As writers, we sometimes get so absorbed in our work that we forget to take care of ourselves. Writing, like other desk-based work, has its own hidden dangers. These risks include eyestrain, back pain, headaches, and the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
For me, one of the best things about working from home is that I can set my own schedule. When I worked in an office my coworkers would give me the side eye if I stood up while I worked. Never mind what would happen if I took a five-minute break to do a little 90’s style Running Man!
As long as I meet my deadlines, I am free to structure my day in a way that allows me to feel healthier.
Health Challenges Writers Face
We all know we need to arrange our work area in an ergonomically-friendly way. I admit I sometimes fall short since I work using my laptop and frequently move between the floor, my table, my desk, the sofa and a nearby park. However, the change of scene breaks up the day and gets me moving.
As a writer, I know I feel better if I squeeze movement in throughout the day and if I give my eyes a break from staring at the computer. The following is not medical advice, the ideas are just to help us find our own ways to take care of ourselves while we write.
Tips To Fit More Movement In The Day Without Losing Productivity
Have you heard that “sitting is the new smoking?” That expression has become cliche ever since the news media reported numerous studies that found a correlation between hours spent sitting and heart disease even among people who exercise for 30 minutes a day.
For example, a 2010 the University of South Carolina study published in “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise” where researchers calculated how much time 7744 men spent doing sedentary activities like working at their desk, driving, and watching television during the early 1980s.
They followed up decades later and found that the men who spent more than 23 hours a week sedentary had a 64% higher risk of dying of heart disease. This study caused waves since the typical workweek is much longer than 23 hours!
One perk we have as writers is we can choose when and how we structure our work. We have the freedom to fit more movement into our day without compromising productivity.
How To Fit More Activity Into Your Day
- Consider setting up a standing desk or active work station. I don’t have the space for a fancy treadmill desk, but I have a bistro-height dining room table that is the perfect height for a standing workstation.
- Simulate an active commute. I don’t know about you but I always feel refreshed after a brisk walk. A 2014 British study found that adults who walk or cycle to work reported better well being compared to those who drove. Sandwiching your workday with moderate activity like walking could provide a similar benefit.
- Use your tech. Voice dictation phone apps offer us the opportunity to move around while making notes or drafting an initial draft. At first, voice assistants like Siri can be frustrating, but I found over time they learn my speech patterns and become more active. One of my most productive summers was when I walked to the public swimming pool and dictated pitch ideas and drafts through Siri during my walk.
- Employ the use of a focus timer. These apps are simple they prompt you to focus on a task for a specific period of time followed by a short break. One popular option is a Pomodoro timer which uses 25 minute focus periods. During the break periods, move around and give your eyes a break too.
The 20-20-20 Technique to Relieve Computer Eye Strain
Eye strain is another problem associated with spending hours at the computer. I discovered this firsthand when I visited my optometrist with concerns about headaches, dry eye, and eye twitching.
Apparently, I get so absorbed in my work that I forget to blink while I stare at my monitor. My eye doctor suggested I try the 20-20-20 technique recommended by the American Optometric Association to help prevent computer vision syndrome. Basically, this involves:
- Give your eyes a twenty-second break every twenty minutes.
- During that break look away from the computer and focus on something at least twenty feet away.
I like to use a modified Pomodoro technique to combine movement breaks with eye breaks.
Writers are, by nature, creative. With a little creativity, we can find our own unique ways to combat the health pitfalls associated with sedentary work. For more tools and ideas for the writer’s lifestyle, visit the WriterAccess blog.
Blogging, marketing, and social media are among Sam S‘s top interests. She transformed her hobby into a content writing career. She studies to keep up with best practices in blogging, social media, SEO, internet communications, WordPress and inbound marketing. She maintains two blogs and contributes guest posts to other blogs. She also manages her own business social media accounts and writes social media content for clients.