E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Tools and Gadgets

Staying Healthy – 11 Ergonomic Tips for Avoiding RSI

Gran Canaria - On the Way to Artenara with Mount Teide in the HorizonOne of the biggest challenges we, knowledge (Web) workers, keep facing over the course of time, as we get more and more heavily involved with knowledge work being carried out through both traditional and emergent collaboration and knowledge sharing tools out there on the Social Web, is the fact that, now more than ever, we need to stay healthy, specially, as we tend to spend plenty of our time in front of a (computer) screen typing away for a good number of hours in our work day. We no longer have a choice at this point, more than anything else, because if we don’t do it for ourselves, no-one else would! It’s our responsibility, to a great extent, that we strive to remain healthy in this 2.0 world as much as we possibly can. Just think of it, what would happen if all of a sudden you end up suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury, a.k.a. RSI, for instance, at the worst timing ever during your current project(s)? Could you afford falling sick for a good number of months while trying to recover? Probably not, right?

Well, this is one of those times where we all need to be very grateful to Charles Hamilton for putting together an amazing set of hints and tips, gathered by Wimsey Cherrington, over at GigaOm‘s WebWorkerDaily11 Ergonomic Tips for Avoiding RSI” that will act as excellent reminders for what we can do actively to help avoid falling into the trap of RSI. The article itself references as well a couple of rather interesting and very helpful entries on this very same topic: “How to Keep Your Wrists Healthy” and “DIY Home and Mobile Office Ergonomics“. Both of them highly recommended reads as well, mainly because of the whole bunch of pragmatic ideas shared across that you can put into practice right away.

It’s been nearly two years since my last blog entry on this important and rather relevant topic of RSI, and since this is also a blog that talks a bit about productivity and, most importantly, how to stay productive, I thought I would spend a few minutes referencing Charles’ article sharing a couple of other tips that have worked with me wonderfully over the course of the last few months. So, to get started let’s go ahead and list those 11 tips that he collected from Wimsey:

  1. Take frequent breaks: Indeed! I already do this with a couple of tips… First, my all time favourite preferred productivity tool to help me stay away from RSI by giving me plenty of reminders throughout the day to take frequent breaks. On the Mac, of course, I am talking about MacBreakZ, which I already blogged about it over two years ago as well. And just recently, another technique that has helped me tremendously with taking frequent breaks, regardless of what I am doing, is The Pomodoro Technique, where I have got it set up to give me a 5 minute break every 25 minutes of a particular task I may be doing. So far combining both of these tips has proved to be rather successful altogether, so if you are looking for a couple of options to help you take more frequent breaks you could have a look into those. They have worked wonders with me so far!
  2. Relax: No brainer, I know, but how many of us do that during the course of the week? Read further on the tip to see what I mean…
  3. Exercise: Charles shares a link to these wonderful exercises worth while having a look at, but I have also read just recently how activities like walking your dog, or, better said, asking your dog to take you for a long walk, can be very effective as well in your overall fitness program(s). Yes, indeed, I can vouch that one works, too!
  4. Keep your feet comfortable: i didn’t realise about the importance of this one, but it surely does make sense. We need to be aware as to where our feet are while sitting in front of the computer for so long!
  5. Position yourself for comfort: Nothing more to add to that one, I am afraid.
  6. Lose the back pocket: I never had to worry about this one, but good to know, just in case!
  7. Find the right keyboard and mouse: I have never used an external mouse, but ever since I was introduced to the TouchPad from MacBook Pros, and now with MacBook Air, I haven’t been back ever since and the native keyboard on the MBAir is working really well with me so far.
  8. Use a stand for your laptop or tablet: Check! For both the MBAir and for the iPad; so much better to work with anyway, specially, since I can fall back into natural postures versus having to curve my body unnecessarily.
  9. Check your eyeglass prescription: our eyes are critical for our work, so the better we look after them, the better we will be eventually.
  10. Look for ergonomic hotel space: As a road warrior, one of the things I have built a good habit of is to take breaks even more frequently in this scenario of working remotely, more than anything else because those ergonomics are really lacking and taking breaks and going for long walks helps make up for that lack of a better workspace. Thank goodness it’s just temporary. Important to go back to the usual routines when coming back!
  11. Get regular tune-ups: This is going along the lines of what I have been saying to myself as well for a while; as soon as it starts “hurting” a bit, even the slightest discomfort, time to stop and check with the specialists. They know better than you do.

As you may have seen above, lots of great tips shared across by both Wimsey and Charles. Read further their article as you are bound to find plenty more golden nuggets. For now, I would want to leave you folks with a couple of extra bonus tips on a couple of other Productivity Tools that I make use of quite heavily and which I have found incredibly helpful over the course of months. The first one is called TextExpander, where I have been capable of building up a whole bunch of macros that I run constantly that help me save lots of typing for repetitive sentences, phrases, common URLs, long pieces of the same text that you know you need to copy and paste all over the place, like online forms, etc. etc. According to TextExpander’s statistics so far I have saved over 155k characters! Yes, I know! That’s a lot of typing saved right there with just a couple of key strokes here and there! One of those essential applications every writer should have at their desktops! Oh, and there are versions of it as well for both iPhone and iPad, too! :)

And, finally, the last productivity tip for this blog entry that will surely help you decrease, substantially, the amount of time we all spend typing away in front of computers. It’s one that’s taken me quite a bit of time to get used to and master, but once I have managed to make it through it’s a huge time saver when you need to type large amounts of text. Of course, I am talking about MacSpeech Dictate, now rebranded to Dragon Dictate for Mac, which, basically, allows you to use natural speech to “talk to the computer” and have all of those words written down for you in a breeze and amazingly accurate, although, like I said, it took me a while to figure out what accent I would be using within the application itself, which I thought was just too funny, as a non-native English speaker! hehe

Either way, while reading this blog post I am sure you may be wondering that taking care of your health to help avoid RSI with some of the tools I have mentioned above is perhaps a little bit of an expensive treat, and probably I would have to agree with you on that, but then again, think how much more expensive it could well be, if you don’t invest in providing yourself with the tooling, techniques, hints and tips and whatever other tricks to stay healthy and avoid further trouble. I think I am going to stick around with these, don’t you think?

What other tips have you been employing over the course of time to help you avoid RSI? I am always willing to learn more useful tips and further advice on such an important topic! Would love to hear from you all in the comments!

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My Top 5 iPhone Apps of the Week – Week #1

My Top 5 iPhone Apps of the Week - Week #1 I guess that with 47 million iPhones sold throughout 2010 and with 20 million plus already expected for Q1 in 2011 there is very little I would probably need to add about the tremendous impact of the iPhone within the smartphone market, whether for business or for personal use. Or both. So earlier on this year, around mid-summer, and after having waited for a couple of years, I, finally, took the chance to upgrade my good old 3G iPhone and get back on track with things with the iPhone 4. Thus, I got my hands on one. Yes, the very same one that dealt with the antennagate, which I never saw, nor experienced, by the way, in the nearly six months I have been using it extensively all over the place, including abroad. And counting … Certainly, one of the major gadget highlights for me for 2010, specially, since it allowed me to reacquaint myself with that good old concept of smart mobility without continuing to have that feeling I have been missing something for a while…

And so far the experience has been phenomenal, to say the least! It’s helped me get reacquainted with a good bunch of the iPhone Apps I fell in love in the first place when the iPhone 3G was still usable, plus a whole bunch of new ones that have come along rather nicely in the last few months. So when I resumed my blogging activities after a rather long hiatus not long ago I mentioned over here how, very soon, I would also be opening up a new series of blog posts, pretty similar to the My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week, but instead of just sharing my favourite iPad Apps, I would also start sharing my iPhone Apps, with pretty much the very same flow, including the iPhone Game of the Week. That way folks, who may be interested in learning what interesting and rather helpful Apps there may be out there that I have been using lately, would have an opportunity to check them out themselves as well.

At the same time, and just like for the iPad Apps, it would give me an opportunity to create a record, an archive, of the ones I have been sharing already over at Twitter, under the same hash tag: #elsuapps before they all disappear into thin air, like it’s happened in the past. Now, I do realise how this series of blog posts are actually going to be much shorter than the iPad Apps ones and, eventually, I wouldn’t be surprise if both series of entries would merge into a single one as the reach and impact of the iPad become more and more apparent and we can move in right into what matters: sharing the odd tips here and there on really helpful Apps that perhaps you should not miss out. Nor me! Because, as usual, I would want to also welcome folks to leave in the comments section their favourite picks, tips and suggestions of Apps I should give a try as well and eventually incorporate into #elsuapps at some point in time…

Thus without much further ado, and hoping you would find this series of shorter posts on iPhone Apps somewhat helpful, here we go with My Top 5 iPhone Apps of the Week – Week #1:

  • Instagram: Yes, indeed, I am a visual human being, a visual learner, and, while on the move, Instagram is one of the latest mobile social networking tools I have joined just recently and I am finding it an absolute delight to, back again, enjoy fully both moblogging and photoblogging the way they should have been from the start: fun, fun, fun! Perhaps even what Flickr Mobile should have been altogether, from the start… My username in there is the usual one as it is everywhere else (i.e. elsua) and I guess to try to describe it is probably going to remain a challenge, so I would advise you to check out the picture I shared below a couple of days ago and which will probably describe pretty well the overall experience! Go ahead and give it a try and feel free to reach out across and start sharing some of those amazing pictures with your mobile social networks!
  • WhatsApp: If you happen to live in a country with the most expensive rates for SMS in Europe, you would probably be very very helpful for this rather nifty iPhone App, like I am, since I happen to live in such a country where the SMS fees are the most expensive in Europe by far, and if you go abroad and send an SMS msg., it’s even worse (Thank you very much, Movistar!). Like I said, if you want to stop sending SMS messages altogether, but still keep in touch with colleagues, friends and relatives, specially, in these times, without spending a penny more than what you would if you were to send an SMS from abroad with my mobile provider, WhatsApp is an essential, must-have, can’t-miss-out App. Period. Nothing else to add further other than being very grateful to the developers for helping us all save tons of money and still keep in touch with everyone!
  • Viber: You may have recently seen, or experienced, the issues Skype had with a rather long outage that took the service down for a good number of hours and back then you were probably already wondering about what potential alternatives you may have out there, right? Well, on the iPhone, there are several of them out there, but my favourite one so far, and way ahead of the curve from most of the others, is Viber. Have a look into this YouTube video to see how it works and go and install it right away! Another good, helpful way of reducing your mobile phone costs. Oh, and just like the short video clip states, it works!

  • Dragon Dictation: If you are already familiar with voice recognition software, you would know there are plenty of really good options out there for most operating systems; my favourite on the Mac has been, all along, MacSpeech Dictate (Which has been recently re-branded as Dragon Dictate for Mac), so when I first heard that Dragon Dictation was becoming available as well outside of the US I just couldn’t help bounce up and down sharing the excitement; this was one of those iPhone Apps I have been looking forward to for months and, finally!, it was available to us all! And, boy, does it work beautifully?!?! It surely does! If you are tried of typing or you just want to capture that quick thought, while on the go, Dragon Dictation is all you need! Another, must-have, essential App for your iPhone!
  • Bayo Bongo: And, finally, here we go with the final iPhone App for this time around, which happens to be the iPhone Game of the Week. This time around dedicated to one of my favourites, Bayo Bongo. It may seem an easy to play game at the beginning, but, to be honest, as you move forward to higher levels you will experience what it is like multi-touching on such a tiny screen as the iPhone’s, just to keep up with the game itself! Fantastic, addictive and rather immersive altogether! Oh, and here is another tip, there is an iPad version for it, too! And goodness! It changes the whole game altogether on how you can interact with both hands as an amazingly fun game to experience. Highly recommended!

And that’s it, folks, for this time around! Hope you get to enjoy some of those various iPhone Apps mentioned above and stay tuned for upcoming blog posts where I will continue with the series of #elsuapps for the iPhone. Oh, and don’t forget to share your favourite picks in the comments as well!

Gran Canaria - Christmas in Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

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My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week – Week #9

My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week - Week #9As we keep witnessing how the iPad is entering a whole bunch of new markets for tablets that perhaps never thought they would be making it that far, while being taken by storm by the iPad itself like they are at the moment, here I am, once again, ready to go and share with you folks the next blog post from the series of My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week, this time around with Week #9. First though I would want to share with you folks a couple of rather helpful articles you may want to check out, specially, if you are a librarian or perhaps an English language teacher. They are just basically a couple of articles with plenty of helpful tips and recommendations on Apps to check out, specially for those two groups, which I am sure is going to keep you all busy for a while. To name: “40 iPad Apps That Librarians Love” and “iPad Apps for English Language Teachers“, respectively. And now that we are over with that short introduction, let me recommend you as well to read one of those posts a good friend of mine put together just recently and that sounds incredibly scary as to how well he has described not only his own iPad experience so far, but mine, too! Check out Jim Worth‘s “What’s so special about the iPad“… Yes, indeed, that’s exactly how I feel about it myself: special!

Some of Jim’s thoughts on what appeals to him about the iPad would also be very true for me: the always Instant On, the All Day Battery Life, the Portability, the Continuous and Free Software Updates, the Social Web, the Video and Audio Capabilities and, of course, the games, the brilliant games that I have been playing there now for a few months and that helped my gamer self resurface once again from the good old times! However, there are still plenty of other things for which I *heart* my iPad experience and very shortly I will be putting together another blog entry where I will try to cover the main reasons as to why I gave in a few months back, bought my iPad, while in the US, and haven’t walked back ever since!

The always inspiring Paul Gillin already hints some of the topics I will be covering as well in that upcoming blog post in a recent entry he wrote under the title “Age of the Tablet Has Begun“, which, I am sure you would agree with me, has got a very suggestive title of what’s to come in the new year we are approaching fast and furious. Indeed, Paul is just basically detailing how he feels the iPad, and other upcoming tablets, whenever they come out!, are going to change the whole concept of mobility and portability, even beyond that one of ultra-portable devices like netbooks or the MacBook Air, to name a couple. And I think he is absolutely right and spot on on that one, since the last couple of months, while I have been on the road myself in various different business trips, I, too, have experienced what it is like just relying on my iPad while presenting to customers, or being immersed in workshops, attending & presenting at conference events, etc. etc. and just having to rely effectively on my iPad alone.

To name a couple of very simple and straight forward benefits, which I will touch base on at a later time on that other upcoming post, from carrying an iPad for your business travelling, as an starting point, is that both my shoulders and my back are incredibly grateful they no longer have to carry that extra bag which weighs a few extra pounds, more than probably necessary ; instead I just have to carry with me my iPad in its light case and off we go. Instant access, wherever I may well be, ready to work and catch up with things under whatever the circumstances, scenarios and whatever other contexts. The other benefit is that my wrists are rather grateful, too! Mainly, because I am no longer spending so much time in front of the Mac typing away, but instead I am much more mobile, changing work places on a rather regular basis and finding those lovely breaks one can use here and there to give those wrists a well deserved break. Something that while using the Mac I keep skipping time and time again, for whatever the reason…

Like I said, there are several other reasons as to why the iPad is probably that particular device that has changed, the most substantially over the last 6 months!, the way I interact with my own working environment, whether behind the firewall or outside. It’s that device that has certainly brought back a level of comfort that I felt I was losing time and time again when having to spend too much time in front of the Mac itself. Now I can still keep up and have that mobility I once thought I lost it for good!

But you will find out plenty more about the rest of the other benefits I am getting from my own iPad experience in that upcoming post. For now though, I am going to go ahead with the usual sharing of the “My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week“, this time around for Week #9 picking up those Top 5 iPad Apps from the ones I keep sharing every so often over at my Twitter acount under the hash tag #elsuapps. So if you would want to see which ones I am sharing on a daily basis, you may want to subscribe to the Twitter feed from that hash tag. As usual, this set of recommendations helps me in two different areas: first, as a way for me to recommend some of the iPad Apps I have been enjoying quite a bit as of late, as more and more of my friends and colleagues are purchasing their iPads and want to know which ones I have been enjoying the most and, secondly, a method for me to remember and capture them over here in my own blog, since Twitter doesn’t want to do a proper job at it, at least, for now. In a way, it’s like my own Personal Knowledge Sharing iPad tips!

As usual, I will be recommending 5 different Apps, one of which is the iPad Game of the Week and the others are Apps I keep using on a regular basis for a bunch of tasks and activities, both for work and for personal use. I will also try to keep the reasons why I am recommending them a bit short and include the link to them in iTunes, so you can have a look into them right away and without delay, should you be interested in any of them. And, as always, if you would have any other iPad apps you yourself would want to recommend, share them across in the comments section, and I will incorporate them into future posts as well. The more, the better!

Thus without much further ado, let’s go with the recommendations for Week #9:

  • XpenseTracker – (Expense Tracker & Mileage Log): This is one of my favourite iPad Apps to keep track of expenses, both personal and work related, specially, for when I am in the road and need to keep track of them in order to declare them at a later time, for the work ones, and to keep an eye on things for the personal ones. It’s just as good as it gets, in my opinion, more than anything else because it allows you to get the job done easily and, most importantly, export it elsewhere for easier processing while handling those expenses. A must-have for those travel warriors out there!
  • Slide by Slide: My good friend Stu McIntyre recommended this one a little while ago over at the This Week In Lotus podcast as perhaps one of the most powerful iPad Apps to view, digest and share across presentations stored in one of our favourite Web 2.0 tools available out there: Slideshare and after having used it myself for a little while now I can confirm it just rocks!! It’s my default viewer for Slideshare decks at the moment and the ease of use it has along with the lack of ads surely makes it a treat working with it, specially when you are hunting down for ideas and other thoughts to reuse for your upcoming presentations! Very very helpful!
  • All-IN-1 Battery HD: Yes, I know! Even though the battery of the iPad can last from anything between 10 to 13 hours, I still like to have a little App that helps me stay informed about the status of the battery, hours I got left for various activities and how to fine tune things better, to, even get better results! Well, that is exactly what All-IN-1 Battery HD does for you and although there are a bunch of other related iPad Apps, this is probably one of the best out there! Oh, and it has a lovely Weather widget you can use at the same time! hehe

  • Google Earth: At this point in time, there is probably very little that I would need to add about Google Earth that may not have been said yet about it, but if I can add my ¢2 I could probably say that the experience in an iPad is fantastic! Having that ability to check out places, while on the move, to see where you are going, what you need to do, places to check, people to meet in places you never heard about, show everyone where you live or where you work in a way they, too, can interact with it at the same time as you are, is just priceless! It’s just like having that wonderful thing we call World right at your fingertips! Amazing! This is one of those Apps I really enjoy using with people who have never used the Web, nor are they interested in it. Yes, I know, there are still plenty of people out there in that realm and they all *love* the Google Earth iPad App… I can’t blame them for it. I do, too! 

  • Fieldrunners for iPad: And, finally, the iPad Game of the Week, which in this case comes directly from the iPhone, where I first fell in love with Fieldrunners; it’s a rather simple game with a rather concrete plot, but, boy, does it get addictive the more you play it and the game develops further! I can guarantee you that you will be spending a bunch of hours playing this fun game and don’t get bored with it! And the music is rather catchy, too! hehe

And that’s it for today, folks! Very soon I will be putting together the next one which will make Week #10 of My Top 5 iPad Apps of the Week. Stay tuned for that one to come up! For now, I would want to wrap up this blog entry by reminding folks to check the blog post for Week #8, where I shared the tip about AppShopper, which given the time of the year we are in, is a must have, an essential iPad App to have, to catch all of the best deals and sales offers that most Apps are already offering during the holiday period. You may want to give it a go and see what you find! Some of the gems I have bumped into over the last week or so I have got them for almost no money just waiting for the bargains to kick in! Don’t miss out either!

Hope you have enjoyed this blog post, just as much as I am enjoying it myself with all of these iPad Apps and I surely look forward to reading your recommendations in the comments! Keep having fun with your iPads! :-)

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