lessons from traffic school

I recently had the opportunity to sit at my laptop for extended periods of time…okay, I confess: I had to take traffic school. My crime? Turning left out of a parking lot during prohibited hours. I have since noticed the friendly police officer parked across the street from the parking lot many afternoons. Argh!

I’m glad traffic school is offered on-line. It was pretty painless. And I was probably due for a refresher on traffic laws. I think a lot of other Southern CA drivers could stand to be reminded that the maximum freeway speed is technically 65 mph. Of course, it would be extremely dangerous to drive that slowly.

Completing traffic school on-line reminded me of how challenging it is to have good posture when sitting at a computer. I assume most people know the basics of ergonomics by now, so I’ll focus below on other tips:

  • Beware the laptop! First of all, laptops are both good & evil. They give us lots of flexibility (good). You have either the keyboard at a decent height ergonomically or the screen, but not both (bad). So, always be wary of laptops and limit your time at them. Play around with different places to use your laptop. Sometimes I set mine on top of the microwave and type standing up. Move around and don’t get too stagnant.
  • Love your eyes. Eyes and screens are not a match made in heaven. Eyes need a break. So, look away often. Look out at a distance often. Close your eyes and count down from 10 in your favorite language. If you haven’t learned to type without looking at the keyboard, please take the time to learn. You’re likely to be typing on a computer for the rest of your life. If you have screen-addicted children, please teach them to be kind to their eyes too.
  • Stretch your neck. There are a whole host of muscles in the neck and shoulder area I affectionately call the “concentration muscles.” They try to “help” our eyes and brains concentrate on what we’re doing by bringing our heads forward to somehow see better or be more engaged. After a couple of hours (or years!!), we are all out of whack and feel upper back and shoulder strains. Every time you finish a paragraph, tuck your chin and retract your neck by pretending to push something back with your head.
  • Counteract computer posture. We hunch, slouch, and practically stop breathing when we sit at computers for hours on end. So, counteract that regularly and in a number of ways. Take breaks and breathe deeply; your internal organs will thank you. Stretch your chest muscles by standing with your back against the wall, arms up like you’re surrendering, then slide your hands up above your head against the wall. Swim the back stroke once a week.
  • Get a posture buddy. Find someone else at the office or at home to whom you can be mutually accountable for decent posture. Determine in advance how you want to be reminded or encouraged when you’re hopelessly slumped at your desk. Are gentle reminders in a 50’s style mom voice effective for you and your buddy? Perhaps you’re more of a biting sacrasm duo. Find what works and make those endless treks passed each other’s cubicles more worthwhile.

I hope some of these suggestions will help you have better posture next time you take traffic school on-line or surf the web endlessly trying to find the speed limit for city roads (do you know it??). What are some of your favorite strategies for not becoming one with your computer? Post in the comments below.


2 thoughts on “lessons from traffic school

  1. Karen says:

    I sorely needed to read this today as I sit at my computer typing, browsing and of course slouching. My neck gives me constant trouble or rather I give my neck and shoulders constant stress as I have developed bad lap top habits. I sat right up as I read your blog and realized that Luke has been right all along. It is just no good louging on the couch while working. It is just that sitting on the couch and typing while watching a show seems a lot less like work than sitting at the table in the kitchen. At any rate, I now know better after reading your post and the challenge will be if I can change my bad habits.
    Thanks for the good tips and wish me and my neck luck.
    Signing off from kitchen table.

  2. KennyH says:

    My preferred computer usage is from bed, nested into a pile of pillows. I have the keyboard on my lap and the monitor mounted on a big adjustable arm — I can type for hours with nary any fatigue :+)

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