Switching to a Standing Desk

I remember a time when I could sit happily for hours at my Bondi Blue iMac, working through the night to meet deadlines and tinker on projects.

Before that, countless hours of my youth were spent sitting and playing video games, learning the important life lessons of coin gathering and dungeon navigation.

Now, however, being at a computer is my full-time job. As I’ve gotten older, this constant sitting has brought its own set of challenges — from common aches and pains, to a more profound sense of low energy.

At some point recently, I remembered that standing up is an option. I’d observed people doing it over the years, but I had always presumed it belonged to the same obscure productivity realm as Dvorak keyboards and Emacs’ Org-mode. Even so, I thought I’d give it a try. I constructed a ramshackle standing desk and tried working while standing:

The original standing desk v1.0-alpha

I immediately felt better. My body felt less “compressed,” and my breathing felt more open and free. I felt less fatigued and more focused.

This was unsurprising really, as age-old practices like qigong and yoga teach us about preserving the flow of energy around the body.

A huge benefit I had not envisioned was the freedom to walk around. Coupled with wireless headphones, I no longer felt shackled to my desk and was able to wander and think when stuck on a tough problem.

We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. Carl Sagan

It was only after making the switch that I came across the news that Apple now provides standing desks to all of its employees. The cited research suggests that regular movement is key, as opposed to the extended sitting followed by intense workouts that many of us rely on.

Encouraged that my own personal experiments resonated with actual science, I asked on Slack for standing desk recommendations to replace my own rickety contraption. This range from IKEA seems to consist of entry-level options.

Being a cheapskate, I opted instead for this. Unfortunately, it was far too low to type comfortably, so I ended up with another hybrid solution, which was arguably less elegant than the first:

New and improved standing desk v2.0

It’s been several weeks now and I’m still standing as I write this. I do sit occasionally, but the majority of the day I’m standing, and I could not be happier with the change. Such a lo-fi solution is also a nice juxtaposition to the debate about “mindful technology.”

Of course, this all comes with the disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, nor do I claim to play one on TV. I can only offer anecdotal advice on what has worked for me.

However, the point is that there’s nothing stopping you from trying this for yourself right now. Look around the room, grab the parts you need for a standing desk, and give it a try for a couple of hours. What you experience might just surprise you.

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