stand up and save your back
This might seem a bit off point, but it may help you more than
anything else I write this year: Throw away your desk chair. Spending
lots of time working in a seated position, it seems, is bad
for more than just your back.
But by the time I read the
story quoted above, I was ready to throw away my chair anyway. In my
old, ratty office downtown, I had a makeshift standing-height desk.
Actually it was a kitchen counter I had screwed together out of 2x4s and
a hollow-core door when we were renovating our kitchen, but it served
me pretty well. When I moved into my new office space in our barn, I
decided to go all civilized and use a proper sit-down desk and
adjustable office chair. Big mistake. Wthin a few months--despite lots
of yoga--my back was killing me. I knew that sitting puts a lot of
stress on your spine, and when the research on its other ill effects
went public, I knew I had to act.
Luckily, the fix was simple. I
unbolted one of the maple legs of my desk, gave it to a cabinetmaker
friend, and asked for four copies in stretch version. Now my desk stands
42 inches high, just a couple of inches below my standing elbow height.
I ordered a high drafting stool to go with it, but only for occasional
use. The desk was ready before the stool arrived, so I spent the first
week working only standing. It went surprisingly well. I was quite
comfortable (I put a box under the desk, on which to prop one foot or
the other to vary my stance), and now that the stool is here, I'm not
tempted to sit more than I think I should. And my back feels great.
here's the really interesting thing: The first week I spent working
only in a standing position was the most productive I can remember. I
have a couple of theories about this, but the one I like best relates to
the psychology of sitting. When one sits, I postulate, the subconscious
mind assumes--along with the body--an attitude of rest. In order to
work, one must struggle to overcome the sense that one should, instead,
be relaxing. Standing, in contrast, puts one in the position of action.
Since I'm up on my feet again, I find it easier to concentrate on my
work, I don't experience late-afternoon drowsiness, and I'm less
susceptible to distraction. From now on, I'm a stand-up guy. --b.d.s.