RSI and Software Development

Back in 2014, I started to experience repetitive stress injury (RSI) pain in my forearms and wrists. At the time, I’d moved from a hybrid “talk to people / type at a computer” type job to a job that was pretty much full-time “type at a computer.” The pain started to become pretty debilitating, and I even developed a ganglion cyst in one of my wrists. Things weren’t getting any better on their own so it was time to do something.

I’m definitely more of a “try to fix it yourself before resorting to expensive medical treatments” kind of guy, so I started doing some research, making some changes, and trying a few different things. Now, almost 10 years later, I’m completely pain-free so long as I stick to some good habits and use good tools. In the hopes that my learning will help others, here’s what helped me overcome RSI as a software developer.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, so please consult with yours before making any changes. The following is more a summary of my journey that you can hopefully use as a jumping off point for your own recovery and should not be taken as medical advice – use at your own risk.

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Staying Hungry: Lessons from Josh Groban after 20 Years

In 2022, my wife and I had the privilege of seeing Josh Groban live in concert. This was actually the second of his concerts that we’ve been to, and both have been more than worth the price of admission.

What struck me as I sat there during this most-recent concert is that Josh has been doing this for over 20 years (“His self-titled debut album Josh Groban was released on November 20, 2001.” [source]), but he’s as passionate and dedicated as ever. As the concert progressed, I started asking myself, “How is this guy still so fired up after 20+ years of doing this? How has he been able to keep not only his dedication but his passion alive?”

I’m sure people could write entire books about this, but here are the observations I came away with about how to stay hungry 20+ years into your career.

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New Year’s & the Power of Mindset

In some ways, New Year’s is nothing more than a collective fantasy – we flip the page on a calendar or the date displayed by our phones now reads “Jan 1” and we all agree that this means that it’s now a “new year” and time for a “new start”. Maybe all of this is a bit arbitrary, but I don’t think that it necessarily follows that it’s unhelpful or meaningless to frame one date vs. another as “new.”

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Best Practice: Code Like No One’s Watching

When writing code, it’s often easy to trigger the “freeze” response from the “fight, flight, freeze, or fawn” list of trauma responses.

“I bet I could make this SQL query more performant…”

“It feels like I could use a design pattern here…”

“This variable needs a better name…”

There are multiple issues at play here:

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The Single Best Piece of Productivity Advice I’ve Received

This advice came from a former employer who mentioned it during a team-wide productivity learning session. It’s not original to him, but it’s where I first heard it:

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Make Yesterday Today’s Friend

Lay out your workout clothes the night before.

Clean the coffee maker while doing the dinner dishes so that it’s ready to brew first thing the following morning.

Set up automatic monthly transfers, no matter how small, from your checking account to your savings account.

In short, do the things you’re going to end up having to do anyway as far back “in the past” as possible.

As you time travel into the future, you probably won’t even recall that little bit of extra effort you put in yesterday, but, come today, you’ll bask in the little productivity boost you gave yourself.

Hacking Friction To Boost Your Productivity

TL;DR: Where possible, turn the friction in your life into a willpower booster rather than a willpower drain.

Friction. It’s not just two physical objects resisting each other as they interact. It’s also a psychological phenomenon that feels a lot like this:

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Working Remotely: Tips from a Veteran

I have a total of eight years experience as a remote worker. I began my remote working career as a life coach for a distance learning startup before pivoting into a career as a software engineer which I was able to take remote in 2017.

While I love working remotely, it’s not without its challenges. Given the current global crisis which has a lot of the world suddenly working remotely, I figured I’d take a minute to jot down my top thoughts on remote work in the hope that they can help and encourage others during this difficult time when many have had remote work thrust upon them with little preparation:

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