The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laptop lap ban

Since my desktop PC died a couple of months ago, after many years of trusty service, I've been working solely on my laptop until I can afford a new desktop. As a long-term RSI sufferer, I'm very aware of the pitfalls of long-term laptop use; a screen that’s too close and at the wrong height, a keyboard that you inevitably use in the wrong position and that horrible mouse pad which requires awkward, repetitive finger movements. So when I'm at my desk, I use a separate keyboard and graphics tablet (instead of a mouse) and I have my laptop screen propped up so that it’s at eye level and a good arm's length away. So far, so good.

Recently though, my RSI has flared up particularly badly – mainly the result of all the stress and tension caused by the noise from the building work next door and added to that the less-than-ergonomic setup in the office space I'm renting to escape the noise (not my usual comfy chair, desk not quite the right height, fewer opportunities to get up and wander around taking my usual mini breaks). Anyway, my body’s heightened sensitivity to all things ergonomic has made me realise that despite all my efforts to set up my workspace as healthily as possible, I seem to have got into the habit of unplugging everything and taking my laptop downstairs to the living room in the evening. There I sit in a squishy armchair with it on my lap, checking Facebook and e-mail, doing a bit of online shopping or planning my next holiday. Normally, I'd say that's fine if it's just the odd 10 or 20 minutes here and there, but at the moment, I find my mouse hand is cramping and getting painful after just a couple of minutes. Those fiddly little trackpads really are evil!

So I've had to impose a ban on using my laptop away from my desk. And boy is it tough! Unlike many people, I haven't gone down the route of smart phones and tablets, I don't even use my mobile very much, I quite enjoy the idea of being completely off-line when I'm not at my desk. So it was quite a shock to realise how addicted I'd become to my evening armchair surfing. There's always been a point in the evening, usually somewhere around nine o'clock, where I get a craving for chocolate, which I usually satisfy with a square or two of Dairy Milk. And it seems that my mid-evening internet fix has become equally ingrained.

The ban’s been in place now for a couple of weeks and I am mostly sticking to it. It'll be interesting to see, if I keep it up long enough, whether I can kick the habit entirely.

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