Can You Unplug Yourself From Technology?

This past weekend I celebrated the Easter holiday with my family in California.  I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.  (Truth be told: I’m more fortunate than most who live away from their families.  But, I always wish we had more time.)  And, I did something radical.  I didn’t check email or social media for 2 days.  And, did I miss anything? No. Did the earth stop? No.  In fact, most of the email that I “missed” was junk and ended up being deleted immediately on Monday morning.  It would have been such a waste of my family time to stop to check email for something so trivial as spam.

Do you stop occasionally to completely tune out from work (and the associated technology)?

This is so very challenging to do.  Our smartphones are so smart that we can do everything on them all at once.  But I’ve noticed that when I’m constantly looping in to check technology that I don’t give my mind the chance to rest.  And, I end up tired and burned out during the “work week”.  When I tune out technology and turn off my gadgets I come back to work rested, relaxed, and ready for action.  Believe me, it’s hard to shift gears like this. But, it’s worth it!

Here are some things I do to completely “unplug” myself:

  • Focus on the task at hand.
    The “task” can be something as simple as watching TV.  I’m as guilty as the next person of tweeting while simultaneously watching TV.  But, at the end of the night I’ve missed half the show.  And, it could be my favorite show.  What a waste.
  • Embrace a hobby.
    Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.  If I’m not busy doing something I totally enjoy doing, my hands are going to turn to my iPhone.  When I’m bored I do this.  And, without a hobby to embrace outside of my work, I get bored.
  • Plan outings with friends.
    This one is a no-brainer…. but I’m going to mention it anyways.  I find that some weekends (or times that I should be relaxing) I am stuck in my technology because of the social aspects of it, namely social media.  In other words: I am wanting to interact with people. Facebook and twitter are only a few swipes away.  But, by doing this, I’m not unwinding the way I could be with a good real-life laugh with friends.
  • Read a book – made of paper.
    I read all sorts of things on my gadgets: blog posts, newspapers, books, etc.  But, I’ve noticed that it’s not nearly quite as relaxing as a good old-fashioned book.  There is something about the pages that transports me to another world that feels quite decadent.  I think it’s the luxury of time to sit around and *just read* is the decadence itself.
  • Commit to unplugging daily.
    I find that I’m much better at being tech-free on weekends if I can commit to it daily.  I try to avoid technology after 7pm weekly.  This gives me time to relax and time for my brain to rest.  It also preps me for the longer technology fast over the weekend.

How about you?  How do you unplug yourself from technology?

Facebook Friendships and Business Friendships

I’m hoping today’s post will foster a healthy discussion on this topic… would love to know your thoughts and learn from you.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of Facebook friend requests from people in the industry.  I like to keep my Facebook for my friends.  I define friends as people who I socialize with in real non-virtual life.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t like and love everyone of you in this industry.  And, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t forged some INCREDIBLE relationships with people in the virtual world.  I have. But, if I haven’t met you then it’s hard for me to socialize with you in this forum.

Here’s why…

Facebook is more personal to me than all the other social media channels.

Look, I don’t care that you see my nutso photos from high school.  Hell – I’d post them on Twitter for the world to see.  I’m also going to make the (totally naïve) assumption that most people aren’t going to show up on my front porch some day.  I don’t care that you know how old I am and that you know that I like to drink cocktails on the weekends (more than just 2).

So… why does it matter that I only have real life friends on my Facebook?

I think it is because Facebook for me is personal.  This is my separation of work and life. This is part of my work-life balancing act.  I like my Facebook feed to be people that I have actually met in real life.  It’s fun for me to see people’s babies, travels, and triumphs.  I actually don’t want to have to “work” while on Facebook. (That’s what my business page is for.)  Facebook (my personal profile) is my outlet from work.

I think MANY people feel this way too.  I think this is why I’m seeing that people are setting up two personal profiles.  These are NOT business pages.  One personal profile has been set up for the “personal relationships” as I’ve described above.  And, then a second profile was set up to get around all the business relationships and show the best business face. I totally get this.  In fact, I’ve thought of doing the same… keep everyone compartmentalized… show my best business face on Profile #2 (not the nutso high school face)… and keep my babies and outside-work Facebook on Profile #1.  Two profiles could be a way to have a deeper connection with people than thru a business page in which the communication is often just “corporate-like”.

But, then I realized…

HEY!  Why should I get to see someone’s personal Facebook page while they are only limited to my “fake” Facebook page?  Is that really fair?  I get to see their nutso high school photos and they don’t get to see mine?  Those “friends” would only subjected to this very perfect (and unrealistic) Facebook profile where all I do is talk about work?  (Actually, some friends might actual prefer not reading about my fun weekend beaching in December. HA!)

Also – I realized that I do not want all the upkeep involved in this.  1 profile and 1 business page is already insane to manage (and we haven’t even talked about all the other social media upkeep: the blog, Twitter, tumblr, etc.)

Wedding pros?  What are your thoughts on this?  Do you have two separate profiles?  How does it work for you?

How I resolved this…

I stopped myself before I got into all this craziness of 2 personal profiles.  I’ve been better about managing my Facebook lists.  I think this is WHY Facebook lists were invented.  Do you know you can compartmentalize people into lists and filter out what each list can see?  BRILLIANT!

I’ve also stopped myself from feeling guilty about not being Facebook friends with everyone.  This isn’t because I think of myself as exclusive or elite.  I am just like you.  And, I think most people would say I’m pretty darn approachable and friendly.  I’ll hug you the minute we meet.  So, if you don’t know me very well… let’s become friends in real life… that’s wayyyyy better than becoming Facebook Friends. Then, the Facebook friendship will be oh-so-secondary to what we have in real life.

Do You Comment on Blogs You Read?

If you follow @mrfrostings on Twitter you know his passion for motivating people to comment on blogs.  (Earl Anderson is @mrfrostings, and the other half of Leslie Maynor of world-famous cake design Fantasy Frostings.)  Earl has good reason for his insistence.  Commenting on blogs is a win-win-win-win-win for all!

5 Reasons Why You Should Comment On Blogs:

1 – To Improve Networking

If you want to establish a relationship with someone, start the conversation.  This may be another colleague in the industry, or someone you look up to.  If you want to get noticed, read their blog and comment from time to time.

For example, in the two years I’ve been writing this blog, I read and notice every single comment that people write.  If I’ve never heard of the business owner, I’ll click on their website to learn more about them.  My natural curiosity is spiked when someone takes the time to add to this community.

2 – It Sets You Apart

If you want to be recognized for a specialty, make sure to seek others who are writing about the topic on their blogs.  Share your thoughts and opinions.  Not only does the writer notice your comment, but others read the comments.  Comment on enough blogs with this topic and you will start to be known as an expert on this issues.  Commenting on blogs sets you apart from others.  It strengthens your place as an expert in your field.

3 – The Odds are In Your Favor if You Have a Blog

In Chris Brogan’s book Trust Agents, he shares that commenting on blogs is very rare.  He states, “It’s commonly said that of all readers of all Web content, 10% comment and only 1% are genuine content creators (bloggers).”  With only 1% of bloggers commenting on other people’s blogs, you have a really great chance of standing out.  He goes on to say, “The numbers are approximations, but it is meant to show the great disparity between the number of people reading about you and number of people writing about you.  Due to the rarity of those comments those who comment are remarkable and are noticed.”  I definitely notice comments – on my own blog and those of others – particularly when they are providing valuable insight.

4 – It’s Kind

If you’re reading blogs, commenting is the nice thing to do. The authors spend a lot of time sharing what they know about their expertise.  It’s only right to leave a little love.

5 – It Strengthens SEO

When you leave a comment on someone’s blog, you are leaving your stamp: your name and/or business name and a link back to your site.  This is a direct link back to your site and improves your SEO (search engine optimization.)  Now, I don’t agree with the practice of commenting only for the self-serving purpose of strengthening SEO, but this is an added benefit.  By commenting, giving a little love, you get a little something back in return.  It’s win-win!

A few more thoughts

It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering or life-changing comment, but add insight to the post by sharing your experience or beliefs.  Comments like “Love this!”  or “Thank you!” are kind.  (I love getting any comment in any shape or size.)  But, it will benefit the community greater if you can add something with a little more depth.  Again, try to continue the conversation in the comments you make.

Want to get more insight on HOW to comment and WHAT to comment on… here’s a great post on SocialMediaExplorer.com on blog commenting.

What are your thoughts on blog commenting?

Can’t Live Without: SKYPE

Today, I want to talk about Skype.  I LOVE SKYPE.  Many of you use Skype already… and there are some of you that may be a bit apprehensive.  I know that getting tied up into more software and computer services might be far down your list of a gazillion things to do.  But, you’ll be blown away by how easy Skype is to set up and use.  It’s such an important part of my business life and personal life.  (I kid you not… my 3 year old says “S is for Skype!”)

What is Skype?

Skype is an online tool that enables you to talk (audio and video) for free with anyone in the world.  YEP –  FREE!  There are additional services that you can purchase, but not for basic calls.

What do you need?

You need a computer that has a microphone and speakers.  Most computers these days have this built-in.  If you want to use the video feature, a video cam is necessary also.

How does it work?

You simply go to the website: www.skype.com and click on “Get Skype”.  From there you will be able to download the program.  Once it is installed on your computer, you will choose a username and password.  Then you’re “IN”.  You’ll need to have the username for anyone you want to connect with.  For example, if you want to video chat with your client who lives 2500 miles away, you now can.  Just search for their username, add them to your list of contacts.  Once you logged into Skype, and they are logged in, you can connect with them by pressing the call button.  Enable video by pressing on the camera.  VOILA!

Why do you need Skype?

These days, with the advancement of social media, people are connecting nationwide and globally a lot easier.  There is no barrier to meeting people all over this planet.  Networking in our industry has gone international.    Also, destination weddings are becoming commonplace.  Often, your clients don’t live in the same city as you and they are planning long distance weddings.  Skype is a way for you to connect with all these people over long distances.  The video feature enables you to actually SEE your clients.  This improves the bond between the two of you.  Anyone that says technology is making people distant haven’t used Skype!

Do you use Skype? What do you use it for?

GoToMyPC – Access Your PC or Mac From Anywhere

The last 2 weeks were devoted to Client Management. I’m following up with some of my favorite tech tools.  These aren’t necessarily used for managing projects (like the tools I shared last week) but they have made my life a LOT easier and a LOT more efficient.  Next up… GoToMyPC!

Access Your PC or Mac from ANYWHERE

Today’s tech tool is probably my favorite.  It’s revolutionized my life in a lot of ways.  GoToMyPC allows you to remotely access your computer from anywhere.  This is especially important when I’m traveling.  No more bringing laptops on vacation with me!

How it works:

After enrolling in GoToMyPC (there’s a free trial), you’ll download some basic software to your computer.  Whenever you want to access that computer from a secondary computer all you do is login to gotomypc.com, input your username and password.  In your web browser, a real-time image of your computer screen will be visible.  You will be able to access your computer’s desktop and all your files from your web browser.

Why I love GoToMyPC:

OH – let me count the ways!  Here are the reasons why I love this tool:

  • No more shlepping around laptops on vacations “JUST IN CASE” a client has a panic attack.  I know I can access my computer and all its software and client files from any internet cafe (or family member’s home computer) in the world.
  • No more bringing CDs and thumb drives with files “JUST IN CASE”.
  • I have a MAC desktop computer and PC laptop (that I only use for Quickbooks).  I used to have them both turned on and fumble between the two depending on what I was working on.  Now, I leave the PC laptop on in the other room.  When I need to access it, I use GoToMyPC from my Mac.  I no longer have to mentally shift gears between 2 computers.
  • I can give other people access to my computers.  I outsourced some of my accounting a few months ago.  GoToMyPC allowed me to give the bookkeeper access to my laptop and Quickbooks.  I set up a separate PC user login and away she went… inputting transactions as I slept.
  • If you have an office and want to work from home one day, but need to have access to your office files, you can now do that.  (This is such a lifesaver for designers who often have fonts and design files on one computer, but may want to work out of the office from time to time.)
  • The web interface is incredible.  When using it, I completely forget that I’m accessing a separate computer.  The resolution is the same.  And, the computer speed is the same.
  • Even though it’s called “Go To My PC” there is a PC version and a MAC version.  (I have one on each computer.)  And, they are developing an app for the iPad.  You’ll be able to access your computer from your iPad soon.  BRILLIANT!

I love GoToMyPC so much that I can’t think of anything I don’t love about it.  The only thing is that you have to remember to leave your computer on while away.  GoToMyPC cannot turn on your remote computer.  I should also note that there is another program that is similar called “LogMeIn“.  I also liked LogMeIn.  It is a tad less expensive and there was a longer trial period.  But, I didn’t like the resolution on the computer screen as much.  LogMeIn already offers an iPad app for their site.

The lowdown on GoToMyPC:

Go To My PC offers a free 30-day trial.  After that, plans begin at $10/month for one computer and one user.  If you travel occasionally and/or work from two locations (home and office) GoToMyPC is a lifesaver!