Help in Saving My Hands

Now and then I suffer from RSI (repetitive stress injury), from too much time on the keyboard: my fingers feel stiff and painful, arms and shoulders get tired, and so on. I know I should move around more, type less, etc., but when I’ve got a lot to do, it’s hard to know when to stop.

Now I have something to tell me when to stop: a piece of software called WorkRave, which I started using a few weeks ago. Wow! It really is something to rave about. It’s a well-behaved little utility that sits in the background and monitors your keyboard useage. You set it to remind you to take a break at fixed intervals; I have set “microbreaks” (60 seconds) every 15 minutes, and a ten-minute break every 45. During the longer break it even suggests helpful exercises you can do, though I’m more likely to go for coffee, talk to colleagues (or, if at home, put in a load of laundry, start dinner)…

Prior to installing WorkRave, I had pictured myself as too easily distracted – always jumping up to go to the bathroom, go for coffee, or do household chores. Now I’m surprised at how quickly those 15- and 45-minute chunks fly by. Heeding the reminders to take a break does seem to be helping my hands, too – I feel worse on days when I’ve chosen to Skip or Postpone them too often.

If you spend too much time on the keyboard and your body is letting you know it (or better, before it does), I highly recommend installing WorkRave. And the price is right: it’s open source.

2013: Two years ago I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout, which helped far more than anything else I’ve tried in a long history with RSI.

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