I write this article on my laptop in bed as I currently have no computer desk(again). I disassembled it in an effort to ensure I don’t tie myself to the functional but counter productive space it enabled. I have been through a number of desks or variations with 3 in the past year. None of them matching the ultra productive feeling of the one I had in college.
In college I had a very functional desk set up. This mainly consisted of a Z-Line brand L desk I obtained from Staples on sale for $40. Although cheap, it was very effective and help my dual monitors, keyboard speakers, pen tablet, printer, books, and art supplies in just the right places to get stuff done. I moved out after graduation and continued to happily use my desk until it slowly deteriorated. Since then I have been searching for an equally productive set up but haven’t found a solution yet.
Identifying the issue
I have been trying to identify what makes the perfect workspace for me for the past 4 years. I have gone through an Ikea Expedit desk as well as 3 iterations of a desk I built from scratch in the past year. What I have found is that none of these solutions have brought that feeling of productivity and personal fulfillment as my desk I used in college.
Keyboard tray no more
I feel part of it may be that my preferences have changed. In college I greatly enjoyed my keyboard tray; kicking back and typing while reclined and letting my wrists fall wherever they please. However now that I am older and work at a desk for my fulltime job I have found I much prefer having my arms firmly planted on the desk top. My last desk iteration included a keyboard tray but I found if I wasn’t sitting just perfectly I got RSI in my wrists with inflamed tendons fairly quickly. Surely this is something a younger me didn’t have to worry about and maybe fueled my current ailment. At least I know keyboard trays are a no go.
Tower on desk
Do you know how much cleaner your PC is when it’s up off the floor and actually is a “desktop”? It’s actually quite astonishing. When I lived with my parents I had no pets so my machines didn’t collect too much dust. Then after moving out, Leo moved in shortly after and then Allyson once we were married. For a while I had my PC on the floor. Later I moved it to my desktop and then back again to the floor. However what I hadn’t realized is that the inside of my PC had started to pick up A LOT more dust, dirt and cat hair.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year and my tower and my home server were only inches off the floor. When we moved I found a thorough lining of dust in both machines as dust became a huge factor. Note to self, I want my PC’s on my desk so this doesn’t happen again. It’s not fun to clean out that much build up. My new set up will have the towers on the top.
If you are wondering why so much more dust in 6 months vs previously; well, aside from having another cat, our new and previous apartment has/had old worn out shag rug carpeting. y first place had the thin low profile carpeting that could probably be confused with the indoor outdoor carpeting that is common(at least here in the States). So clearly more dust and dirt will find its way in and stay around with so many nooks and crannies for it to live in.
Custom solutions are not always the best solutions
In the past year I have reconfigured my desk three times. This was after custom constructing it each time. There wasn’t really an issue with my quality of construction, but there were small issues in each set up that caused me issues and distracted me from being productive.
From standing desks being not what I thought they would be, to keyboard tray RSI and poor cable storage and power strip planning all were things brought to mind when using the space. It’s not like some of the could be overlooked, but I built this. I should have realized this and planned for it. Or better yet, as I built it, I should be able to fix it.
Using a prebuilt solution I find I wasn’t so inclined to be critical because I would find work around and be done. Even if it was unoptimized because there is only so much I could do with what I had. Doing custom work though I had a nagging feeling that I should redesign, rework and make it perfect. Something I may be able to overcome in time. However, I am too much a perfectionist to let it go having all things distract me from my work. My next desk will be assembled from stock parts or come as a kit.
The (new) and (hopefully) final solution
Having learned all of these things I have decided to go with an Ikea compilation to solve my problems. A simple solutions of two table tops and matching legs. Ones that are deep at about 29inches and wide at about 5 feet.
This will enable a simple yet elegant solution. No complicated inflexible cable management paths. No RSI inducing keyboard trays. It will be deep enough to rest my arms on the top as well as wide enough for dual monitors, speakers and pen tablet to have space on one of the tables.
Why two? Well I wish to have one for my monitors and accessories and then another to house the tower and my home server. Additionally it will provide extra space to keep more fun items on hand. I will be keeping my Gamecube nearby for when I need breaks as well as my art supplies for sketching. Aside from this, having two tables also adds some flexibility down the line enabling an L-Shape or I(straight) shape. Everything will have a home and I will have some options for how things are set up, but not enough that I will micromanage it.
This set up should provide me with everything I need to be super productive once again and not distract me. The only issue is needing to go acquire and set it all up. Fingers crossed, that this will be the simple solution I should have tried from the start.
I will have to write a follow up in the future about if the new set up works or not. This will be the placeholder for that link. Stay tuned!