Happy Halloween! Today’s topic is particularly spooky for me - I’ll be writing about proper sitting posture.
I think proper posture requires no introduction. We all know that with our lifestyles and workspaces getting increasingly more sedentary, we simply must sit (and stand) correctly to avoid all sorts of health problems when we get older.
I will not lie, proper sitting posture spooks me.
I’ve tried to sit properly many times in the past. But no matter how determined I was that today would be the day I’d sit properly at my desk, I’d always end up finding myself sitting in the worst positions imaginable. It was very frustrating and I gave up many times.
Eventually, I decided that something must be done about it - I was already experiencing some back pain and I knew it would just get worse with time. And I couldn’t just let this problem beat me so easily - if I had to fail, it would only be after many rigorous attempts.
I’ve realized that when I had previously attempted to sit properly, I tried to do so without any system in mind. I was focusing more on how to sit properly, rather than how to set up my environment to encourage consistent proper posture and handle failure.
So this time I’ve focused more on implementing changes in my environment or habits that make sitting properly consistently easier. This blog post details these changes.
I should note that I’m only at the beginning of the journey here - although I’ve noticed my posture getting better, a lot of work still needs to be done.
Elevating the screen
This is arguably the most important change I’ve implemented. If the screen is too low, it forces one to look down at it, which automatically prevents good posture.
This is very common with laptops. Laptops are designed to be small and short, so one has to look down when using them.
If you work with a laptop, I strongly suggest getting a good laptop stand. Because I primarily work on a laptop, a laptop stand is an unforgettable part of my workspace.
My recommendation is to get a laptop stand that is stable, easily foldable (so it can be adjusted to fit any height just by using your hands), and small when it is fully folded (so you can carry it with you anywhere).
Portability is important
In the previous chapter, I emphasized that having a foldable laptop stand that you can carry anywhere is of utmost importance. But I want to emphasize this again because I think it is crucial for people who use laptops.
It’s of no use to have a really good workspace setup at home if 80% of your time is spent working with the laptop away from home.
I am a big believer in portable workspaces. I can fit my entire workspace in my backpack: laptop, laptop stand, keyboard, mouse and wrist rest.
This allows me to be productive and sit properly in any environment, be it at home, in a library or at my parent’s house.
I started using the computer when I was about 12. Back then there was no one around that could show me how to properly use the computer equipment, which resulted in me picking up the hunt-and-peck style of keyboard typing. In this technique, only the index fingers are being used to type, and the keyboard must be looked at to find the right key to hit. Needless to say, this is very slow.
Even though I’ve managed to optimize my hunt-and-peck technique over time to type quite fast, one critical issue remained - looking down at the keyboard while typing. This makes it really hard to maintain proper posture.
To solve this issue, I’ve started practicing touch typing, which is typing with all 10 fingers without looking at the keyboard. This not only improves posture, as there is no more need to look down at the keyboard, but it should also make typing faster (once the technique is mastered).
Learning touch typing after 13 years of poor typing habits is not trivial. My goal was to start practicing the technique outside of work, and then start using it in my work once I felt I was ready. Luckily, I found a website that helped me accomplish just that - keybr.
What I like about keybr is that learning is done on real words from the English language. This is in contrast to the majority of other websites, which seem to teach touch typing by making you type long sequences of repeating characters (like fjfjfjfjfjf etc.). While I think there’s nothing wrong with that, it didn’t work for me personally.
In keybr, typing practice starts with a few letters, and then new letters are added as one gets better at typing.
In total, it took me about a month of 10 minutes per day of practice on keybr to get good enough at touch typing to start using it in everyday work on the computer.
I can’t type as fast as I can with my hunt-and-peck technique (yet), but speed is not everything - the important part is that my posture remains proper when I type.
One thing I’ve learned is that when it comes to maintaining a good sitting posture, the inner perfectionist in me should stay outside the front door. Even though I’ve been practicing for some time now, I know that sitting properly 100% of the time is really difficult, if not impossible.
Sometimes I’ll start slipping into bad posture little by little subconsciously. Other times I’ll be in a bad mood or under pressure and maintaining bad posture will be of secondary importance. And then sometimes, sitting in a bad posture for a few seconds just feels too good to not do it.
The important part in my opinion is to anticipate that bad posture will happen and set up a system that reminds us to adjust back to good posture. This is in contrast to the way I’ve been thinking before, which was an all-or-nothing perfectionistic approach, where I’d either have to sit properly 100% of the time or give up altogether.
I use the reminder app Stretchly. The app periodically (configurable) pops up a full-screen reminder with a motivational quote. This gently reminds me to sit up straight on the chair. I also use these reminders to take a sip of water and stand up from the chair if I feel like I’ve been sitting for too long.
Proper sitting posture is difficult, and I am doing my best to slowly adopt it into my everyday life.
I believe that the key to proper sitting is to set up a good environment so that the sitting posture is encouraged. For me, this currently means elevating my screen, making my workspace portable, learning touch typing and periodically reminding myself to sit properly.
Hopefully, the tips that I have provided will help or inspire you to make your environment more proper-sitting friendly!