My workspace makeover, part 2: Layout

I'm reviving an old series of posts that I had planned, since this is really a continuation of the same theme: making over my workspace in order to encourage greater productivity.

In the first post, I wrote about my new desk chair.  I was having a hard time sitting at my desk for long periods of time, and suspected that part of it was the chair I was using, a vintage wooden chair.  It was more comfortable than you'd think, but just not enough to justify sitting in it for long stretches.

The new desk chair is comfortable, but it wasn't working to keep me in my desk as much as I wanted.  I was still taking my laptop into the living room and working there instead.  I started thinking maybe I needed a different desk — this one has been a challenge because the footwell is small (it's an older desk) and many chairs don't fit underneath.  My office chair doesn't, so I'm still in a position where it's far too easy to hunch forward, which is fatiguing.

I was thinking about getting a secretary desk or a piano desk (I like antiques), because either style would have a writing surface that would either fold down or pull out, coming out over my lap so that I could lean back in my chair.  I even found a gorgeous Eastlake secretary desk that I might have walked out with that very day, had the price tag not given me pause.

While I was thinking about the Eastlake desk, I decided to go ahead and rearrange my office space.  My husband and I share the second bedroom in our house — he has a secretary desk in one corner, and I had my desk against the front window.  However, it occurred to me that this might have had a hand in causing my problem, since the bright window behind my screen made it hard to see unless I leaned forward.

Here is my old workspace:

Freelance writers desk

Note the old armchair rocker in the corner.  As I mentioned in this post, about being comfortable when I write, I used to sit in this rocker to work.  It's extremely comfortable, but my older cat has taken it over since we got the kitten last summer.  I never had the heart to move her so I could work there, but last week I decided to get rid of the rocker and put my workspace in that corner, facing the adjacent wall.  I also exchanged my floor lamp with the one in the living room, which will give more direct light.  The printer is on nesting tables on the far side of the desk, in front of the lamp, and instead of the rocker, I moved in a Victorian parlor chair that my mom gave me recently.

Here is the result:

Freelance writers desk

Yesterday was the first day I sat at my desk for a lot of the day since moving it here.  I'm able to get my chair partly under the desk, so I can pull my laptop forward, and with a wrist rest (ordered from Etsy), I should be fairly comfortable sitting back to work.  I still catch myself leaning forward occasionally, but overall I don't seem to have as much of that impulse with a wall behind my screen instead of a window.

I'm hoping this will be another step toward improving my productivity.  If so, it seems I will be able to keep my current desk, which makes me happy because I really do like it! 

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, June 30, 2011 At 1:42 PM 0 comments

Back from vacation

I'm just back from a stay-at-home vacation, during which I wasn't checking email or even getting on the computer much at all.  Michael had taken last week off with the intention of us going to Durango, as we did last summer, but we decided at the last minute to stay home.  Instead, we did a lot of things around the house that we'd been planning on doing, including rearranging and reorganizing the office to make it easier for me to work.  I'll blog on that later this week (with pictures).

I also made a pretty major decision about my career...  More on that later, as well.

Coming back from vacation is always so hard for me, but I think in many ways it's harder when I've taken time off and stayed home.  The reason (I think) is that I've changed my routines, but since I associate the vacation routines with home, it makes it harder to get back into the mindset of my old, work-related home routines.  For instance, I was staying up late and getting up late all week last week, and that particular habit is especially hard for me to break.

But overall, the break was refreshing.  I feel rested mentally, and I love my new workspace.  Combined with the decision I made during the week, I feel better about work going forward!

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 At 12:42 PM 0 comments

Is comfort the key to productivity?

icon
iconI recently started getting The Writer on my Nook. At $3.50 a month, and a lot of interesting articles, it seemed like a worthwhile expense.  Besides, I enjoy the electronic issue so much more than I ever liked magazines!

Anyway, one of the articles that I found interesting in the July 2011 issue was "He's No Slouch," by Daniel Asa Rose, about how much more productive he is when he is comfortable.  An excerpt:

Something miraculous happened when I took my laptop to bed... The writing flowed. As my breathing relaxed and deepened, something unlocked inside me...

(I tried to find the article on the website, but apparently they don't make their articles available there to non-subscribers, so you'll have to check it out at the newsstand if you are interested in reading the full article.)

Reading this article got me to thinking.  I've been bemoaning my lack of productivity for a year or more.  Is it possible that this period of unproductivness might coincide with giving up my favorite writing spot?  About a year ago, when we got our youngest cat, Ivan, Cleo (my fat female cat) started hanging out in the rocker next to my desk.  It was a good place for her: near to me while I worked, easily defensible if Ivan tried to harass her (which he does, frequently, even now).

Unfortunately, it was a good place for me, too, before she took it over.  I estimate I used to spend about half my day writing in my rocker.  I'm not a big fan of writing at my desk — a couple of hours is about all I get before I start getting so uncomfortable I can't stand it anymore.  I've always known that I write better if I change my location (and position) frequently: desk, rocker, couch, bed, coffee shop.  When I'm up late working and I want to power through some work so that I can get to bed, I usually choose either my rocker or the couch, knowing that I won't be able to concentrate as well if I'm at my desk.

Although I have since gotten a more comfortable desk chair and a foot rest to go beneath my desk, I still am most comfortable when my laptop is on my lap.  And unfortunately, the couch isn't comfortable enough to contain me for long.  Right now, in fact, my lower back is starting to get a bit achy, so I've shifted my weight onto one hip, propped my laptop on one leg and my elbow on a pillow, and put my other foot on the couch with my knee sticking straight up in the air.  Yes, it's comfortable, and yes, I can work this way.

But I want my rocker back.

The only question is...  Do I want it back badly enough to deny this face?

Writer's companion

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, June 02, 2011 At 4:19 PM 0 comments

Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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