Having just skimmed the Lifehacker article below, I started thinking about what habits I have started incorporating into my work-day, and what habits I really need to cultivate.

Lifehacker’s “Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk”

Drinking More Water: At the start of the year I bought a Brita filter jug with the aim of drinking more water.  Seeing the jug on my desk every morning compels me to fill it up and I probably drink a couple of litres throughout an average working day.  This new habit has got rid of a lot of evening headaches and I’m pretty happy with it.  More frequent toilet breaks don’t hurt with breaking up the monotony of a day sat at the desk either.

Standing Desk: There seem to be a few benefits to making the switch to a standing desk.  First, my posture is worsening by the year, and I seem to be collecting muscular pains which are exacerbated by hefting an all-action two-year old around in my spare time.  I imagine a standing desk would get me focused much more on my posture and the body-mechanics that facilitate my working day.  Second, anything to get a bit more physical activity into my life right now would be a good thing – Scottish winters aren’t blessed with an abundance daylight hours or days that scream “Go out for a run” at me.  The barrier making the conversion seems mostly to be social. I don’t want to become ‘The guy in Psychology who has his desk up on reams of printer paper.’  I’m also worried that I wouldn’t make it through the initial 5-day breaking-in phase.

Running: I ran my first half- and full-marathons in St. Louis.  As part of the training for these events, I got into a nice routine of running around Forest Park (close to 7 miles) at least twice a week.  that’s fallen by the wayside recently.  I hope it’ll pick up again in the summer, but I think I’ll try and catalyse that change by going for runs during my lunch break.  I just need to find a suitable shower facility in order to maintain basic standards of hygiene.

Being less wasteful with toner/paper: I don’t like reading journal articles on computer monitors.  Therefore, I print thousands of pages a year, most of which I only read once.  Most of these articles end up catalogued in my Endnote database (if they’re lucky) and locked in a metal filing cabinet with a few notes scrawled on them.  That’s quite a waste of paper and ridiculously expensive toner, which I now have to buy myself.  Motivated by saving trees and money, I’m starting to consider other options.  Now that they’ll display pdfs, I’ve thought about a Kindle; the e-ink is easier on the eye than an LCD screen, the battery lasts for weeks and they’re (relatively) cheap.  BUT they won’t display colour, something I need if I’m to follow the neuroimaging papers I read.  Colour alternatives like the iPad and Nook Colo(u)r have some combination of a shocking battery life, back-lit screens and a horrendous price-tag and I’m not sure it’s worth taking a punt on a gadget that may end up presenting me with more problems than it solves.  For instance, I don’t know how I’d make notes effectively on an electronic pdf document using each of these devices.  I’m settling on the thought that I’ll wait for colour e-ink before committing to wasting less paper, but it does seem like a shame that there isn’t something suitable on the market right now… and I’ll probably be waiting years.

I’d be interested in reading comments from anyone who has converted to a standing desk or bought a Kindle/iPad for the purposes of reading journal articles.  Nothing’s ever going to be without its own problems, but do these innovations improve overall working conditions?

6 thoughts on “Good habits

  1. Pingback: Despite Steve Jobs’ best efforts, I have ordered an iPad « no suprathreshold clusters

  2. Hi Akira, happy to find you in cyberspace again! I have a first generation iPad, which I love. I use GoodReader to organise and read PDFs, including journal articles, meeting agendas and notes, student manuscripts, manuscripts to review for journals. Although I used to prefer reading printed copies, I really only now use printed copies for student manuscripts. GoodReader doesn’t have especially good annotation features, so I’ve just downloaded and need to learn to use iAnnotate. I’ve also just started using DropBox to sync the files between my laptop, iPad and iPhone (where necessary). I now generally only ever take my iPad to meetings because it has everything I need on it. Saving heaps of paper.

    I also use a task management/productivity program called Omnifocus. They have Mac, iPad and iPhone versions. My laptop is PC so I’m mostly just using the iPad and iPhone versions at the moment and planning to migrate to fully Mac sometime in the next 18 months. This program is potentially very powerful but has quite a learning curve.

    Enjoy your iPad. I love mine with a passion!

    • Hi Amanda,

      Lovely to hear from you again. Having used it for a couple of months now, I’ve found that GoodReader meets my needs perfectly. As you say, annotations aren’t as easy or intuitive as they could be, but I particularly like the potential to search for text I’ve typed in my annotations as well as text that forms part of the pdf proper. Dropbox sync and the ability to crop pdfs to reduce wasted space on the limited resolution screen are also fantastic features.

      One app I found particularly disappointing was Keynote. I’m otherwise PC-based, so finding that Keynote mangled all my Powerpoint presentations left me reluctant to spend a lot of time re-adjusting them for the ipad. The thought of all that extra work on presentations that already look fine on my other portable machines compounded my worry that I would have looked like a bit of a poser swiping my ipad to advance slides, and I haven’t opened the app since the week I purchased it.


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