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My Top 5 (And A Half) Tips To Beat Laptop Slump

Laptops are great.  Portable, useful, practical.

But because the keyboard is right next to the screen, laptops pose a big old challenge.  If you have your hands at a good level and your arms parallel to the floor, then you have to look down to see the screen. When we look down, we tend to drop the head forward from the base of the neck and compress the chest, literally shoving our heads and faces closer to the screen down below.  We might add in a shoulder raise for good measure, collapse the rib cage and go into a full slump.  Bring on neck and shoulder pain, headaches, lethargy, loss of focus and even RSI.  Maybe laptops aren’t so great after all.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here are my top tips for beating the laptop slump.

  1. Get a separate keyboard and use your laptop as a screen only, positioned at eye level.  Yes I know that can defeat the object of a laptop, but you can organize that set up at your primary workspace at least.  That way you are helping yourself to be in a better state for more of the time.
  2. Get your arse organized.  The bottom end of your spine is the support for the top end.  So sit on your sit bones.  If you aren’t sure how to do this, sign up for my free e-course (link to) and I’ll walk you through it.
  3. Drop the tunnel vision.  Here’s how.  Hold your hands up either sides of your head, palms facing forwards.  Wiggle your fingers and move your hands backwards so they gradually disappear from view.  You’ve just activated your peripheral vision.  We are such visually dominant creatures that in many people, simply making that change is enough to reorganise their posture out of slump and into sitting upright. Try it and see what works for you.
  4. Look down your nose at the screen.  Once you are out of a slump, you still need to look down to see the screen.  But you don’t need to move your head closer to the screen to achieve this.  You’re trying to see it, not smell it.  First, look out level with the horizon.  Next, move your eyes only to look down at the screen.  Then adjust your head by the minimum you need to see comfortably.  You’ll probably feel like you’re a King or Queen, looking down your nose at your screen. That’s what we want, good work.
  5. Speccy?  If you wear glasses, let them know who’s boss.  Often we have poor postural habits because we are organising our whole bodies to allow us to see through our glasses.  But your glasses are not in charge.  You are.  Position your glasses after you position yourself.

Bonus tip:  Oh, we love to sit at our computers.  Hours and hours and hours.  Then more hours.  This is madness.  Which is the machine, you or the computer?  In case you’ve been at your computer so long you’re now not sure, the answer is that your computer is the machine.  It likes to do the same thing for hours and hours and hours.  You, on the other hand, are not designed for hours of sitting.  You’re designed to get up and move about.   So do it.  Set a timer.  30 minutes max.  Stand up, stretch, shake your booty, drink some water, have a pee.  Join me on Twitter @SarahChatwin #groovynotgloomy for a daily tune to dance about to.  Then you can get back to it.

These are the quick-fix tips you can try, and I hope they help you.  But you may have postural habits that make it hard for you to get these ideas to work.  If you carry a lot of tension in your legs, then sitting on your sit bones is tough.   If you habitually put your head forward from the base of the neck, it will feel very strange to change that.  If that’s true for you, or if you have any other problems, then get in touch. I teach in person in central London or internationally via Skype, so I can help you further if that’s what you need.

9 Responses to “My Top 5 (And A Half) Tips To Beat Laptop Slump”

  1. Seth Reynolds says:

    Loved the laptop tips- timely reminder for me! Additional tip for the 30min break rule. There’s a simple programme called RSIGuard (www.rsiguard.com) that enforces that for you- it will black your screen at set intervals, show pop up reminders, and so on, according to the your level of discomfort. Great for those who know they are a slave to the machine but need help breaking free!

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks Seth, glad you find the tips helpful. I think the idea of a digital enforcer that blacks out your screen is brilliant – for everyone, not just those with RSI. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. Lynn Rosen says:

    My arse & I are happily organized here on the sofa with ‘our’ laptop! Thx so much for these reminders. As one with complex vision-processing issues, the reminder to look at the horizon before looking down my nose at the screen is great.

    For those too frantic about the digital enforcer’s screen blackout, there is also the free download from Focus Booster: a 25 minute activity clock, 5 minute take-a-break-clock. Repeat as needed! It’s actually quite fun to discover what else can be accomplished during that 5 minute break. cheers, L

  4. Adolfo says:

    “Look down your nose at the screen.” What a wonderful tip! This is just too delicious not to share with my students. Thank you :)

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you Lynn! Glad to hear you are happily organised. And thanks for the resources, much appreciated.

  6. Sarah says:

    Thank you Adolfo, have fun with the ideas.

  7. Fiona Cranwell says:

    Nice pointers. I love “Get your arse organised”. I shared your piece on the ATI pages. I hope that was acceptable. Fiona

  8. Sarah says:

    Thank you Fiona – share away! Glad you found it useful.

  9. Won says:

    look through my nose seems very helpful tip.
    and not sitting down more than 30minutes straight.
    good. i will say goodbye with my habits.

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