3 Tech Tools to Help You Travel Lighter

January 15, 2010 by · 13 Comments 

During this past holiday season I spent about 18 days in Syracuse NY visiting family and friends.  I decided for the first time ever to travel for an extended holiday vacation without my laptop – having to walk through several airports lugging heave luggage I figured the less tech gear I had to take with me the better!  Thanks to two small pieces of technology (that fit in my pocket) and one service I use I was able to stay connected, entertained, and when needed – productive.

Watch this short video to learn more about how I took The Anywhere Office with me and was able to work from anywhere while traveling lighter than ever before!

Two things I forgot to mention in the video . . . The reason I have an iPod Touch and not an iPhone is because I refuse to switch from Verizon to AT&T as my cellphone provider.  I have been a loyal Verizon customer for years for two main reasons – excellent signal (I can make and receive calls from just about anywhere and almost never have a dropped call) and great customer service (sadly almost unheard of today).  The minute Apple gets smart and moves away from their exclusive deal with AT&T and brings the iPhone (or some variation of it) to Verizon I will be the first one in line to get one!

Also one additional app I use on my iPod Touch that really helped me stay in touch was Yahoo Messenger.  Yahoo is the main IM service I use and I was able to seamlessly stay connected using my iPod Touch so I didn’t miss any messages from my family, friends, and colleagues – simply awesome.

BTW – I shot this video using my new Flip UltraHD camcorder and the Gorilla Tripod – 2 more great portable pieces of technology I have!

Comment below and let me know what is the key technology you use to stay connected when on the road.

Smartphones and Work Life Balance

June 29, 2009 by · 35 Comments 

A couple of days ago in the Making Flexibility Work group on LinkedIn a question was asked
about the positives and negatives of smartphones on work/life balance.

In my experience when it comes to smartphones and work/life balance I think a lot of the pros/cons are about how a person uses a tool such as this. Like any technology you have to know when to turn it off and setup personal guidelines for how to use it.

These communication guidelines should be clearly explained to others you work with as well. Sometimes people think because you have a smartphone that gives you almost instant access to email you should be replying to every message within minutes regardless of what time of day it is.

I am a proponent of “work/life integration” as I believe balance can be difficult to achieve at times – but tools such as smartphones and other new communication tools make it easier to integrate work into your life. So if that means you have to do a bit of work on your vacation – but instead you get to take vacations you couldn’t take before – in my opinion that is a win.

That being said I still think it’s important to block out dedicated time away from work where you can focus on family, friends, relaxation, and personal development without the distractions.

I often joke about our company website being YouCanWorkFromAnywhere.com NOT “You Should Work From Everywhere”. That’s how I weigh in on this issue. Please share your comments below as I am eager to see your thoughts on this topic.

Virtual Workforce: Managing Remote Employees – BusinessWeek

June 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Virtual Workforce: Managing Remote Employees – BusinessWeek.

I came across this collection of special reports on Businessweek.com all relating to aspects of ‘Managing the Virtual Workforce’.  Here is a brief description of the reports included:

Dropping Outlook for Webmail (an update on my adventures in cloud computing)

November 25, 2008 by · 7 Comments 

It was almost a year ago when I posted about my 60 day experiment to stop using Outlook as my primary email program and contact manager and instead moved to a web-based email system. Several people commented on that posting and I felt it was time for an update.

Let me say that after having moved my email onto the web I have been much happier and accessing my email is much more flexible. In fact, that move has prompted me to move  other services I need, such as my calendar and to do list, to the cloud.

So let me briefly review what is no longer an experiment, but is now the new way I am working.  First off, as for email, although I started by using Yahoo Mail Plus – after about 4 months I decided to give Google Apps and Gmail a try.  There were a number of things I liked about Yahoo but there were some things that made me crazy too – such as often losing a message while writing it for no reason (the screen would just go blank), plus a big problem: the Yahoo Calendar. This is where Yahoo lost me as a user and Google won. Read more

Dropping Outlook for webmail? My 60 day experiment

December 19, 2007 by · 21 Comments 

Let me start by saying that for as long as I can remember I have been a devout Microsoft Outlook user. I lived, breathed, and worked in Outlook all day long using it not only for email – but also for organizing my contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes. About 6 months ago I upgraded to Office 2007 and really like the new version of Outlook – however I have been giving a lot of thought lately to just how mobile my email is (and can be).

This prompted me to start thinking about making the switch to using webmail. By moving away from Outlook to a web based email system I always have access to all my mail from any web browser. At a client site – no problem just jump on the web and I’m able to send, receive or access all of may mail. Visiting friends and family . . . I don’t even need my laptop with me as long as I can use their computer to get on the web.

But me leave the comforts of Outlook? Just the thought of it made me quiver . . . so I decided to conduct a 60 day experiment to see if I could leave my trusty Outlook behind and free myself to truly work the web!

I evaluated the big boys of webmail – Yahoo, Windows Live (formerly Hotmail), and Google’s Gmail. After a painstaking analysis of their various features and options and a few short tests I have decided to go with Yahoo Mail for my experiment. There are a lot of reasons why which I will explain in future posts – but one of the reasons is their new interface which makes the experience of working with it very similar to working with Outlook or any other desktop email program. Also it was important for me to be able to send mail from a number of different email addresses seamlessly so I could consolidate my mail into one program like I did with Outlook. While the other claim to do this they have some shortcomings in this area that Yahoo did not have (as long as I subscribe to their Yahoo! Mail Plus service for $20 a year).

I also like the fact that I can free myself from having to use a smartphone (like my current Treo 650) to access my email being that almost all phones have internet access and Yahoo provides a very usable wap (phone based) interface to access and work with your email. I’m planning on getting a new phone soon and wanted to move to something a bit simpler (my Treo tends to crash a lot and in the end I realized I want my phone to be mostly just that . . . a phone and not try to do everything). I spend enough time troubleshooting my computer – I don’t want to troubleshoot my phone too!

I decided now would be a good time for the test as I will be traveling a lot for the holidays so it would give me a good chance to really put it through it’s paces. So about 3 weeks ago I made the switch (gulp). I have a copy of all my email forwarding to my Yahoo Plus account (while leaving a copy on the mail server that I still have been downloading into Outlook once a week in case after the 60 days I decide to scrap my webmail experiment).

At first my mouse kept hovering over the Outlook icon on my taskbar every time I went to check or send an email but soon I overcame that and a strange feeling has overtaken me. Let’s call it a lightness of being . . . I feel less tied down not having to live in Outlook anymore. Instead of running into my home office to check my email I just use my phone’s web access to log into yahoo and view messages. And guess what? When I delete a message on my phone it’s gone the next time I access Yahoo’s webmail from my laptop. I also have to admit my laptop has been a lot snappier now that I don’t have a big resource hogging program like Outlook running all the time. Most of the time I am just working in my browser (which I always have open anyway).

I’m not fully convinced I am leaving Outlook yet – but so far I am really enjoying the experience! The next week or so when I am visiting family for the holidays will be much more telling. What about my calendar, tasks, and notes you ask? I’ll save that for another post in a few weeks. At that point I’ll share more details about my experience and what tools I am trying in replace of Outlook there – yes they are also web-based!

So what do you think? Are you an Outlook addict? Have any of you made the switch? Post a comment and let me know your thoughts and experiences.

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