Business on the Go — Setting Up Your Mobile Office

I finally switched to a smartphone a few years ago when my travel really picked up. I needed to have access to emails wherever I was and I didn’t always want to carry my laptop.

I was thinking about that the other day, and how it’s not uncommon for me to Skype with colleagues from my smartphone, which means I’m not tethered to my desk.

What else do you need to ensure your business can be mobile?

Consider the devices you will need.

A smartphone means you will have access to many apps. I already mentioned Skype. I also have apps for the airlines I fly most frequently. This is helpful if my flight is cancelled and I need to rebook. I also can find out what gate I need to get to instead of craning over heads at the monitors.

Laptops are ideal for businesses on the go, but they’re almost obsolete now as tablets have taken center stage. Although tablets aren’t always easy to use for lots of typing, if you purchase the add-on keyboard, it greatly enhances your productivity. I was all set to replace my laptop that is way too many years old. Now, though, I think I’ll hold onto it and buy a tablet instead. I still like a laptop as the screen is slightly larger making it ideal for home use. If you aren’t sure which table or laptop to buy check out this recent article.

Another device you will want is a wireless printer so you can print from any of your devices.

If you travel frequently, you may want to purchase a mobile hotspot, a device you can purchase from any cellular company that is less than the size of a pack of playing cards. It allows you to connect to the internet when a free WIFI connection is not available. There is usually no contract and you purchase what you need. If you are only using email or browsing the Web, then you won’t use much data. Downloading and streaming means high data usage and more costs. If you don’t purchase enough, you will have the option to purchase more or the session will close if you don’t.

Other things to consider for your mobile office include the operating system you plan to use (Windows or Mac), the type of calendar you will use and how to merge personal and professional calendars to keep everything straight. You should also look at GPS for getting to and from meetings. While this list is by no means complete it should get you started.

Power of White Space

Like most people, when I travel I return to work with an inbox that is overflowing. I used to fret about it until I hit on the ingenious idea of creating some white space on my calendar the first day I’m back in the office.

I block the entire morning so that I can catch up with teammates and review my email. I quickly delete anything that is only for informational purposes. I note which items will require a thoughtful response or research and mark time on my calendar for each of those. The remaining items I can usually respond to within a few hours and that what’s I do.

After lunch, I focus on the most pressing items but now I’m no longer feeling anxious because there are 400 unread emails in my inbox.

I also try to create white space following a meeting. Back-to-back meetings result in my inability to address any issues that may have arisen from the meeting. I try to keep 30 minutes between meetings (although I’m probably only successful about 25 percent of the time). This unscheduled time enables me to follow-up immediately on action items and reach out to those with whom I need to follow-up.

Mike Myatt wrote in Forbes that “Leaders need white space to respond to unexpected opportunities and issues.”

Creating the white space at work is critical to my professional success. I’ve learned to do the same with my personal calendar.

I play volleyball, belong to a book club and volunteer but if they all fall in the same week, I can become quite irritable because, again, there is no white space. I need that white space to keep up with correspondence, bills and frankly, just have some quiet time.

Not filling every minute of your calendar creates the space needed to deliver on promises and commitments.

Do you have enough white space in your life?

Newspapers Taught Me Much

Capture_NNWNational Newspaper Week runs today through Saturday.

Like many in the PR field, my first job was as a newspaper reporter. Thinking back on those days, I realize just how much working for a newspaper paved my career path.  Working for newspapers taught me to –

Push past my comfort zone. Early in my career, I wasn’t comfortable with new situations, but as a reporter, I always tried new things. My first month as a reporter covering the police and court beat, I had to stand up in the court room and request that it not be closed to reporters. My knees were knocking, but the court stayed open to the reporters, and I got my story. I also went hot air ballooning, trained with the National Guard and talked to a serial killer for a story – all of which pushed me past my comfort zone.

Accept criticism and feedback. News is supposed to be objective but readers always have an opinion. And editors definitely do. Starting out as a writer and getting constant feedback turned me into a better writer, but to get there I had to be willing to accept the feedback. When I wrote a column, I learned quickly that everyone had an opinion, and not all were favorable. Today I have fairly thick skin.

Handle multiple assignments. My first job required reporters to turn in a story each day. That meant I always had to be working ahead. I’d aim to develop and write a few evergreen stories to have in my back pocket. I’d attend meetings that would provide that day’s story and a follow-up story.  I learned lots about time management and meeting deadlines.

Network. The only way to ensure I could have a story each and every day as was required in my first newspaper job was to cultivate lots of sources. Anytime I met someone, I would ask for their contact details and add them to my Rolodex . Each year, I’d have to get a bigger one. Now I just keep all my contacts online. When I needed a story or a quote, I would always know whom to call.

Not burn bridges and always be honest. One time I paged a detective (remember pagers?) who wanted to know how I had come to have the number. I told him that I saw it on the chief’s desk and wrote it down in case I would ever need. It was a big case, and I needed a quote. Because I was honest and had had his number for six months, the detective gave me the quote I needed.

The newspaper still arrives each day in my driveway. I get lots of my news online and from Facebook posts, but I always enjoy holding the newspaper, maybe because of how much I learned from those early days as a reporter.

‘C’ Competencies Critical for Success

Last week I met with some alum from my university. While it was fun to meet and catch up, we were discussing serious business – preparing students for the future.

I’m a strong advocate of internships and mentoring, so this was a perfect conversation in which to be involved. Dr. Katherine Hawkins, dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences at Radford University, mentioned the “C” competencies for life success, and I followed up with her by email for more explanation.

Collaboration is a critical skill for success. (Photo : Radford University)

Collaboration is a critical skill for success. (Photo: Radford University)

“Employer surveys consistently demonstrate employers do not care so much about your major as they care about whether you have the competencies to do the job,” she said later.

While she preaches this sermon to all incoming students and their parents at orientation, the “C” competencies are critical at any stage. If you haven’t perfected them yet, it’s worth doing.

The “C” competencies include communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Communication: Both oral and written communication, as well as something about how to use visual imagery to make messages more impactful. The top-ranked competency desired by employers is consistently excellent communication skills. If you are still developing this skill be sure to have someone else proof and edit your resume and cover letter.

Collaboration: Ability to work well with others in groups, as well as the ability to provide leadership as appropriate. Employers consistently state the ability to be an effective member of a work group is a highly desirable skill set. I don’t have a day go by in which I’m not collaborating with others.

Critical thinking: The ability to determine what the problem really is, identify what kind of information is needed to solve the problem, navigate through information universe to find the most accurate high quality information relevant to the problem, and use that information to make a good decision about how to solve the problem. “If you don’t have high quality information as a basis for decision making, you’re not likely to make a very good decision,” Hawkins said.

Creativity: Displaying resourcefulness and persistence in the face of resistance or initial failure. “Keep researching and attempting different approaches until you find a way to make it work,” Hawkins said.