I’m a happy camper. I just moved into a new office space that’s directly suited to the way I work, think, and create.
Months ago, I wrote about improving the working environment inside my desktop, and with the move I sought to extend that process to my physical workspace. The plan was to fashion a space that makes my work more active—not simply in regard to my physical well-being, but to lend substance and action to my often intangible work.
Workshops appeal to me. The tools you use aren’t lined up neatly in a dock. Bandsaws, welding stations and workbenches all have their own spaces and environments conducive to the work at hand. The workbench, with its fairly comfortable stools and extra space, is for tinkering. It says, “Hang out here. Take your time. Do the work right and enjoy it.” The bandsaw across the room is plastered with warning labels, and the loud hum proclaims, “Hey! I’m a f#©kin’ saw, I’m dangerous as hell! Don’t get comfortable with me. Focus.”
I like the idea of defining certain spaces or postures for specific activities. The sit and click posture taxes my cognitive and creative faculties after too long. It’s hard for my brain to move from reading to writing, designing, troubleshooting, etc., when my body remains stationary. I need to move. Breaking up the workday by visiting different spaces in the office at different times not only keeps me fresh, it allows me to establish habit fields around certain types of activities. Here are some of the stations I’m working with now:
Sitting at the Desk
I’m most used to this, and it works well for tinkering tasks like coding or designing. Ideally, I’ve already got an idea in my head or a job to do so that I feel I’m gaining on something. If I start to feel a lull or a roadblock coming on, I’ll hop up and go somewhere else--usually just to a standing position.
Standing at the Desk
I’m still getting used to my new adjustable-height desk (more on that later). When emails pile up or when I’ve got troubles to shoot, I try to be in a standing position. The same goes for when I’m in during the mornings or right after lunch. I’m trying to treat the busy-work side of my job like that bandsaw. Get in, do what you need to do, and get out.
The Thinking Chair
I’ve got a chair and an ottoman 8ft from my desk. I can see the screen from it, but I’m not close enough to touch anything. This is where I go to write and sketch. It’s also a nice spot to retreat when I’ve run out of answers. I’ve found it gets me to solutions quicker than browsing animated gifs. Not that there’s anything wrong with animated gifs. If you don’t have room for a thinking chair, you might try going for a walk or finding a park bench.
I recently confiscated my Dad’s old record collection (Bobby Bland, Jackson Browne, Dave Bruebeck, etc.) so I put a record player across the room. I happily get most of my music from Rdio, but I enjoy the forced breaks required to flip to side B. You’d be surprised what you can get done in 20 minutes. As an added bonus, the album covers smell like the cabinets where they were kept in my childhood home. It fills the air with this lovely combination of old wood, candles, and books.
I’ve also got this small day bed by the door. I’m in a home office, so I get to pretend it’s a necessary addition for when we have extra house guests. Really, it’s for reading and tantrums, rare as they may be.
I’m lucky to have a decent amount of space here now, but I’ve spent my share of time in cubicles too. I used to migrate to empty conference rooms or walk a lap around the office to clear my head. The trick is to work with what you have. Okay. Stations aside, here’s a quick rundown of the fun things I’ve acquired to make my workspace better.
My Computer Situation
I’ve got two machines, a 27” iMac and a 13” Macbook Air. Thanks to Dropbox, they talk to each other so I don’t have to worry about syncing files. I backup the 27” locally as well as with Backblaze, you know, in the cloud. I don’t have all the same files and apps on my Air, and I like it that way. It’s for writing and experimental after-hours design or code sessions, not busy work. My office is above my garage and the only way to it is through an external door, so that helps me keep my work and play separate.
The Sit/Stand Desk
Last year I hurt my back. Sciatic nerve pain is the worst. Sitting upright became so painful that I had to relocate my iMac to the floor underneath my desk, and work while lying on my stomach, neck craned up so I could see the monitor, flopping from side to side as I got tired. It was a sad, pitiful existence. I realized that I need to take better care of myself at work and did some research. Turns out, bad things happen when you sit all day and a standing desk isn’t a silver bullet either. All we need is variety. To gain that I researched and found an adjustable desk I liked from Conset. What I didn’t like was the boring tabletop it came with, so I just bought the base. I found Scott Kestel from Brand Mojo Interiors while looking at some coffee tables on Etsy and asked him to build me a desktop for the adjustable base. He said yes, did a fantastic job, and is now highly recommended by me.
- Herman Miller Embody Chair: I’ve had this chair for over 2 years. It’s comfortable and I like it fine, but I don’t think it has magical back ailment curing properties. If you’ve got back problems from sitting for extended periods of time, stand up.
- Pro-ject Debut Iii Turntable: I don’t know much about turntables, but this has been great. I just picked it off a list of potentials I got from Reagan Ray.
- Mobee Magic Charger: An inductive charger for my Magic Mouse because the only thing I hate worse than cables is buying batteries.
- Yeti: For podcastin’ and skypin’
- Rickshaw Sleeve: To carry around my Macbook Air
This counts for my office as well as my home—my wife and I put up artwork from people we know (in real life or industry pals). It’s nice to be surrounded by your friends’ work. It makes me think of them, and we get to support their talent. Here are some recents:
- Aaron Scamihorn’s Lebowski print and Cake gig poster
- Phineas Jones’s Western Tentacled Jay
- Neighborhood Studio’s Bull poster
- Do Lectures’s Say Yes More Than No poster
- Ligature, Loop & Stem’s Lesson Plan print (sold out)
- Mark Weaver’s Bison screen print (sold out)
So that’s the new setup. If you’ve got any tips or favorite gadgets I’ve not mentioned please do let me know.