Sustainable Pace is one of the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto
Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
For the last few years I’ve been using an app called Time Out to make sure I take regular breaks. It runs in the background and throws a “micro break” about every ten minutes—just look away from the screen for ten seconds and rest your eyes—and a “regular break” about every hour or two, reminding you to get up and walk around for a few minutes. To be honest, the app gets a little annoying (especially when you’re pair-programming, collaborating with others, or recording screencasts), but its worth it. Whenever I stop using the app, eyestrain comes back after a day or two.
Here’s how I set up my Time Out:
- Timer settings for the Normal break.
- Appearance settings for the Normal break.
- Timer settings for the Micro break.
- Appearance settings for the Micro break.
- Set the “Micro Break” (every 10m) with yellow background, fade in immediately, last for 10s. (this is to remind you to look in the distance to rest your eyes). Disable all snooze buttons for the Micro Break.
- Set the “Regular Break” (every 55m or 85m) with at red background, fade in immediately, last for ~4m. I like to set the frequency + duration to != 60m, so that my breaks go out of phase w/ the clock. Disable all snooze buttons except “postpone 5m”. Time Out is great, but it requires discipline. Once you start hitting ‘snooze’, you lose respect for your breaks and it’s all over—Time Out turns into an annoyance rather than an aid.
Our bodies were built for dodging saber-toothed tigers, not for working at a computer in a climate-controlled office. Download and set up Time Out; chances are good you’ve got many more years ahead of typing and using screens, and it’s important to take care of your body.
What tools do you use to stay healthy at work?
UPDATE: I just found a new pane in the Time Out preferences which allows you to specify apps which should never allow Time Out to launch a break. If you’ve ever been interrupted in the middle of recording a screencast, you’ll know why this is a lifesaver.
I’ve written about using a standing desk; now let’s talk about building one. Commercial standing desks are ugly and overpriced. Building standing desks out of Metroshelves is a great alternative: economic, ergonomic, efficient in their use of space, robust, and flexible. Best of all, if you decide you no longer want a standing desk, its easy to reconfigure into shelving or a sitting desk.
Choosing a design: Standard or Cantilevered
There are two major designs for a standing desk: “Standard” or Cantilever. I prefer the Cantilever design, but it’s less well-balanced than the Standard design, and requires a little more care in its placement and construction.
The Standard Design puts the keyboard tray in front of the standing desk, and the iMac over the center of gravity of the desk. It’s the most stable design, although it’s not as comfortable or efficient in its use of space as the Cantilevered Design.
The Cantilevered Design puts the keyboard on top of the center of gravity of the desk, and cantilevers a shelf off the back for the iMac. This is a great design for desks which face windows or exterior walls; because the shelf is offset off the back, it can sit above an air conditioner or HVAC system that ring exterior walls in many offices, saving space. Because the keyboard surface is above the footrest, it’s also a bit more comfortable. It is imperative that a cantilevered desk is secured, either by leaning it directly against a wall or setting a counterweight on the base, or both. Failing to do so may tip the desk over, sending your beautiful and expensive iMac crashing to the floor. CANTILEVER AT YOUR OWN RISK!
- 4 Rods. I like to mix a pair of short rods in the front with a pair of long rods in the back.
- 4 Shelves. 36in shelves are a little tight pairing situations where you’ll sit two people abreast, but they work. 48in are nice and roomy. From top to bottom, you’ll need:
- Monitor shelf
- Storage Shelf
- Keyboard Shelf
- Foot Shelf
In a Standard design, the Keyboard Shelf will connect to 2 rods; the others connect to all 4 rods.
In a Cantilever design, the Monitor Shelf will connect to 2 rods; the others connect to all 4 rods.
- 4 Wheels. Mobility is your friend. Buy two plain and two locking casters; the locking ones should go diagonal from each other.
- 3 Surfaces. I like wooden butcher blocks, but you may also find plastic.
- 1 rubber mallet (or hiking boot) for assembly.
- A counterweight (required for a Cantilever desk; encouraged for a Standard desk)
- Screw the wheels into the bottom of each rod
- On all four rods, clip a plastic collar onto the bottom notch, and send them through the first shelf. This will be the Foot Shelf. It’s easiest to do this by putting the narrow edge of the shelf on the floor and sliding the rods through while they’re still parallel to the floor.
- Flip everything up from the floor so the four rods and one shelf are sitting on the wheels.
- On all four rods, clip the next collar about 28 notches from the bottom (you might want to modify depending on your height). Put the next shelf on. This will be the Utility Shelf.
- Place the butcher block on the Utility Shelf—it may be hard to get it on after you add other shelves.
Building a Standard Desk
- On the front two rods only, clip the a collar directly about the Utility Shelf. Slide the next shelf only on the front two rods, so it overhangs in front of the rest of the unit. This will be the Keyboard Shelf.
- On all four rods, clip the next collar about 39 notches from the bottom (you might want to modify depending on your height). Put the next shelf on. This will be the Monitor Shelf.
Building a Cantilevered Desk
Follow steps 1-5 from above. Then:
- On all four rods, clip the next collar about 5 notches above the Utility Shelf; this will be the Keyboard Shelf. Set the height so that your arms will be at a 90 degree angle when typing. Don’t forget the butcher block will add another ~inch of height.
- On the back two rods only, clip the a collar about 39 notches from the bottom; this will be the Monitor Shelf. Set the height so that your head will be level when looking at the center of the monitor. Slide the shelf only on the back two rods, so it overhangs behind the rest of the unit.
- Ideally, place the desk so that the Monitor Shelf is in direct contact with a wall, preventing it from tipping over.
- Put a counterweight on the Foot Shelf before loading the Monitor Shelf. If you don’t counterweigh the desk, it will fall backwards, potentially injuring you or wrecking your equipment.