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Freelance Fitness: Use a Standing Desk

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on May 16, 2010 in Freelance Fitness
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This week's Freelance Fitness post isn't really about an exercise tip for freelancers, but it is about finding a way to burn more calories while you work.

As freelance writers, we probably spend far too much time sitting on our arses in front of a computer, whether that be in our home office, in our favorite cafe, or even under a tree at the park. It comes with the territory. So why not do some, or all, of our work standing? It burns more calories. It keeps us from slouching at a desk (which for me at least can lead to lower back pain). So why not?

That's what I'm going to try this week. I'm assembling an incredibly simple makeshift standing desk. I won't be trying to go all day with it at first, but just an hour or so to see how it affects my work. I figure either I'll love it and want to do it more often, or I'll hate it so I'll work more productively just to finish so I can sit down. (Hey, it's a thought.)

This isn't meant to be something used while you're doing other workouts like an exercise bike or walk on the treadmill. (We'll talk about those ideas in a later post when I figure out how to build one that will work with my bike so I can use it as an example.) This is just a very small one, big enough for a laptop. Here's what I did:

I didn't feel like "building" anything, so I went to Target. I bought a cheap microwave cart ($40) and hit the stationary department. There I found the scrapbooking supplies. They had a variety of modular storage units. I found one that gave me the height I wanted. It has a narrow shelf for papers or supplies, and a small drawer where I can keep my latest book research or whatever else I might need -- I can also pull the drawer out a few inches to prop up my note cards as I type since there's no room to spread things out. I just put the cart together and put the scrapbooking storage unit on top. That's it! Very simple, and it's surprisingly stable. I went with the scrapbooking unit because they're square unlike most similar desk storage units. So it fit the cart top much better. Here's a picture of my simple standing desk. Keep in mind that I'm about 6 feet tall, so the 36" cart wasn't tall enough on its own for me. But if you're shorter, a simple cart might be high enough by itself, so you wouldn't need the white box in the image below.

standing desk


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I love that this is on casters so I can roll it to any location where I feel like working. And if I decide a standing desk really isn't for me, it still works as basic storage elsewhere (kitchen, closet, or whatever). So no harm done.

I spent about $55-60 total. You can certainly do it for less. You might already have things at home you could use even. Or just get two large file cabinets or modular storage units and put a piece of coated plywood on top like a desktop if you want something that resembles a more typical desk (with much more room). You could also save money by just using a wire shelving unit (in your Wal-Mart, Target, etc's home improvement section or your favorite hardware store), and laying something over the top for a solid working surface.

Do you use a standing desk? What kind do you use? Did you make it or buy it? How do you like it?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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11 Comments

  1. Matt Willard May 16, 2010 Reply

    There was some famous writer who did all his work standing. I forgot his name, though.

  2. Lucy Smith May 16, 2010 Reply

    Stephen King had to work standing at a lectern for months after his accident. Personally I don’t think I could do it unless I had to, it would feel too temporary and I’d struggle focusing. I didn’t like the standing checkouts when I was a checkout chick years ago either. I’ll be interested to see how you go, though.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 17, 2010 Reply

      Yeah, I remember the retail jobs back in school, standing at the registers all day or night. Yuck. But at least this isn’t on cement floors, hurting my back more. And I’m not forced to wear stupid shoes. :)

  3. Rebecca May 16, 2010 Reply

    I stand all day, everyday. It’s a part of the day job. :) I’ve considered standing during the night job, but I’m so worn out from the first eight hours of standing and walking around, I can’t ever bring myself to do it. Right now I’m cross legged in a giant office chair I inherited from my man – my feet rarely touch the ground while I work. I’m an ergonomic nightmare. Cool set-up though. I’ve been thinking of trying the Turbostation like another mom uses for IM on forum I visit, but haven’t set that up yet either. Good intentions, etc…LOL Hopefully this all works wonderfully for you!

    • Jennifer Mattern May 17, 2010 Reply

      Well, then you really wouldn’t need a standing desk anyway. You’re not on your ass all day like some of us. I think the standing desk idea will be particularly good for days I’m working late on something where I really don’t need another hour in my chair.

  4. Rebecca May 16, 2010 Reply

    *on a forum I visit

    Pardon the choppy sentences – I’m working with a sharp pain behind my right eye. Grrrr….headaches

  5. Lori May 17, 2010 Reply

    Oh gawd, I’m probably too lazy to build the damn desk! LOL Great idea, though. It’s a great reminder to get up and move once in a while.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 17, 2010 Reply

      lol I hear ya! This one is definitely the lazy-man’s option. The cart was put together in minutes — very easy and only four screws to worry about at the end. And that’s all there was to it. :)

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