Half Fun, Half Productive Weekend

No matter where you live, southern Italy like me, the UK or the US, we all have a lot in common. I happen to be on the “toe” of the Italian peninsula in case you aren’t a geography buff and failed to recognize my region. I am not far from Sicily, which you know for sure; I just have to cross the Strait of Messina. There are 200,000 of us enjoying the scenic beauty and ample recreation. We are grateful to be here given the magnitude of the 1908 earthquake that razed the town. It was rebuilt to become the center it is today. If you love archeology, Reggio di Calabria has the museums. I love giving tours and extolling the rich history of the area. We are known for authentic Greek bronzes: so rare and precious.

Living near the beach also has its special privileges and I get plenty of visitors from inland and friends love whenever I post photos on Facebook. I have to rush around and clean my place to get ready. You know the drill. Why do I think that people will notice a dirty bathroom? Ha! I care in any case for myself. I hate to see a buildup of hard water scale like this. Between the sand and the limescale, the cleanup job takes forever. It takes the fun out of the weekend. But it is productive. I will never be embarrassed when guests arrive. They don’t expect upscale facilities in my abode, but they appreciate the cleanliness and sparkling surfaces thanks to the best cleaning aids available. When you live in a climate like mine, you get used to the consequences.

Using Social Media Successfully

Lots of people use social media. It helps us keep in touch and share things with friends and family. It can make us sad, too, if we compare our lives to our friends’. It can also even make us miss on work we are should get or even lose a job we love. There are lots of things to pay attention to when using social media. This post is a reminder of what they are. It will also teach you if you do not already know.

First is that the internet remembers long after you forget. No matter your privacy setting, comments and pictures may be seen by lots of people. It is very easy to take a screenshot of even messages that are supposed to disappear. Remember this! The picture may be embarrassing in the future. The comment could be taken the wrong way or might even be intentionally mean. These things could be trouble later on, no matter how innocent or funny it seemed. You might have been making a joke but there is no way to convey tone – except maybe shouting – online. People can be confused or angered easily.

Second, remember that most people only post the best of the best things that happen. Nobody is going to post about their tough Thursday when they couldn’t get out of bed because they were sad or sick. They are going to post their great holiday photo. The picture of their family might show everyone looking happy but two minutes after the picture was taken, they were all fighting. You only see what people want you to see of their lives. You cannot compare the bad things in your life with the great things that happen to everyone else.

Third, think professionally. Keep an email address that sounds professional in case you need to send a message to an official organization or put it on a resume. Maintain a professional profile on networking sites, and keep that separate from your “fun” social media accounts. You do not need your networking site linked to a feed where you live tweet your favorite tv shows while drinking wine. Have it be something that you would not mind your kids or your boss seeing. Be sure that it represents who you are in the workplace and not who you are on your time off.

Lastly, know that it is fine to walk away from social media. Just because everyone you know has an account on a certain site does not mean that you need it as well. There will be a cool new messaging app out tomorrow that does all kinds of things and people will like it. The next day they will be on something new. Decide what works for you and what you can get the most out of, personally, professionally, or both. Then stick with that. Do not worry about anything else. You will be happier and it will make your social media interactions much more worthwhile.

In Search of Wireless Headphones

Wireless technology is great. How many of us have used the internet while sitting in our yard or an automobile or at a café? Something that without wireless internet we could not do. We don’t need a long wire that attaches our computer to a modem anymore. We can take our internet anywhere.

And it isn’t just the internet. Have you tried a wireless charger? I love mine. I just put my phone down and it starts charging. No wires. It will save the charging port from wearing out too early. That is good news.

Bluetooth technology lets us connect our phones to all kinds of things – wearable technology like smartwatches, extra speakers, and even our cars! We can go hands-free just about anywhere!

One thing I did not think I needed was wireless headphones. I just did not see the need for them. But then I got a new phone and it did not have a headphone port. It makes the phone more water resistant, which I liked. But it turns out that running or walking with the headphones in the way I had to connect them became frustrating. I would be running and the cord would jerk and one of the earbuds would come out.

I decided that it was time to make a switch. Wireless headphones seemed to be a good solution. But there are so many different models and brands, how do you know what to choose? Well, when I was shopping I learned a few things. Now I will share them with you.

First, think about when you will be wearing them. Do you want to wear them while you are out and about, like me? Or do you need something to use your phone hands-free? Is it better to have good sound quality because you want to listen to music? Or will you want them to block the sounds around you? This will tell you what you need to find. There are earbuds or headsets. Some have microphones so you can use them with your phone for calls. Knowing what you will be using them for will help narrow it down. Earbuds are good to carry around wherever you go, and headseats work better if you want to reduce background noise.

Next look at the battery life. Many can be charged using a USB cord just like other technology. But how long do you need them to last? Do they have to go all day or just a few hours? A good standard is around 8 hours. If battery life matters to you, make sure to pay attention to this.

Notice the range also. You will always need to be fairly near the source of the sound, but some are better than others. Doors and walls will also affect the range. You may not get the same range stated on the box but you want something that will work OK.

Once you have only a few choices in mind, look online at reviews. See what others are saying about them. Are they comfortable to wear? Are the controls easy to use? How is the battery life and the range? How reliable are they? Reviews will help you make a final decision.

These are the things you should be looking for. I know it was helpful for me and I chose a pair that work really well for my needs. I wish you luck finding yours.

Work Smarter

I like my job. I like helping people around the office. People get very upset when their computers stop working properly and I do my best to help them. That is not all I do, however. My favorite thing is showing people all the different ways automation and computers can make things easier for them. There are so many things you can do to streamline your job and increase your productivity. People are amazed at the different things I show them. Some of them are simple. Some require some work up front but they are worth the time it takes to set up.

For one thing, many people do not know that they can make their own word processing templates and it is very easy to do. If you have a report that you have to write frequently, you can create a form and then type only the new information every time. It might save you a few minutes and prevent mistakes. The same thing goes for spreadsheets. You can automate spreadsheets so much. They can compile discounts or payment schedules. They can pull numbers from other spreadsheets, saving you time and protecting you from errors copying numbers from one place to another. It will make your life easier.

We all get a lot of email during the day. Some of it is important and some can be dealt with later. Taking the time to set up your email to sort your messages is a big help. Depending on your preferred program, you can color code messages or filter messages from certain people to different folders. If you can sort the distracting messages from the important ones, you may be more productive. You will know what you need to tackle first before you even read the contents of the message. And you will not be sidetracked working on something that is not as important then miss something that is actually a priority.

There are also programs that will allow you to exchange files with people who work remotely and checklists so the whole team can be working on different pieces of the same project. That makes things very easy for everyone. People can be more productive and work at their own pace. It also lets people work remotely. How great is that? I have a friend that works as a virtual assistant and she can travel just about all over the world and still work. She has been all over Europe and the US, working around time zones and schedules. As long as she has an internet connection, she can work! That is very smart working if you ask me!

Talk to your computer experts at work and see if they have any information for you like this to help you around the office.

What Not to do at Work

There are days that I do not really like my job or some of the people I work with. I do not have them often but today was one of them. When I arrived at work, my supervisor was already in a bad mood and ordering people around. The server had crashed, which was bad news. They could not get it to come back online, which was even worse. I do not usually deal with the server, I mostly work on the employees’ computers, but I do know a little. I offered to help out but I was told, “No thanks,” and pushed out of the room. That made me mad. I am just as smart as the other computer people and maybe could have helped. It would have been nice if they at least had let me try.

I decided a cup of coffee would make me feel better. But the coffee machine is near the head of the company’s office. He is a big fan of coffee I think. He heard me and knows what I do, so he called me into his office. He wanted to know what was going on with the server and I did not know. I told him so but I left out the part where I offered to help and was turned down. I just said that I did not know because I had just come in but that the team was already working on getting everything back online. He did not seem to like that answer and marched off in the direction of the server room. I could hear his raised voice but not what was being said.

Other people started coming up to me and complaining that they could not get work done. I explained to everyone again that it was being handled. Finally someone came up to me and said they had come in early and maybe did something. “Something like what?” I wanted to know. This did not sound good. I was right. This person was using his work computer to check his personal email and saw an email from what he thought was his bank. He clicked on it and it said that his account had been possibly attacked and that he should open a file to check certain charges. In a panic over his bank account, he opened the invoice. He said his computer did a few things that he did not understand and then the screen turned blue. Then he started hearing people complain that the server was down. Oh no.

I went back to the server room and told the team what I had been told. We went to the affected workstation and removed the computer. They ran some programs on the server to try and remove whatever was now on it and eventually they got it running again. But a whole day of work was lost for the company, all because one person checked his personal email at work and fell victim to a scam! What a day!

What do You do When Your Internet is Down?

One thing I fear at work is the internet going down. We need it for company emails but also some of our reports and information are in the cloud. So if the internet is down that means no one can access it. They cannot do anything fun either – no internet radio, no online videos, no social media. The office gets very quiet. Then it gets very angry! Most of the time it is not something that any of us in the office has done. Maybe one time someone had to reset our routers during work hours. It is usually our service provider or some kind of outage in the area. But no one knows that right away so they blame us!

You know if it was something I did, I could fix it right away and the internet would be back up. But it is not my fault when it is down in the whole area! And no amount of complaining is going to get it back up!

The question is, what do you do when the internet is down? At work, there might not be a lot. Many people take long breaks or go home early. It really depends on what the problem is and when it happens. Sometimes they are going home to no internet as well because live nearby and it is not only a work problem. Then maybe you can see if the internet works on your phone if you do not mind paying for it and are seeking entertainment. I can write up reports and save them to my desktop so that I can put them on the server later when the internet is back up. Other people file or move meetings around so that they can feel productive while there is an outage.

When I am at home, it can be frustrating. It is especially bad if my plans involve watching a movie online or I want to listen to music I only have in the cloud. I do have a data plan for my computer that I can use if everything else fails and I really need it, but it can be expensive. I try not to do that too much. But you may know that there are some apps that will only work if they are connected to the internet even if you do not actually need to be online for them to run. That happens sometimes on my phone with online movies. It does not matter if they are downloaded to my phone, I have to connect to verify my account before I can even watch the movie. That is stupid.

But usually what I will do is read a book or I will go out with a friend who lives in my apartment building. We may go for a walk or out for a meal depending on the time. We may go out for drinks or spend time with some other people we both know. Sometimes it feels good to talk to people face to face without a screen in the way. What do you do when the internet is down where you are?