Tag Archives: work

How to Choose Where You Live

The city where you live can hugely impact your happiness. Some people say it doesn’t matter where you live, that you make your own happiness wherever you go. I beg to differ. The energy of a city is so important to your ability to thrive there. The weather is important too, more for some people than others. I really dislike being cold. I grew up in Chicago, went to college in New York and Michigan, and moved to the south primarily because I knew warmer weather would make me happier. It really did. So did other things about Atlanta.

Why I Moved from Atlanta to Austin

After eight years in ATL, I got the itch to try out another place. I wanted to get rid of my stuff and get rid of my 9-5 and make Beetle Moment Marketing my main job. I wanted to move somewhere with a greater focus on outdoor activities and a stronger sense of community, a place with less tension — without giving up my fantastic network and clients in Atlanta. So I’m splitting time between Austin and Atlanta. Semi-dual residency is my experiment for the next year or so. Airfare can be cheaper than bus fare if you know a few travel hacks.
people kayaking on Ladybird Lake
Ladybird Lake in Austin

My research

Who’s Your City,  though getting older and not the absolute answer to the question, is still a solid skim on the topic of choosing a place to live. Richard Florida has devoted his research to cities and what makes them and their residents prosper. Penelope Trunk did the same thing and after a year of thorough city happiness research moved from NYC to Madison, Wisconsin.  I examined the attributes of several U.S. cities and picked the one with the most pros for me: Austin, Texas.
page from Who's Your City
How do you like the place you’re living now?
It’s easier to move when you don’t have a mortgage or a job that requires you to be in one place. But if these apply to you, it’s still possible to rearrange your life to make a change or even become nomadic. Sell it, rent it, request remote work, quit, freelance…

And remember: jobs come and go.

We place too much emphasis on work in this country. No one on their death bed wishes they’d worked more. That said, I like working — more accurately, I love working for myself.
Emily at FBO looking at jets
Wheels up

What to do with all your stuff

Own a home? Rent it out. Have too much stuff? Sell it ALL. Inherit an old boat recently? Hire Captain Ron to help you sail it from the Caribbean to Miami, then decide to just keep sailing. The internet has made all of this easier than ever.

Downsize to joy items

Start to downsize early, then moving becomes much easier mentally. I sold or donated all my furniture and came to Austin with only boxes containing things like my InstantPot and Himalayan salt lamps and Casper pillow and rollerblades. Stuff that brings me joy: ditch the rest. Buy newer models of what you sold.

A chance to upgrade

When I move again I will pare it down even further. I’m excited to be lighter than ever. All those blazers and Brooks Brothers shirts and high heels from my corporate days are just taking up room in my closet. I’ve been thinking more about this since seeing the YouTube trend of young people living in their cars. Eileah Ohning from Columbus lived in her car for several months, motivated in part by wanting to save money to pay off student loans. That is a travesty, but student loan debt is a separate topic. The point is that it’s possible to be happy living really lean. Here are more moneysaving tips for your twenties.
I couldn’t downsize into a sedan like Eileah did (impressive) but I did embrace the discomfort of starting over from scratch. It’s a chance to upgrade… everything.

FluidStance Level Review

Standing beats sitting – this is known. But how can we stand better? I have been testing a standing desk accessory called the Level for three months. As a 3+ year standing desk advocate, this is the first time I’ve used a balance board. Until recently, I had relied on a thick floor mat and other products to help ease foot and leg strain.

Emily Binder using The Level for standing desk
Me standing on the Level

The Level by Fluidstance, office-category winner of Inc.’s 2015 Best in Class Awards, has added health benefits to your standard shock-absorbing floor mat. While it’s simply a piece of wood framed by curved, die-cut aluminum, the product has fantastic design and an undeniable cool factor – it gets noticed. The science behind it centers on this:

The body is meant to move in three dimensions, and our FluidStance product enables that movement at a desk or workstation. Merely standing at a desk doesn’t allow for this movement, whereas using the Level does.

Benefits include:

  • 15% increased heart rate vs. sitting
  • Increased range of motion vs. static standing desk (23.98 degrees ROM)

I’d rather not strain my feet standing in heels or wedges, and I rarely wear flats. I stand barefoot most of the day in my office and slip on shoes for meetings. That said, my feet get sore if I stand still on the Level for more than about ten minutes. It is really made for you to continually rock and sway.

Side view of The Level
The American-Made Level (Bamboo)

The Level is supposed to help reduce the need to shift your weight while standing, which can produce poor posture. Indeed, I have found this constant urge to be a negative symptom of my stand-up desk. With the Level, my feet still get tired and I end up standing on one foot with the other bent at the knee laying horizontally on my desk, which is not optimal.

Takeaway: I enjoy the added motion but I find myself switching to my floor mat for at least half the day. I think my feet would get less tired if I stood in tennis shoes; I’ve simply been too lazy to change shoes throughout the day. The Level is a neat piece of ergonomic furniture if you can afford it and wear comfortable shoes, but a quality floor mat at least 3/4 inch thick is a more affordable, still solid option that works better for women who wear heels.

Price: The American Made and Original models range from $289 to $489 as of this writing. The average American works forty hours a week from ages 20-65. This totals 90,000 hours, or 10.7 years at work (excluding two weeks of vacation per year). Your health, well-being, and productivity at work affect nearly every area of your life. Treat your body to the healthiest options possible. You could drop hundreds or thousands on an ergonomic chair or a standing desk setup. The latter will save you time and money in the long run, and you might even live longer.

Box canvas bag Fluidstance Level green packaging
Unboxing the Level

Materials: The Level is made with eco-conscious materials, some models featuring renewable bamboo. The finish is GREENGUARD certified so it meets rigorous low emission standards. I’m happy to support a company that prides itself on being “responsible borrowers from mother earth.” Plus, 90% of initial products are produced in the U.S. The environmentally friendly packaging is a nice feature.

Disclosure: I was given a Level by Fluidstance and asked to write a review. I have not been compensated in any other way.

Standing Desk Product Reviews: Desks, Mats, Socks (Part 2)

Why you should get a standing desk (Part 1).

Standing Desk Product Recommendations:

1) Desk: I have the adjustable height Dual Kangaroo from Ergo Desktop ($599) – made in USA. There are dozens of brands and types of desks out there. When narrowing down my choices in February 2013, I considered the Ergotron Workfit which is a mount, but in the end I chose the more portable Kangaroo, which sits on top of my regular desk. It required less hardware and work/drilling holes in the wall.

Emily Binder at Dual Kangaroo standing desk
I’ve adopted my own yogilates pose over time with one leg bent at the knee resting on the desk. I switch legs about every five minutes. Just keep your spine straight and the rest will follow.

The Dual Kangaroo is great for a laptop and monitor setup or for two monitors. Be sure to use the included stability leg to reduce wobbling. (The attentive Ergo Desktop customer care team actually tweeted me this tip after noticing this picture I posted of the desk sans leg.) The obvious benefit of an adjustable height desk is that it allows for postural changes throughout the day. There are times you’ll want to sit – that’s okay. I rarely lower my desk but it’s nice to have the option.

Kangaroo and similar brands like VARIDESK, UpLift and Ergo Depot have models for different laptop/computer combinations. thehumansolution.com has a good selection of well-priced desks and free shipping over $85. (The Human Solution also accepts BitCoin because they are awesome.) A coworker recently ordered the Kangaroo Pro (mount style) for a single monitor (the Pro Junior is good for smaller monitors) – well done, RD! Some Kangaroo desks use VESA mounts for your monitor while others use shelves (what I have and prefer for its flexibility).

  • Explanation of the differences
  • Tool to assist with measurements for your standing desk
  • Tammy Coron at creativebloq has more tips about measuring and posture

A few more standing desk recommendations if the Kangaroo line is not for you:

a. Electric adjustable desk: The UpLift 900 ($769) has received excellent reviews (LA Times). Lifehacker named it the #1 standing desk (check out Lifehacker’s February 2014 top five standing desks – if you order one off this list, you’ll be set). “If you want a standard size desk with brilliant height adjustability, the UpLift 900 is perfect for you.” The motor allows easy switching between sitting and standing. See video reviews of the UpLift 900.

b. Walking desk/treadmill desk: Check out the TrekDesk ($549 as of 10/26/16):

You can burn an extra 2.6-3.6 calories per minute depending on incline (156-216 extra per hour). I’ve read that your typed WPM decreases as walking speed increases, and Business Insider‘s Alyson Shontell reports that her treadmill desk experiment decreased productivity due to dividing attention across work and physical movement (but she ultimately had fairly positive takeaways). If you are a klutz and multitasker, walking while working could be problematic. I like the idea of it overall though. Read Danny Sullivan’s treadmill desk review. Sullivan uses the LifeSpan desk, specifically the TR1200-DT7.

c. Light duty electric desk: If you work from a laptop and only need the standing desk for a few hours a day: Ergo Depot AD17 Adjustable Height Desk (normally $749, on sale for $549 at time of this posting)

d. DIY: The famous $22 Ikea standing desk: The Standesk 2200.
Also check out Anjelika Temple’s creative suggestions on Brit + Co: ten DIY standing desk ideas. This includes a nicer but still affordable Ikea solution: The Floating Corner Desk (from $178).

e. (Pretty) affordable height adjustable monitor stand and keyboard tray: VARIDESK Pro ($300)

keyboard and monitor height diagram for standing desk postureTry it first! Note: Please experiment with a DIY standing desk for at least two months before purchasing furniture. Try using cardboard boxes and old yellow page phone books or paper reams to prop up your monitor, keyboard and mouse at proper ergonomic height on top of your existing desk. It will be ugly but it’s for testing. Make sure you can commit to this lifestyle.

2) Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat for standing desk: A good, thick, high-quality shock-absorbent floor mat is crucial. You spend most of your life at work (and soon, on your feet). Invest in your health and comfort. I have been quite pleased with the $75 Rhino Mat Pyra-Mat Anti Fatigue Mat (free shipping at Ergo Depot). Don’t skimp on the floor mat, and don’t venture into standing without one. Read the fine print: you should have a sponge thickness at least 3/4-7/8″ thick (1/2″ won’t cut it). The mat I have comes with optional custom logos. If you’re a manager and have employees who stand all day (e.g., at a service desk or counter) surprise them with these mats and you will be amazed at their gratitude and improved morale.

Update 10/26/16: Read my review of Ergodriven’s Topo mat, inspired by natural terrain and meant to keep you moving as you stand.
Continue reading Standing Desk Product Reviews: Desks, Mats, Socks (Part 2)

Three Reasons a Standing Desk Will Save Your Life (Part 1)

The average American adult sits 15.5 hours per day.I’ve had a standing desk for almost a year and half and I plan to keep it that way. Many people don’t realize that it’s not just how much physical activity you get, but also how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of premature death.

 A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society found that women who sat more than six hours a day were 37% more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for less than three hours, while the early-death rate for men was 18% higher. 3

Emily Binder at standing desk
Standing at my adjustable height desk, doing marketing.

I could write pages about the frightening negative health outcomes associated with sedentary lifestyles. Just check out Lifehacker’s “How Sitting Is Killing You” Infographic. If Americans would cut their sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by roughly:

  • 2 years (by reducing sitting to less than 3 hours a day)
  • 1.4 years (by reducing TV time to less than 2 hours a day) 4

Many great thinkers throughout history stood at their desks, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Virginia Woolfe, and Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway at his standing desk Life Magazine cover 1960
“Ernest Hemingway at his standing writing desk on the balcony of Bill Davis’s home near Malaga where he wrote The Dangerous Summer.” — Life Magazine, Jan. 1, 1960

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the myriad reasons why you should do everything in your power to get a standing desk, but maybe you haven’t taken the leap yet. I’ll make it simple and give you the top three reasons. Here are my favorite standing desk product reviews and recommendations. If sedentary office workers would stand up for a mere few hours more per day, I’d bet the farm that over several years, our entire country would be healthier and we would save billions on healthcare costs.

Lazy

You may work at a progressive office where standing desks are an option (like Google, Facebook, AOL, many startups, etc.). Maybe you see coworkers standing all day and marvel at them, wondering why anyone would torture themselves with unnecessary physical exertion and not take the easy route of sitting on a plush Herman Miller (or a cheap Staples chair wreaking havoc on your spine) for 8+ hours in a row. Well, either you’ve never tried standing, or you’re lazy. Office worker eating sitting at desk in cubicleIt’s okay – most people in the modern world are pretty lazy.

Let Michael Caine playing Robert Spritzel in The Weather Man ask you something: “Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.” 

Three reasons a standing desk will save your life and make you more productive:

1. PREVENT CANCER: Prolonged sitting increases the risk for cancer. Exercise does not undo the deleterious physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle: working out does not erase the compounding of growing fat cells in your rear, the slowing of your metabolism, or the diabetic state that your blood glucose quickly transitions into when the body has been sitting for hours. “Researchers say that physical activity, even something as simple as standing up for a few minutes, releases an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which reduces the body’s levels of triglycerides and LDL (or bad) cholesterol. High triglyceride levels are linked to cancer, and LDL cholesterol is associated with vascular disease. Prolonged sitting precludes the flow of the enzyme.”2
Big rear end sitting in small chairWait, let’s reiterate this part: “Pressure placed in the buttocks and hips from sitting down for too long can generate up to 50 percent more fat in those areas.” 5

2.  PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN, KEEP METABOLISM UP: “Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute.” You will burn an additional average 50 calories per hour simply by standing instead of sitting. If you stand for just half the day, that’s 200 free calories burned. We can at least mollify the fact that many of us eat unnaturally and too many calories by keeping more muscles in the body engaged for more hours of the day.

3. PHYSIOLOGY and PSYCHOLOGY – FEELING AND INTERACTING LIKE A BETTER HUMAN: You’ve read about the benefits of walking meetings (Steve Jobs was famous for them). Movement is good for the body and soul. A 20-minute walk in the middle of the workday has a remarkable positive impact on brain function.

Brain scan after sitting quietly and after walking 20 minutes

Standing is a lot closer to walking than sitting is, plus you’ll be more likely to move around. Coworkers who are standing are perceived as more open and approachable, with a tendency to more actively share ideas. This is anecdotal, but I feel more awake, more productive, and more energized throughout the day, which many others standers report, too. Sitting allowed me to marinate in workday lethargy, but standing wakes me up. Sitting encourages poor posture. Our bodies were not made to sit.
Think about all the crutches we use to wake ourselves up or to focus: coffee, a cigarette break, a jaunt of web surfing or online shopping, constant phone checking habits… Stand up and wake up. Increased bloodflow throughout the body will make you more positive, productive, and focused.

Office Reality and Your DIY Trial Period:

Unfortunately, many offices haven’t made ergonomics a priority yet. If you want to try standing, opt for a trial period with a free/inexpensive DIY setup – stack some yellow page phone books, paper reams, and/or cardboard boxes, then put your keyboard (elbows bent at 90 degrees) and monitor (eye level, no neck craning up or down) on top. Hear The Digital Dive Podcast episode on the DIY standing desk when Melanie first planted the seed in my head. Get used to standing by starting out with a couple hours per day and adding 30-minute increments each day. If you like it and you make it two months, then invest in some furniture. I was pretty psyched when I rewarded myself with the real thing.

I am lucky to work in an environment where I have an office with a door, mitigating the self-consciousness or unwanted attention that some new standers may fear in a cubicle setting. Seeing you standing will make some people uncomfortable, nervous, or defensive because of what it implies about sitting. Just smile and link them to any article cited in this post. In Part 2, I share my top three ergonomic desk product recommendations, including my own Kangaroo standing desk, my anti-fatigue floor mat, and two types of compression socks to help prevent varicose veins (which can happen from standing OR sitting too long over time).

Read product reviews of my favorite standing desk products:

Here’s to your health and productivity.

Sources:

  1. American Institute For Cancer Research – Cancer Experts Link Almost 100,000 U.S. Cancer Cases to Inactivity and Prolonged Sitting, 10/31/11
  2. American Cancer Society Press Releases – Study Links More Time Spent Sitting to Higher Risk of Death
  3. Are you sitting down? Cancer fears may alter the sedentary job. 3/8/12
  4. Mayo Clinic: Nutrition-wise blog: Do you have ‘sitting disease’? 7/25/12
  5. Guess What? Sitting Does Make You Fat. ABC News. 12/5/11

DISCLAIMER: I am not a trained healthcare professional. The information provided here is meant to educate and inform but is not official medical advice. Consult your physician before making any major lifestyle changes. The opinions shared here are mine and not those of my employer.

Updated 2/16/2017