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2014 was the year I finally decided to focus on my health. And oh boy did I! I joined a gym and got excited about working out. I learned how to fuel my body with clean, unprocessed foods. I grew stronger. I lost 30 pounds and gained some killer biceps! But of all the things I accomplished this year, perhaps the most healthful and life-extending decision I made was to reduce the time I spend sitting on my bum.

The Sitting Disease
Here’s what I know: Research shows that excessive sitting can be lethal. Most of us do it all day long: in the car, on the couch, in the office. It’s so bad, that experts say it can’t be negated by exercise and can lead to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and early death. There’s even a name for this inactivity: the “sitting disease.”

I knew if I was really going to take this health thing seriously, I needed to sit less and move more. That’s tough to do when you have a desk job. So I set out to find a sit-to-stand office solution that would work for me.

In search of a solution
I started with a cheap hack that consisted of a 2’ x 3’ board set across two cardboard boxes. On top, I put my keyboard and my mouse. This got me on my feet, but, as you can really only stand for an hour or two at a time, it was awkward to break it down and set back up again throughout the day.

Then I started being conscious about standing while doing activities that didn’t require sitting: conference calls and meetings, or reading, for instance. And rather than sending an email to my colleagues a few offices away, I got up and paid them a visit.

This was all fine and good, but not enough to truly counteract the effects of sitting. I needed a permanent solution.

There are an amazing number of sit-to-stand options out there, ranging from adjustable desk tops to fully mechanized furniture. Some of the best I found were desktop workstations that turn your existing desk into an adjustable one. Ergotron, Kangaroo, and Veridesk are all attractive options and range in price from $300 - $600.

I wanted a full-desk option, however, to fit my two-monitor set up. Among the contenders in the height-adjustable desk category were Jesper, Evodesk, Ergo Depot, Stand Desk and XDesk. These can be pricier, ranging from $800 to over $2,000 depending on features that can include electronic adjustment, power management solutions and even add-on sound systems. Some also come with apps that alert you when it’s time to sit or stand (as if our bodies can’t tell us the same thing!).

The results
As I tend to have champagne tastes on a beer budget, I set my sights on a full sit-to-stand desk and scoured the Craigslist ads for something second-hand. Then last month — Bingo! — my dream desk appeared in the form of a beautiful bamboo-topped NextDesk. It required a two-hour drive across the state and back and another three weeks to get all the additional parts I’d need to make it complete, but it was well worth it.

I’ve lived with my new sit-to-stand desk for over a month now and have reduced my workday sitting time from about nine hours to three. I can write, design and hold meetings all while standing and I’ve noticed I have more energy than when I sat slumped over a desk all day. I love it!

I truly believe that adjustable desks and sit-to-stand solutions will become more commonplace and affordable very soon as we continue to learn about the dangers of sitting. But I wasn’t willing to wait. If sitting less and standing more can boost my chances of living a longer, healthier life, why not start right away?

A few final tips

Get a mat. Reduce the stress on your legs by getting a good desk mat. I purchased this one from Amazon.

Wear the right shoes. You’ll stand longer if you’re feet are happy. I have an extra pair of comfy shoes near my desk in the event that I’m wearing heels. Or I go barefoot.

Keep moving. Yes, sitting too much is bad, but standing too much in one place can lead to varicose veins. Who wants that? Be sure to shift your weight as you stand. Or, do what I do: turn on some tunes and dance!

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productivity

With summer finally hitting the Midwest, the weather keeps getting nicer and nicer. After surviving a brutal Wisconsin winter with polar vortexes, blizzards and ice storms, there is no doubt that we deserve a pleasant summer season. For me, the summer has a lot of positives: sand volleyball, hiking, kayaking and just the ability to enjoy being outside. Unfortunately, it can also be distracting and destructive for my productivity.

As the days get nicer, I start seeing my focus drift more and more from what I should be doing. This is a trend that seems to be popping up constantly in society today. Distractions from things like smart phones, social media sites and, obviously, the lure of nice weather seem to affect workplace productivity. In my short time in the working world, I’ve learned some things that help me stay focused and get my work done efficiently.

Take a break. I know that we are all busy and have tons of work to finish, but if you’re drifting off task then take 10 to 15 minutes to reenergize. If it’s nice out, take a short walk outside. Stop by Starbucks or a local food cart to grab an afternoon energizer. This could make a huge difference in terms of your productivity. Taking that extra time for a break could help you save time in the long run.

Exercise. Ok, there’s no need to exercise at the office, but make sure to take the time outside of work to workout. In the past year, I feel like I’ve read countless studies about how sitting in a desk or staring at a computer screen is going to kill me. While I have friends who have taken some measures in the office—such as purchasing a standing desk or sitting on a medicine ball—to overcome these trending theories, I prefer to use my time outside the office to my advantage. I try to get to the gym regularly or workout with some You Tube videos when I can. While this may not offset the pending doom that is “Death-by-Office,” I notice a difference when I expel some extra energy. When I work out, either before or after work, I notice that I’m not as restless as I am otherwise. This allows me to do my work tasks without feeling fidgety or unfocused.

Get enough sleep. Sleep makes a huge difference in my productivity. When I get to bed late, I can definitely feel it. I feel sick and I can barely get anything done. This obviously presents challenges in the office. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep so that you don’t end up falling behind on important tasks.

Find your “zone.” In general, we tend to perform best when we are “in the zone.” This means that we are not overly bored or overly stressed, but seem to have the right amount of focus and time to ensure the best possible performance. If you can figure out how to get in your zone and stay there, your productivity will increase drastically. I tend to get in the zone when I set deadlines for myself. Even if I am doing a remedial task, I set a deadline. The deadline could be one hour later or one month later. Either way, this makes me complete my tasks efficiently while producing high quality work. Calendaring out your day or week so that every hour is accounted for helps with this as well. While some things simply cannot be planned ahead of time, the more prepared you are the more likely you will enter your zone. While this may seem like an abstract concept, approaching the workplace this way could help you get in the best mindset to do work in the most effective way.

Unfortunately, distractions are part of life—and part of the workplace—but just because they exist does not mean they need to control your day. If you learn how to keep your distractions under control, your productivity will undoubtedly increase. These tips are just things I’ve learned from experience. Find what work for you and use it your advantage!

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web resources

 

Everyone has websites, Twitter handles, blogs, news stations, magazines they follow to stay up-to-date and informed on topics important to them. And if you don’t, you should! Work resources are no different and there are so (too) many resources available to make your life easier and more efficient.

Here is a list of my top resources that keep me abreast of news in association management, how to manage work/life balance, and more. Have some of your own? Share them in the comments section at the bottom of this post. Want more? I have bookmarks and Twitter pages galore, just contact me.

Disclaimer: These are all my own recommendations, with no encouragement from the sources.

Bounce ideas off other associations in your area
A database of associations by country and state to learn more about those based in your community.
www.thepowerofa.org/asae-members

What’s happening in associations
Follow trending topics and learn from other association leaders.
www.associationtrends.com

Financial background on nonprofits
View nonprofit financial data, including Form 990s and more.
www.guidestar.org

The National Center for Charitable Statistics is also chock-full of important info dating back to 1989.
nccsweb.urban.org

Government per diem rates
Learn current and historical rates for each state as set by the U.S. General Services Administration.
http://gsa.gov/portal/category/100120

Event impact
Calculate the impact your event has on a host community.
www.destinationmarketing.org/topics/event-impact-calculator

Forms for volunteers
If you need to collect information from volunteers and require more functionality than SurveyMonkey can offer, check out FormSite.
fs24.formsite.com

Stuck in a rut
Two sites for helpful ideas on preparing publications of all types.
www.slideshare.net and http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/

Track packages
Slice can track package from all carriers with just the tracking number. Use the website or download the app. Bonus: the app sends push notifications to your devices so you know when the packages are out for delivery and waiting at the front desk.
www.slice.com

Junk mail management
Magazines, phone books and supply catalogs piling up at the office? There’s a way to stop them that’s easy and free!
www.catalogchoice.org

Choosing the seat with the most leg room
Figuring out which flight to take to the annual meeting is only half the battle. Use Seat Guru to help you choose the best seat, whether you need extra legroom, a power outlet, or to be one of the first off to make a quick connection.
www.seatguru.com

Worried about your grammar style?
Use Grammarly to quickly and accurately determine if your writing skills are up to snuff.
www.grammarly.com

Touch conversation starters
Some topics are just a challenge to bring up and there’s no getting around that. But you can learn how to effectively engage in the dialogue and hold crucial conversations with Vital Smarts.
www.vitalsmarts.com

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