In my first post of the year, I mentioned I’d hurt my wrist last year. In the email I sent to my community, I even said – “more on that later”. I don’t know why I wrote that at the time since the way I hurt myself was pretty uneventful. But, as it turns out, this injury has taught me a lot, and I thought some of it may be helpful to you.
First, let me briefly explain how the injury occurred. No gory details here (because it wasn’t), but if reading about other people’s physical pain makes you queasy, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
I’d just received my new brand guidelines from Michelle, and Lillie had started working on the website. I needed to update my freebies so Lillie could create the Resources page on my site. And so I spent most of that week updating my freebies and a few other things. Then on Thursday, as I was finishing some work for a client, I did what I’d done a thousand times that week (and for the last 3 years): I rotated my wrist (the same movement you’d do to open a jar of crunchy peanut butter) ever so slightly to switch from the touchpad on my laptop to my keyboard. And pain shot through my wrist.
Instead of stopping right then, I kept working, gritting my teeth at every slight wrist movement.
The changes I made
I knew what had caused the injury: the constant switch from the touchpad to the keyboard and back, likely aggravated by my laptop being at a funny angle (as it was on a stand, itself on a book, so the screen would be at the right height).
The obvious change was to have my laptop flat on my desk to avoid the funny angle. But the wrist movement was still painful, so I decided to start using a mouse again. I still had an old mouse from years ago that I’d found when cleaning up the garage over the New Year’s break. I wanted to make sure I liked using a mouse (it’d been 3 years since I last used one) and that it would actually help heal my wrist before I bought a new one. I’ll admit, at first, it felt like I didn’t know how to use a computer anymore, but my wrist felt much better, so I knew I had to stick with the mouse. Eventually, I got the hang of it again.
With the laptop flat on my desk, the screen was too low, and my neck started hurting. I needed to elevate my laptop again – and actually higher than it originally was according to ergonomics – which meant I now needed an external keyboard. Luckily my flatmate had just started a new job, and his company had sent him a keyboard as part of his work-from-home package. Since he didn’t want to use it, I took it. Again, this was to make sure I’d like the new set-up, before buying new equipment I wasn’t sure would solve my problem.
An MRI (that revealed 2 bulging cervical discs) and ultrasound (that showed tenosynovitis) later, I looked into desk ergonomics further. It turns out elbows need to be at a 90° angle with the desk. This wasn’t the case for me, so I needed to be sitting higher, which meant I now needed to use a footrest. I’d used one before in my office job, and I didn’t like it, so I wasn’t ready to buy one. I was willing to give it another try, though, so I used my yoga blocks instead. As expected, I felt very ungrounded and fidgety while sitting at my desk. I couldn’t help myself and kept playing with the blocks with my feet.
I was in a bit of a pickle: these were the proper ergonomics I needed to follow if I didn’t want to hand up with back surgery in a few years (unfortunately, it runs in the family), but they didn’t work for me. What could I do?
My quest for a new desk
The main issue at that stage was the footrest. I couldn’t handle it anymore – I needed my feet firmly on the floor. So, instead of propping myself up, I needed a lower desk. The standard desk is 72 cm high. As a 160 cm (5’3) tall person, I need a desk that is 65 cm high (who knew?). This world isn’t made for short people – and so, of course, desks aren’t either. It’s near impossible to find such a desk.
Although there’s a myriad of height-adjustable desks out there, the issue is most desks only go as low as 72 cm (or thereabout), i.e. to make it a standard desk. I thought maybe kid’s desks could be the answer (since they are small people), but the options were minimal.
I should add here that my options were further limited by the space I have available.
This proved an impossible task. I had to choose what was more important:
- the width of the desk (so it fit neatly in the corner) OR
- the height so I’d have proper ergonomics
The answer was obvious: I needed to move my desk.
This led me to review my notes from Feng Shui courses I’d taken in the past. I realised that the one spot I’d been avoiding may be the perfect position for my desk. Once again, I wanted to try and make sure it would work before buying a new desk that’d be too big for the corner (or any other part of my room). I rearranged my room, and it felt more spacious straight away. I knew this was the right spot, so I put my desk and chair up for sale.
So, what does it have to do with systems?
My original intention in writing this post was to remind you to check your workstation to ensure you take care of your body while you work.
But as I typed, I realised the process I followed to change my work set-up is the same process I follow and recommend to clients when selecting a platform for their business:
- be clear on what you need (I needed my feet to be flat on the ground while still having good ergonomics)
- do your research (desk options)
- try different options before you invest (desk position)
Too often, I see people investing in platforms they don’t need because that’s what their coach or business friends use. They didn’t even try it or do their own research; they signed up and paid for a whole year upfront, only to realise later it wasn’t the right tool for them.
In the same way, I could have bought myself a new chair, a new desk, a footrest, a laptop stand, and whatnot, as all the articles on ergonomics said I should. And I’d have hated it within weeks because it wasn’t for me. Rather, I took the time to research my options and look at what I needed instead of buying into what the world told me I needed (why is a footrest always the choice instead of a lower desk?). I took a step back and tuned in with my needs. And I now have a workstation that I LOVE and is perfect for me.
I’ve actually created a tool to help you through this process – it’s called the Tool Selector, and it’s available in Your Profitable + Scalable Systems Toolkit.