Apps will keep you grounded during hectic travel schedule

December 13, 2015

Q: My new role will require a lot of travel. What tools will keep me on track while I’m on the road?

A: These indispensable travel apps are like having your executive assistant by your side while on the road.

TripIt is a mobile travel organizer that links your email flight, car and hotel reservations and saves them all to one itinerary in chronological order which can be forwarded to others.  It updates any flight delays and changes that are emailed to you.

To book or reroute your flight compare airline rates with Google Flights, then select the best available seat using SeatGuru — which has aircraft configurations showing superior to substandard seating. While waiting on a layover at an unfamiliar airport, GateGuru displays a terminal map, a layout of amenities in the airport near your gate as well as restaurant ratings.

It also shows security wait times, flight delays, gate changes and layover updates.

For driving in an unfamiliar location, Waze is a must. It’s a community driven app providing the quickest route in real time, including traffic speeds, delays and detours. Beware: it’s a battery hog even if it’s just running in the background.

Out-of-country roaming charges rack up quickly. J Wire will pinpoint free nearby urban wireless hot spots in 140 countries — downloadable for off-line use. Wi-Fi locations are filtered by location type — hotel, café, restaurant. WhatsApp automatically downloads your contact list and will allow you to SMS message via Internet free.

Tongue tied in a foreign language?  Google Translate can rapidly translate whole paragraphs of text or even the spoken word. Say a phrase in English, and it will repeat it the 57 foreign languages of your choice.

No matter where you travel these handy apps will make your travel experience less stressful and more productive.

Reprinted from The Province, December 13, 2015.

The right apps are invaluable organizing tools

November 13, 2015

Q: I’ve just moved from a large organization to a small startup without an executive assistant to keep me organized. What tools would you recommend?

A: Productivity Apps that sync your smartphone, tablet and laptop may rival your EA because they manage details and information with people anywhere anytime.

Google Drive is a must have. This cloud storage system enables you to share just about any kind of file from recordings and photos to spreadsheets and word docs online 24/7. It’s a premier collaboration tool that allows multiple users to work on a single document separately or simultaneously and the Drive captures every update immediately.

OneNote is an intuitive note-taking app that can be used to capture random ideas or as searchable notebooks for a host of topics with sub-sections. Colour-coded tabs make it simple to sort, retrieve and review. Notes are easily shared with others by email. Meeting notes, video and recordings can be added to your notebook by emailing OneNote. A handy bonus is when clipping website information the URL is automatically saved.

Rated the best to-do list app, Wunderlist is great for managing accountability. It allows you to create multiple to-do lists, assign tasks to others and sort by priority or due date. Collaborators receive an email notification when assigned tasks and you receive one as they are completed.

Who can remember all their passwords? LastPass is the most popular password manager because it auto populates log-in information from all of your devices, alerts you if there is a security breach and allows you to give others log-in access to sites without ever revealing your password.

These apps can help you squeeze more time out of your day. Next time, useful travel apps for the mobile professional.

Reprinted from The Province, November 22, 2015.

Take time to get back in the work flow

September 13, 2013

Q: I am returning to work after five weeks of vacation and am already feeling overwhelmed. Last time I had over 2,000 emails in my inbox. What tips do you have to get me back on track faster this time?

A: Believe that being rejuvenated and clear headed will help you accomplish more than you think. Be realistic and give yourself time to reacclimatize.

Keep your out-of-office message on and avoid booking appointments for one or two additional days so you can get reoriented and reorganized.

Perhaps change your out-ofoffice message to say you are back and if something needs urgent attention re-send it.

Get a status report from your boss and colleagues on key projects so you have a clear sense of the big picture and key priorities. A 15-minute standup huddle will keep things brief and concise. Where are things at? What are the highest priorities? Reconfirm timelines and deadlines.

After these meetings, create a new to-do list and block time in your calendar to accomplish them so you are in control of your time, not others.

Review and clean the clutter out of your inbox because the junk can obscure the critical ones. Only read and respond to urgent emails. Beginning with the most recent, file or delete unnecessary CCs, solicitations.

Resist the temptation of easy low priority emails that may give you an immediate sense of accomplishment but really put you further behind.

Use your positive holiday energy to boost your productivity. Don’t wear yourself out with long hours and taking work home. Returning the next day fresh and clear will keep your momentum strong.

Put the details into perspective by remembering the bigger picture and what really matters in your role.

Originally published in The Province, September 8, 2013.

Get set up -then unplug

July 19, 2011

Q: Vacations just aren’t worth it. I work like a dog beforehand to get ahead of my workload and race to catch up when I get back. While I’m away my BlackBerry buzzes continuously. I’m thinking of cancelling this year’s holiday altogether. Can you help?

A: Others won’t respect your time off until you do. You’ve trained people that you are available even when absent.

This time give people two week’s notice of your upcoming vacation. At the same time block time to wrap up, tidy up or delegate your current responsibilities to others you trust. Introduce your replacements to the key issues and provide clear written instructions on how to handle specific situations so you can relax knowing business is taken care of.

Turn on your “out of office” e-mail manager informing people you are unavailable and who to contact regarding urgent issues. Create an outgoing voice message with the same information. Then unplug. Don’t answer your phone! Seriously, once you respond from your BlackBerry it is game over.

Doing even a little bit of work while away will continue a slow drain on your mental and emotional batteries. You will end up coming back just as tired. Ride the relaxed holiday momentum by easing back into work. Block the first day or two to get organized and reoriented.

Rather than answer each email, sort by subject, scan, prioritize and act on the most pressing issues. Delegate what you can immediately, then file or dump messages you were cc’d on for reference. This reduces the sense of overwhelming.

Remember. Vacations have enormous health benefits.

Originally published in The Province, July 18, 2011.

BC Business: 10 power moves

May 1, 2008

How many times have you inwardly seethed while a colleague glibly speaks up at a meeting, passing off your brilliant idea as her own? Or felt that inner alarm bell jangle when your boss spells out a plan that you know is doomed to failure?

They don’t teach you how to handle these everyday dilemmas in business school, but knowing how to field them smoothly might just save your bacon if the going gets rough. With the help of some advice from the experts, here are 10 tips that will help you finesse the challenges that might otherwise derail your progress from the bullpen to the corner office.

[read full article]

Preparing to cast off the safety net

October 28, 2007

Q:  I want to leave my job to start my own consulting business, but I’m nervous about paying my monthly bills until I am up and running. What tips do you have for making a smooth transition?

A:  Doing market research, setting up business systems, even creating a financial nest egg can provide you with a solid foundation that will save you migraines later.

Actively test-market your service immediately. You’ll quickly learn what the demand is for your services, how much people will pay and which marketing approach results in a sale.

Gage people’s reaction to your message and fine-tune it until you can say it with confidence — and people are saying, “Sure, I’ll buy from you.”

New entrepreneurs tend to grossly underestimate the time and effort it takes to secure a new client, complete the work satisfactorily and get paid.

By taking on manageable contracts now, you will have realistic expectations based on experience.

Experiment with what to charge to cover your time, meet the client’s expectations and net a profit after expenses.

Aim to accurately forecast your marketing and sales cycle so you are not caught off-guard later.

This is a perfect time to create business systems. Standardizing will keep you from being overwhelmed when customers are knocking down your door.

Beta-test your business with a low-risk trial run. You’ll recognize when you have worked out enough of the wrinkles to smoothly step into self-employment without a safety net.

Originally printed in The Province, October 28, 2007.