I've been computering daily for 24 years, since I was 9, and managing RSI since high school. People often ask how it never gets bad. This is the article I always wish I had written.
Ergonomic keyboards and doodads help but they're mostly a gimmick. You can make anything ergonomic if you use it right.
My approach requires no gadgets, although they help. No wrist braces, warmers, or weird exercises, although they help.
My approach requires something far harder: Better habits.
The tools and gadgets make it easier to improve your habits. Force you to improve them. But you can use these techniques on any keyboard and any mouse.
I regularly use them with a tiny iPad keyboard for example.
The basic principles are:
- Your wrists were made to support weight only on the axis going through your forearm
- Your wrists were not designed for constant tiny movements
- Your hands and fingers are not good at clutching things for extended periods of time
You'll notice every ergonomic doodad is designed to help you minimize wrist movement. Ergonomic keyboards discourage flicking your wrist, braces stabilize or immobilize it, vertical mice encourage moving from your elbow.
Try making a fist like you're holding a stick. Now bend the wrist around. Feels weird right?
That's what a vertical mouse does.
What this means in practice:
- Float your wrists like a pianist
- When you aren't typing, rest your hands on your palm, not your wrist
- Move your arms from the elbow or shoulder
- No flicking wrist motions
- Rest your hand on the mouse, no clutching – a good test is "Can you mouse with your pinky and thumb in the air"
- Increase mouse sensitivity so you can reach the whole screen by gently moving your elbow/shoulder, with no movement in your wrist or fingers
- Keep your wrists stable
- Strengthen your wrists
- Keep your desk and monitor at such a height that you cary weight on your spine, not your shoulders or arms
- Your arms should feel loose
No.9 is a recent addition to my arsenal. I started getting RSI in the front of my shoulders from leaning on my desk.
Loose arms come from motorcycling. I'll let Fast Eddie explain
Your hands are important, take good care of them. ✌️
I write articles with real insight into the career and skills of a modern software engineer. "Raw and honest from the heart!" as one reader described them. Fueled by lessons learned over 20 years of building production code for side-projects, small businesses, and hyper growth startups. Both successful and not.
Subscribe below 👇
Join Swizec's Newsletter and get insightful emails 💌 on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career. Real lessons from building production software. No bullshit.
"Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only newsletter I open and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. 👌"
Senior Mindset Book
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companiesLearn more
Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev
Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization
Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog
By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️