using a laptop, you will have to compromise a little – get the keyboard in the best position that you can and angle the screen so that it points at your face. Also with a laptop, it is advisable to use a mouse rather than the touch pad for extended periods – a mouse is less likely to cause RSI in your wrist.
Getting the ambient lighting right is incredibly important. If you get it wrong, your eyes will become tired much quicker and quite possibly have to continually strain them to focus on your screen. Your programming environment should be well lit, ideally by multiple light sources. The overall lighting level should be a little less bright than your screen – this will help keep your eyes relaxed and focused on your work.
The colour or temperature of your light sources can also effect eye tiredness and energy levels. Softer, warmer colours are more relaxing – but can slow you down. Bright white lights can harsh and tiring. Try to avoid fluorescent tube lights as much as possible – these things are horrible to work under & drain energy levels.
Movement & Blood Flow
We all get tight muscles after long periods of coding – particularly in our shoulders and back. Making sure that you take regular breaks will help keep you joints loose and muscles free. Other than doing a few basic stretches, there are a couple of other things that I have found to help brilliantly with this.
A set of elastic resistance training bands can be used similarly to dumbbells but take up far less room. They can be tucked in your bag or office drawer easily & can really make a huge difference. A few reps of simple dumbbell style exercises with these a couple of times a day will stretch your muscles out and increase the blood flow around your body and to your muscles. You will feel much more relaxed and energized as a result.
Massage balls are another great easy to use option – a set of three that include soft, medium and hard are a great choice. Press them onto your muscles either by hand, or by trapping the ball between a wall/door and your back. Roll them over the muscle to give an incredibly intense and precise massage – this will break down any knotted muscle really quickly and leave you muscles feeling loose and relaxed.
Take Care Of Your Wrists & Eyes
The two things that we need most in order to code are our eyes and our wrists. If you have any issues or niggles with either of these, you should consider what is causing the problem & see if you can adjust the way that you work to improve the situation. Prevention is way better than cure – jump on a problem and get it fixed before it becomes a major issue!
These few simple factors will help you stay fresh and focused for longer – even when you feel tired and drained. Listen to you body as it generally knows what its talking about – don’t ignore anything it tells you as you may life to regret it later!