Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2005

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"Take a Break"
By John Anderson

Technology is supposed to make juggling multiple tasks and sorting through mountains of information easier, right? Well, it can certainly help you work better and more efficiently, but what is happening to all the free time you are supposedly saving? More often than not, it is filled with more work that you wouldn’t have been able to do without the help of those little electronic timesavers.

Multitasking Madness
Have you ever tried to remember the title of the song you’ve been humming all day but just can’t get it past the tip of your tongue? And then the next day, out of the blue, it just pops right into your head. Your brain is great at working at little things like that in the background while you focus on more important things. It’s what helps us to multitask: stopping work on one thing, working on another and then picking up where you left off. But if you’re juggling too many things, your brain tends to hang on to those extra thoughts, waiting for resolution. This can lead to difficulty concentrating during the day and restless sleep while your mind ponders items to which you never quite got around.

Welcome to the Future
Who would ever have thought the day would come when you could check messages in the car, respond to e-mail while grocery shopping or check the latest stock quotes at the beach? Working in a connected world is often accompanied by the expectation that you are always on-call. But just because you can accomplish just about anything from anywhere doesn’t always mean that you should.

Those gadgets that you rely on require energy to work, and so do you. What happens when your batteries need to be recharged, and how do you keep them from getting drained as quickly next time?

bullet Remove distractions: When concentrating on a task, let the answering machine record messages, close the e-mail window and let the faxes sit in the machine.
bullet Create some boundaries: Use those time-savers for that which they’re intended. If you keep work at work, your family will thank you for it.
bullet Take a break: Take breaks to organize your game plan. You will be able to more effectively use the technology when you are rested.
bullet Not right now: Just because e-mails can travel instantly doesn’t mean that you need to respond to them immediately. Set aside a time or two every day to devote to e-mail replies.
bullet Unplug: Schedule time away from your gadgets. Turn the cell phone off while eating dinner or leave it behind while walking the dog. It will be there when you get back.

Using Your Computer the Healthy Way
We find ourselves stuck behind our desks for nearly the entire work day, which can often stretch longer than we’d prefer. Many of these days are devoted to staring at a PC screen. Here are some tips to help you fight fatigue and stay healthy while using your computer.

 Again, take a break: It is a good idea to get up and walk around at least once an hour and refresh the eye muscles by looking at distant objects as well as those up close. Free software is available that will measure the time you are at your computer and suggest when you should take a break (a kitchen timer works great, too).

 Get a grip: Hold the mouse lightly in the widest part of the hand with fingers resting lightly on the mouse buttons so that a very small movement is needed to click a button. The arm or wrist should be supported on the table or wrist rest, without stiffly extending any fingers as this can lead to muscle strain. If you spend a lot of time using the Internet, you should be aware of alternatives to a traditional keyboard and mouse, such as ergonomic keyboards, voice-recognition systems, trackerballs, handwriting recognition pads, finger pads and “mouse pens”. You should be able to find them all at your local computer store.

bullet Flicker-free screens: Adjust your screen for proper brightness and contrast, and position it to avoid glare from lights or windows. You should be looking down at the screen, with the top of the screen roughly at eye-level.
bullet Wrist rests and tilting keyboards: There are various types of wrist rests available which can take the strain off the wrist when typing at a keyboard.
bullet What you are sitting on: When using a computer, you should be able to sit upright on a chair which gives some back support, keeping your arms roughly horizontal when using a keyboard.
bullet Clear your desk: There should be space on the computer table for the keyboard in front of the monitor and for a wrist rest in front of the keyboard. Keep the monitor well back from the front edge of the table. There should be enough space on the computer table for a mouse mat, a notepad, paperwork and CD-ROMs. A simple document-holder can be attached to the monitor to keep paperwork off the work surface. A cluttered desk may place your hands in awkward positions while trying to use the mouse and keyboard.
bullet Posture is key: Posture is very important. Make sure you are not constantly leaning forward, and keep the chin tucked-in. The back should be supported in an upright position in the chair and the body should face forwards, not twisted sideways.
bullet Electrical safety: Don’t be tempted to add too many extension cables or double-socket adapters to your existing electrical sockets.
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August, 2005

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