Category: Small business

move it or lose it: how to get moving in the office and how to make your office moveĀ 

lifestyle, Small business, travel August 11, 2015

**** update: I have been using the laptop stand and mini elliptical described below for a couple of weeks now. The set up is perfect for me. The movement helps me stay focused and my legs are sore after I put in some billable hours.   I highly recommend this as a relatively inexpensive way to get out of that office chair. Here’s my set up:  


I am building a small law practice and want to keep the overhead low. My area of law requires few client meetings trips to court, so I can keep it home based or road based, allowing me to have a mobile office if I so desire. 

Additionally, sometime a few years back, studies began to emerge showing extended periods of sitting to be extremely harmful to your health. The market, ever quick to react, responded with standing desks, treadmill desks, bicycle desks etc.  This active office equipment can run into the thousands, but there are more economical ways to keep moving at the office. 
Here is what I am working with:  As you can see, I have been using the shelf as a standing desk. I actually used to work on the countertops at my old home because I do find writing in particular is good on your feet!  

However, ergonomics are important, a standing desk should be at or just below your shoulders in order to allow you to stand up straight, counteracting the slumped shoulders that are the bane of office life. Since I obviously have only traditional desks, I have opted for a highly adjustable Laptop stand  to place on top of the desks. I tend to spread out and like to move from one surface to another as I switch from researching to writing to administrative tasks. This way I can move between either of my desks and the bookshelf.  Or even elsewhere in the house and beyond.  Perhaps one of the captains chairs in my van?

Standing all day isn’t great either. Varicose veins and swollen feet can result as well as any number of other aches and pains. When I sit, I have long been a proponent of a yoga ball or stability ball. I bounced through my first pregnancy in the office, easing the back pain of pregnancy and keeping my core active. You can buy a yoga ball chair, but these are significantly more expensive than the ball itself. 

Another standing option to help balance and core strength that also helps strengthen ankles is a wobble board. These run around $20-$30 and are apparently fun and challenging, though I have yet to try one. A new company has created The Level, a beautiful but expensive device in a similar vein. 

Great, but what about the cardiovascular system? I am ever a fan of efficient use of time, so the treadmill desk is quite intriguing. But beside being expensive, it is huge and unnatractive. If you have a bike already, there are a number of desks available to dock your bike so you can pedal while working like this beautiful but expensive option, the Pit In.  

Sadly, I sold my road bike when I moved to narrow dirt roads and pot holes, so moving on.  There is the  Fit Desk, which is relatively compact, but at $300 still more than I can spend right now.  I settled on a mini- elliptical machine, The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider. This can be used either sitting at a traditional desk or a standing desk. It is small, quiet, and at $100 was more within my budget. I will update on how productive I am with this machine as I begin to use it. 
These are my picks for an active office.

Movement helps blood flow and oxygen move throughout your body, and blood to the brain has to be a good thing when you’re engaged in intense concentration.  Burning a few extra calories and gently building muscles are perks few of us can complain about and the benefits to overall mental and physical health are backed up by numerous studies that I leave for you to google on your own. 

I would like to add a few items that can help your office itself become mobile. My husband and I have tried to craft a life that lets us be outdoors as much as possible. His landscaping business requires no standing desks or extra efforts to get outside, but as a lawyer I am somewhat stuck.  However, my plan is to take my office with me when needed or wanted on road trips and vacations. As a lawyer on the cusp of generation x and the millennials, I am comfortable with digital office management. My case files will be cloud based and accessible by my iPhone or laptop. I need a couple of important items of equipment to make that possible.

 A scanner is all important. This one is both compact and has a document feeder. Both crucial to my needs.  It also scans to either Pdf or word files. Very convenient for working off old pleadings. 

This printer is wireless, compact, and cloud compatible. I don’t need fancy color or photo options, just need to print s document, sign it, scan it, and file it. 

 I will be using a MacBook Air. These are tiny and lightweight and have a solid state drive so are durable.   Also, for simple web browsing and word processing, plenty powerful with long battery life. Finally, a refurbished 11″ MacBook Air runs around $750. This is relatively affordable for an apple.  

Digital storage seems to ever be an issue. The MacBook Air isn’t huge (but I’m doing cloudbased office management anyway). However, I’d like to combine some photo and music storage with my office set up.  Two terabytes are easy to come by these days, and this mobile drive is wifi enabled with an SD card for photos. 

Eventually, we will be installing an awning on the van. There I will sit, working happily away in the great out of doors while my husband takes the boys on a hike.   

So that’s it. My recipe for a mobile office. I’ve tried to keep the costs down, and if you compare it to renting an office space, buying furniture and equipment, paying utilities, paying for staff, and hospital bills for health conditions resulting from sitting in an ugly office all day, this is a steal. Of course I’m not going to get rich. But I don’t want to spend all my time sitting hunched over inside and miss out on good times outdoors with my family. 

Early spring and greenhouse construction

gardening, Small business April 30, 2014

Greenhouse construction is finally underway. My husband and step brother have been working 8 hour days on it and we are getting closer. My windowsills are full of seedlings and I am running out of room waiting for our last frost. (It snowed this weekend, spring time comes slowly in the mountains).

The arugula and spinach is outside and thriving along with the onions. We have some hops just showing signs of green, and a few young asparagus plants weathering the cold. The tulips are in bloom and the lilacs are just showing some buds in spite of the recent freeze. The mint patch is looking good and I have some potted pansies on the patio to keep the promise of more flowers alive. The fruit trees are budding out and our sweet almond blooms have come and gone. I have also put out several plants of creeping thyme, while I lay some generously spaced flagstone. I am hoping to create a low maintenance space that will tolerate the dogs but still look attractive. Pea gravel may be in our future.

In the back, I am weeding weeding weeding. We have planted a beautiful weeping spruce to go with our three juniper trees and large ornamental grasses as a screen. We have seven Karl forester grasses, three giant sacatons and one miscanthus. I’m hoping that’ll do the trick while the junipers mature to screen the view of the houses down the hill. The ground is cleared for the small patch of cool season turf which will meet the wildflower meadow at two globe willows. The seed has been purchased for the meadow and I am busily preparing the ground while I wait for the danger of frost to pass. All in all pleasant if not erratic and sometimes windy weather.

My mind is full of flower bed plans to be installed in our first landscaping project for a client and I spend free moments scouring native seed catalogs and Pinterest for inspiration.

As far as business goes, we have one big project and one small maintenance contract. Not eating meat very often these days, but I’m hoping to get some ad space in the local paper shortly and gently pestering people hoping to get word of mouth going. Our website is up and looks good. I have a little blog going for it that is fun to work on and of course we have a small but growing Facebook presence. It’s a little scary, but my anxiety about bills and groceries is completely mixed up with my excitement at being able to spend my time and energy on something that I so love l, knowing that my husband feels the same way. We alternate in our panicking, so far one at least one of us is confident when such episodes arise. We do panic from time to time though. That is all the news that is fit to print for this little aspiring business.