My Standing Desk Project

I keep seeing blog articles for standing desks, so I’ve decided to throw mine out there.

I have made two attempts (so far) at making a standing desk. My first effort involved a wooden bench, which I made out of 1″x10″ pine shelving, and a laptop desk like you would use while sitting in bed. The laptop desk was not wide enough for my keyboard and mouse pad, and offered no space at all for resting my hand or documents.

Standing Desk v1.0

So I got rid of the laptop desk, and made the bench short enough to comfortably type and mouse on it. I found two mismatched monitor stands and put my monitors on them. The monitors are extended as high as they go and still aren’t tall enough.

Standing Desk v2.0

I put felt on the bottom of the legs to prevent scratching the cubicle desk, and I put contact paper, like you put in your cupboards, on top to prevent the keyboard from sliding off. I have my mouse pad on there also.

My biggest constraint is that I can’t alter the existing desk, which is built in to my cubicle. This was my process:

  1. The first step in designing my desk was to measure the distance from my elbow to the desk. That told me how high my desk had to be for good ergonomics. (Your forearm should be parallel to the floor when you’re typing.) My first effort was too high, because I didn’t take into account the thickness of the keyboard. So in my case, the height of the standing desk had to be the distance from my elbow to my cubicle desk, minus the thickness of the keyboard.
  2. Next, I had to decide how wide to make the desk. At first I was thinking it only needed to be as wide as my keyboard and mouse. But the laptop desk showed me that I needed room to the right of the mouse if I wanted to rest my hand, and I needed to room to the left of the keyboard for the same reason, and for documents. I also had originally planned to put both of my monitors on it (as shown in Standing Desk v1.0), so I measured the total width of them when they are side by side, which turned out to be plenty of room for the keyboard, mouse, both arms, and documents.
  3. And finally, I needed to decide how deep (from the front of the desk to the back) to make it. As I said, I wanted to put my monitors on it, too, but I have a couple of monitor stands I scrounged in the office, so they are working OK for now. The current depth is only slightly more than the depth of the keyboard.

The current setup works OK as is, but isn’t ideal. When I’m sitting (and the monitors are adjusted as low as they go), I’m looking up at the monitors, and when I’m standing (and the monitors are adjusted as high as they go), I’m looking down at the monitors. That’s not good ergonomics and definitely puts a strain on my neck and shoulders. When you’ve spent most of your career sitting at a desk, you have to work up to standing all day, so I have to set up and break down the desk often, which is a bit of an annoyance.

For the setup to be perfect, I need:

  • a drafting chair that can I can sit on at the same height as when I’m standing, so I can continue to work without setting up/breaking down the desk or adjusting the monitors
  • a taller stand for the monitors so that the top of the monitor is at eye level when I’m standing

My plan is to search Goodwill and other such stores to find a 30″ x 30″ end table. Then I can cut off the legs to the desired height.

If/when I build Standing Desk v3.0, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Creating an Hourly Reminder in Windows

Did you know that someone was actually paid to research and discover the fact that women blink twice as often as men! I don’t think any technical writers were in that study. As a technical writer, I sit at a desk all day, rarely having the occasion to move anything but my head, eyes, hands, and arms. When I’m really focusing on something, I even forget to blink! I have alternating “runny” and dry, tired, red eyes.

I decided I need a reminder to stop working, stand up, move around—and blink! Microsoft Outlook does not have a way to set hourly reminders, but you can click Snooze > 1 hour each time a reminder appears; however, I’m more likely to click Dismiss. I didn’t want to bring an egg timer to work and have a loud DING go off every hour (I work in a cubicle). And if I set my phone alarm to go off every hour, that would be just as annoying to those around me. (If I set the alarm on “vibrate only,” I would probably assume it was a text message and ignore it.)

After some Googling (and finding some unhelpful advice to install a free program—on my work computer), I discovered a sane and doable solution: Windows Task Scheduler!

Using Task Scheduler, I created a task to pop up a reminder message every hour. Task Scheduler allows me to define the text that appears in the message box, when to start the task, when to finish the task, and how often to pop up the reminder.

I’ve provided the instructions below (Windows 7) for my fellow zombie cubicle ranchers. You need the proper privileges on the computer, of course. (I recently updated my desktop at work to Windows 7 64-bit and the GUIs look slightly different. So if your experience doesn’t exactly match mine, don’t fret. Read the instructions in dialog boxes and figure it out–don’t give up!)

To create an hourly reminder in Windows Task Scheduler

  1. Click Start, then in the search box type Schedule Tasks. (It will probably appear just by typing Sch.)
  2. In the list of programs, click Schedule Tasks. The Task Scheduler appears.

  1. In the Actions (right) pane, click Create Basic TaskThe Create a Basic Task Wizard appears.

  1. Type a Name and Description for the task, then click Next. The Daily page of the wizard appears.

  1. Specify when the task it to Start and how frequently you want the task to Recur, then click Next. The Action page of the wizard appears.

  1. Click Display a message, then click Next. The Display a Message page of the wizard appears.

  1. Provide the Title and the Message that you want to appear on the message box, then click Next. The Summary page of the wizard appears. The Summary page displays the details of the task.

  1. Select the Open the Properties check box, then click Finish.
  2. Click the Triggers tab.

  1. In the Start boxes, set the date (if different from today) and the time. I set mine at 9 am.
  2. In the Advanced settings area, select the Repeat task every check box and set it to 1 hour.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click OK again to complete the task. The new task appears in the list of tasks in the center pane of the Task Scheduler.

After you’ve created the task, you can make changes to it, test it, disable it, or delete it.

To edit, disable or delete the task

  1. Open the Task Scheduler.
  2. In the Active Tasks area, double click the task. A list of active tasks appears.
  3. Right-click the task, then click the action that you want to perform:
    • Run—Allows you to run the task to ensure that it is working the way you want it (instead of waiting for the clock to run out).
    • End—This stops a task that is in progress. Won’t need it for timed tasks like this one.
    • Disable—Prevents the task from running until you enable it. (If you right-click a disabled task, this option changes to Enable.
    • Export—Allows you to save the task to a file, and then you can import it into another computer.
    • Properties—Opens a Properties dialog in which you can edit the task.
    • Delete—Permanently removes the task from the Scheduler.

And there you have it—an hourly reminder! Every hour on the hour a message pops up to remind me to get up and move!

NOTE: I have not found a way to make the message pop to the front. If you are speedily typing and clicking away on the mouse, you might miss the message popping up. However, it will appear in your task bar and blink, like an IM will do. I have 2 monitors at work, and I’ve put the task bar vertically on the right, between the two monitors. I’m more likely to notice this message appear, as well as IMs, emails, error messages, etc.