I find myself having to introduce all sorts of entropy in order to write. Stravinsky, Sun Ra, Bob Dylan, Khachaturian, silence. Face Mecca today, Delphi tomorrow, Alamo the day after. Window blinds open, medium-blend coffee, window blinds shut, light-body yerba mate. What works now holds no ground for the future.
Last but not least, I’ve appealed to the classic chair/table, the exercise ball, the standing arrangement, the floor; each setup of distinct pros, pitfalls and variants. Anything plausible I haven’t tried?
These days I prefer the lotus (cross-legged) position on the floor for complex reading and creative output - supplemented by standing for the more express computer interaction.
Without appealing to science, intuition and experience proffer this combination as the more beneficial to the endoskeleton - or better yet, the least compromising; the classic, boring table/chair being the most degrading among the contenders. Maugre my head if that’s not the case.
Now that we’re on the topic, lets survey each method.
But before let me emphasize the advantage to a tablet with an external (Bluetooth) keyboard in contrast to a monolithic laptop. The lightweight nature along with the ‘separation of powers’ makes this setup the most flexible and accommodating to every work configuration here denoted. In addition, should you drip/smear/spill liquids on your external keyboard, the better half remains intact.
Chair/desk. Lazy approach, boring and overall hazardous. Facilitates a lifetime of slouching and joint pain. Can partially mitigate with better posture (though too easy to neglect) and an otherwise active lifestyle.
A worthwhile upgrade: sit cross-legged atop the chair, which at least moderately discourages slouching and offloads some emphasis to the abdominals (be the chair with or without back support). As a bonus, can comfortably position that Bluetooth keyboard on your crossed legs if constrained by desk real estate, or if height factors better facilitate. (I’ve never fancied the weight and girth of an entire laptop on any part of my legs.)
A deskless seating apparatus. A less practical setup you encounter at the living room sofa, the airport chair, most public transit or some waiting room. Same calamities apply as the chair/desk combo. The one setup to challenge the keyboard/tablet duo, as I often struggle to position the tablet anywhere but off to the side.
Exercise ball and desk. For the unacquainted, I refer to the inflatable, rubber exercise ball you find in gyms or physical therapy offices. A severe upgrade to the posture and abdominal recruitment. No opportunity for lazy back support.
Someone unaccustomed might initially struggle to even maintain balance. It becomes second nature over time.
Not much room for variance with this one. Though can still place a light Bluetooth keyboard on your legs without stability risk. Can’t say the same for the bulkiness of a laptop.
Floor, lotus (any variation). Major advantage in the keyboard/tablet duo: the light keyboard atop the crossed legs, the tablet on the floor at a more comfortable distance. Plenty of room for immediate equipment or beverages (which the reckless I spill from time to time).
- Corporal - manifold. Greater if you refrain from back support, which it behooves you to do. Train yourself to naturally sit upright. And although can still slouch, the abdominals take on much of the burden.
- Too cool, if that’s something you can relate to. View some Kurosawa pictures (or old Japanese cinema) for inspiration. I revel in that floor tradition.
- May require cushioning or pillow in absence of a carpeted surface.
- Leg numbing. Eventually the legs might numb. Mine always do, it’s just a question of when. Shift weight, invert or alter. Or take a quick intermission.
- Must rise to fetch items not in immediate vicinity. Really a pitfall?
A noteworthy enhancement, per the traditional Japanese custom: a ground-level desk. There can arrange an entire laptop or other writing apparatus not comfortably balanced on crossed legs.
Floor, the formal Japanese position: seiza (ADVANCED). Kneel down and balance yourself on your knees and upper legs. Traditionally reserved for the formal proceedings (meetings, tea ceremony, dining), nothing prevents you from working in the said fashion.
Among the ways to sit, common wisdom ascribes the greatest benefit to this one. Virtually impossible (impractical) to slouch, your stomach and (certain) leg muscles are at full recruitment. The leg angle likewise enables a light external keyboard placed atop, but nothing bulkier or heavier.
As for the knees … that to me makes for one hell of a challenge. To be frank, I don’t dare work in this manner, however convincing the evidence against knee damage when properly exercised. My knees already have a history, permit little room for error and complain, acutely, of the slightest abuse.
Standing. Way advantageous to corporal health over any seating position if and when properly managed: that is, the shifting of legs and body weight around at frequent intervals. A fully static pose can compromise your joints. To the day and for 12-14 years running I’ve significantly leveraged a standing layout.
Many ways to improvise the setup without lavish purchasing. I’ve never as much as spent a penny:
- stack of books
- printer paper
- light furniture atop the very desk
- Cabinet top
- Dresser top
- kitchen bar or any bar-level table
Accommodate with a laptop or tablet (weight and size permitting). Extremely versatile: enables greatest body movement and access to the periphery.
Also demands the greatest training curve. (Though can’t sufficiently comment on the seated seiza position, above). Drains more energy than you might wish. But nothing inhibits you from mixing setups. Any position can feel exhausting once long enough sustained.
- As mentioned, must shift legs/body around to prevent harm. Much easier on a soft, carpeted surface overall, though not necessary by any means. I thus operate on all surfaces without prejudice, with shoes and barefoot.
- The greatest training curve.
Consensus. I’m heavily in favour of the floor lotus position for all manner of work and play. Otherwise: introduce randomness and vary factors in your environment.
Questions, comments? Connect.