How Your Laptop Can Improve Your Work-Life Balance (Part 2)
A small firm owner reveals her favorite tech tools to help break free from the office.
As a small firm owner on the go, I couldn’t live without certain tech tools that help me go wireless, paperless, deskless, and suitless. With my laptop serving as my control center, here are the tools I use religiously, in no particular order.
Syncplicity – A cloud storage tool that lets you share and sync files across devices. Life is easier when you can get your files anywhere, anytime on any device. Cost: $60 per year per user for the business edition.
Google Voice – One phone number for all of your phones. What’s great is the number is tied to you, not to a device or a location. From my laptop, I can make and pick up calls, send and get texts, and read transcriptions of my voicemails. I can also add notes, download, and share voicemails. Cost: free.
RingCentral – My cloud-based phone and fax system. The RingCentral cloud platform lets you manage calls, integrate your phone services, and send and receive faxes from different locations and devices. Cost: $25 per user for the standard package.
Google Apps – I use Google Apps to collaborate on documents with my team. They let you create, edit and share files—docs, sheets, forms, and slides—on any device, without breaking the bank. Cost: $5 per user per month for the Google Apps for Work standard package.
Timer – I like to use a free desktop timer to set “pomodoros” for productivity and breaks. It’s an astonishingly simple tool to help you manage your time better.
Toggl – The basic timer tracks my time, while this tool tracks how I spend my time. It features 1-click time tracking and lets you see where your minutes go in real time. Cost: free and paid versions are available.
Passpack – My password manager. I can tag, sort, search, and manage multiple logins per site. I can also share and provision passwords with my staff securely: passwords and other sensitive data are encrypted by the browser before being sent to the server for storage and later retrieval. Cost: free for one user, but still pretty cheap for additional shared users.
Ruby Receptionists – A great tool to filter potential client calls. It’s a real, live virtual receptionist service based in Portland, Oregon. You can be mobile because they’ll transfer calls to where you like—but your callers will think the assistant works in your office. Cost: $259 per month for their basic plan.
Virtual assistant – There are a variety of virtual assistance services that are great for sending letters, making calls, and completing a variety of business tasks. I still use a “live” assistant to answer calls, handle mail, and meet “walk-ins.” The cost of virtual assistance will vary depending on your needs.
PdaNet – This tool transforms my smartphone into a wireless modem, USB tether, bluetooth DUN, or wireless router. It’s the perfect tool if you have a good data plan. I now have 2G connection for free on Sprint in Mexico—a game-changer for my frequent surfing trips to Baja. Cost: $15-$20, depending on your device.
Scanner – My office uses a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 to scan all mail. Then we save it on Syncplicity so the entire team has access to the mail.
There are certainly times when technology gets the best of my A.D.D. brain—when it causes me to pass the off-ramp to the beach or space on something touching a loved one just said to me. But the bottom line is this: Would you rather be working from the beach, or working from your office with a computer screensaver of the beach?
Sally Morin is managing principal of Sally Morin Law in San Francisco.