In late September I was exposed to something new…something I’d never really seen before, and, in a short time, one investment has drastically changed the way I do a variety of my business and writing activities. I expected a positive impact from this purchase made with a lot of purpose, but I have been blown away by several surprise benefits of creating a better writing space for myself.
Photo by Melinda Pack on Unsplash
I’ve known for years that sitting still for hours while working is bad for my body and that an exercise ball can be used as an alternative to the classic desk chair. I have a ball like this at home, and I’ve wanted to try it at my desk, but I’d never found a good way to make it stable or tall enough to use as a desk chair.
Through my work with Partners in Diversity, I was recently introduced to ergonomic furniture and Fully, a Partners in Diversity member and retailer of “desks, chairs and things to keep you moving” in downtown Portland. They had my answer for better seating! They also introduced me to sit stand desks, which I’d definitely never experienced before meeting the Fully team. I really wanted to know more about their products so I accepted their invitation to write for a few hours at one of their showroom workstations. I was there for about 2 hours earlier this fall and was instantly hooked!
So what made the draw so strong?
I grew up as a competitive athlete – a spring-board diver in fact – all the way through my college years, and continued to coach younger divers into my mid-twenties. I also played a ton of soccer growing up so I know my body is happiest when it can move, at least a little. As a result the traditional office environment has always been difficult for me.
Not all of my jobs have been this way, thankfully, but many of them have required me to be in one place or posture more than is natural for me. I fidget. I just do. I don’t sit still well. My lower half has a very hard time remaining still while I sit. I cross and un-cross my legs constantly. I move my feet around. I bounce my legs. All this in an effort to be comfortable while staying in one place.
Since my writing session at the Fully Showroom (during which my post about 3 Powerful Life Management Solutions came to life), I’ve made a big investment in my writing space. I’ve welcomed Big Bertha, what I call my (Jarvis) RED desk, and The Toadstool (a Swopper Air) into my home office. It’s been a very intentional investment in how I work with some very immediate and surprise benefits (known as ROI – Return On Investment – in a financial sense for the business world).
While I can’t measure the financial return on this investment yet, I know it has had many other benefits in just the last few weeks since upgrading my work space.
My athletic background wasn’t the only draw for making this purposeful purchase. In addition to working with Partners in Diversity, I run my own leadership coaching business, JLJ Coaching Services, which includes a lot of writing and time on video conference calls. I need a quality space at home for this work, and honestly, before Big Bertha and The Toadstool, my work space was functional, but not at all ideal.
I recently moved into an apartment that doesn’t have room for an office so my initial plan was to work with my laptop at the dinner table, but this didn’t last long. The table is round and the wrong height so when I realized the tv stand was damaged in the move, I decided to use its solid top board to create a temporary desk for myself. I’m pretty proud of my resourcefulness and idea to upcycle the good elements of the tv stand, but unfortunately it wasn’t really large (or stable) enough for my materials, decorations and my cats (who always likes to write with me).
My original desk made of two tv tray tables and the top board from the tv stand. Resourcefulness at its finest!
This upcycled workstation got the job done, and the wooden dining room chair sufficed, but it certainly wasn’t a desk setup I planned on keeping for long. As you can probably imagine, I was pretty excited about the possibility of exchanging my makeshift desk for a Jarvis and really creating a nice work space for my brain and my body!
The intentionality behind creating a better writing space
I’m a huge fan of intentional living and making decisions that really resonate with my values, goals and sense of Life-Clarity. This year I focused on “investing” in myself, my community, my business and my relationships. (Check out my past post #Invest2017 to learn more about this guiding focus for the year.)There are a lot of ways my decision to switch to an ergonomic work space was a very intentional and purposeful investment, such as picking:
- A frame that helps others too and casts a vote: I picked the (RED) frame because purchasing this specific item had a social impact. By selecting this frame, I could make a difference in the life of someone else fighting HIV or AIDS. This part of the decision process fully resonated with my top value of practically serving others. My simple everyday use of a desk now serves someone I may never know!
This is an excellent example of how I can vote with my money. I can tell the world what is important to me through the purchases I make. I can intentionally use my purchase power to help others every time I choose fair-trade items or socially responsible items like this frame.
- A desktop material that is good for the Earth: I also picked the bamboo desktop with a lot of thought. I love the natural look and feel of the bamboo, but I also like that the material is sustainable. Bamboo grows rapidly and the bamboo used to make my desktop was harvested without pesticides or fertilizers. Its beautiful honey color is a result of only the kiln, not from any chemical stain or dyes. It is clean and natural and that is good for me and good for the Earth I love. Again this decision is supporting things I love like the environment and sustainably made products.
Big Bertha and The Toadstool just waiting for me to come be creative!
- A desktop shape that takes care of my past injuries: Picking the shape of my desktop was one of the hardest choices in this process. At first, I did not like the shape of the contoured edge when looking at it from a distance in the showroom. It looked odd with the front side missing an arched section, but when I stood at it and put my hands out to type and write, the visual shape no longer mattered. Not one bit! What mattered was how easy the slope on the front of the desk felt on my wrists.
Unfortunately, due to overuse as a diver and lots of typing on my first mac laptop, I’ve got wrist issues. I decided it didn’t really matter what I thought about the look of the contoured shape because the shape was just what my body needed. My wrists need the support of the sloped edge so that’s what I got! My body has to be a priority.
- A seat that keeps me loose: As soon as I sat on a Swopper, a cushioned stool on a giant spring, my body naturally starting moving, gently bouncing up and down. It was sort of a rocking sensation of my hips by pushing back against my feet. I didn’t think about it. It just happened!
Now when I write the energy in my typing fingers is able to move throughout my body as I bounce, rock or gently twist side to side. Realizing how much my body could move while still sitting at a desk instantly made me want this seat to accompany my new desk.
My body was once very athletic and limber, but now it tightens when I don’t get enough movement in my day. This is one reason why I try to do yoga daily. Now being able to bounce, sway and twist while working is something I can also do to help my muscles stay loose. (Mini-bonus: the movement creates a great little workout that I don’t even have to think about!)
The many amazing returns from just one investment
All the fantastic impacts of this new ergonomic workstation shouldn’t really surprise me given that this choice is so well aligned with my goals, lifestyle, values and Life-Clarity… but it does! Just a few weeks into using this new set up, I’m seeing more and more benefits I didn’t expect from this one decision. And that is what makes this story so wonderful and encouraging! Sometimes when we make a big change or investment, we think we know everything that is involved, but rarely is that true. Thank goodness for happy surprises. Here’s what I’m experiencing already:
Abundant real estate: I’ve known for many years now that a clear and organized space makes for a clear and organized mind. This goes for my kitchen, my closest, my bedroom and certainly for my desk! An organized desk helps me organize my thoughts and feel less stressed to my desk. I call my new Jarvis desk Big Bertha because it is HUGE, especially when I have it raised at standing height (its normal overnight storage level). Big Bertha has a lot of surface area, or real estate, which I love! It makes it easy to keep organized and not feel cluttered, especially with the little standing shelf I use to lift my laptop up to eye level.
The extra space also means there is enough room for my cat, Indy, to join me without negatively impacting my work. It was cute of her to always curl up in my lap while I worked, but sadly she was a bit distracting. Any time she was in my lap, she wanted my hands on her, not my keyboard! Now she can’t sit in my lap while I write because my lap no longer stays still. There is plenty of room for her to sit beside me on the desk, which is a better place for her. There is even room for both my cats to join me if they wish!
A new beckoning: This giant desk beckons me to work and play at it in a way I never expected! This extra draw is super helpful because I balance a full-time job with my side coaching business… and chores, and friends, and church and other hobbies… yeah, it is tough! This work space makes me more excited to write and work on my personal business after a long day out of the house or on my weekends.
I now have my own beautiful place to create and communicate my ideas! I have a desk that encourages me be more me… to let my active self stand, perch or bounce… while still being productive. No longer do I feel like I am only allowed to move my fingers while I write; I can move my whole body while my mind and fingers fly… and I love it! Bertha beckons me, draws me in, every time I get near, and it's fantastic!
Extra Energy: In addition to the emotional energy created when Bertha beckons, The Toadstool seems to create extra physical energy. I naturally start to bounce on my toadstool to the beat of my music. I love to dance and listen to upbeat music, but I wasn’t expecting my body’s natural reaction to help me so much as I sat on my new seat. My body just moves to the rhythm and it feels sooooo good, especially at the end of a long day!
The best part is that this movement isn’t distracting. It is very energizing, which helps me continue to work, perhaps longer than before I got this new set up. At times my spinning and bouncing make work and play happen simultaneously! Who doesn’t want that experience?
Being “A Writer”: Having this beautiful and large work space also strengthens another big decision I made a while back; to officially call myself a writer in recognition of my passion for written communication. This amazing desk empowers me to take my business and my writing more seriously, which may seem obvious, but I didn’t think about it this way beforehand. I’ve invested in my space, which is an investment in myself, which is an investment in the future of my business. Most importantly, it is an investment in what I can give to the world through my coaching and writing. Who knew a desk and ergonomic chair could do so much for me personally and professionally in such a short time!
This workstation supports my business and personal goals in a way I never considered! I am sure that, over time, I’ll continue to understand the differences that this one very intentional change will have on my life and work.
Purchasing with purpose in your life
We make choices everyday. Many of us also make purchases every day (especially during the holiday season). If the idea of making more intentional purchases or selecting a better-for-your-body work space resonates with you, here are a few questions you could ask yourself.
- Which changes could I make in my life that would help others while helping me?
- How can I use my purchases (especially during the holiday season) as a vote for what matters most to me?
- What about the way I currently work is impacted by (or aggravating) past injuries?
- How can I adjust my work space or habits to be easier on my body?How can I intentionally move my body more while I work at my desk?
- Does my work space beckon me to be there, making me want to do my work in that space? If not, what could I change to make it more a desirable place to spend my time?
- How am I currently investing in myself, my work and my impact on the world?
Jessica Lynn Johnson M.S., is a Certified Hudson Institute Coach and a Fully enthusiast. You can reach her at: Jessica Lynn Johnson, MS, ACC at info@JLJCoachingServices.com
Post originally published for JLJ Coaching Services, Ltd. in November 2017 by Jessica Lynn Johnson