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14 Web Apps for Your Portable Office

14 Web Apps for Your Portable Office

Briefcase

    Last week we talked about setting up your flash drive so that you had a “portable office” of sorts wherever you go. This week we’ll take it a step further and look at the web apps you can use: all you’ll need to ensure is that the computer you’re “borrowing” has a good browser installed.

    In recent times, people have become less and less fearful of putting their data in the hands of a third party, which was previously the main obstacle preventing web apps from taking off (as well, of course, connection speeds). Though those who claim it’s never a good idea to upload your data to a third-party, web-based app are going overboard, you do need to be careful. It’s not only important to always keep a local backup of your data; it’s important to read the terms of use on any of the following sites before uploading your intellectual property.

    That said, web apps can make you truly mobile. It will no longer matter if you forget to bring your flash drive with you. We’ve got a list of the very best that you should know about if you want to have a truly “portable” office.

    Online Office Suites

    Office suites are the nerve center of the office (funny that) whether it’s a portable one or the one tethered to a desk and a floor. There are two particularly popular office suites that are web-based, both of which have zillions of zealous fans.

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    Google Apps offers email, documents, spreadsheets, notebooks, and more, attached to your own domain name. There are also personal versions if you don’t own a domain, such as Gmail and Google Docs.

    Zoho is much like Google Apps, though many proponents say it has a far richer feature set than Google. Features aside, the range of apps is far more diverse – it has offerings for invoicing, databases, project management and even a wiki.

    Organization

    It goes without saying that we at Lifehack are obsessed with organizing, so these are some of our favorite web apps–you should get obsessed too, since working on the move can mean being disorganized for many workers. Take a look at these:

    Backpack offers project management capabilities, as well as task management and note-taking.

    Evernote offers a cross-platform desktop and web-based app for taking notes, which you can tag, share and sync between all of your devices. It can even make the text of an image searchable – great for taking a snapshot of the whiteboard at the end of each meeting.

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    Remember The Milk is a fantastic task management web app. It’s got all the power you’ll need to make your task management system work in a web-based setting, with a fantastic blog and team behind it making it better all the time. Check out this post if you want to improve your Remember The Milk setup.

    Business

    Managing your invoicing and your money is a painful necessity for not just freelancers and web workers, but practically everyone (well, perhaps not invoicing, but money in general). There are some great web apps that make these tasks easier.

    Blinksale is a fantastic invoicing web app, starting with a free option and scaling up depending on how much you need to use it. Highly recommended.

    PayPal is a must for any web-worker. I, for one, get paid by PayPal down to the last cent of my pay as a freelance writer – you just can’t get by without a PayPal account these days unless you shun the internet all together. If you don’t want to fork out for Blinksale, PayPal’s invoicing is pretty good, although it doesn’t let you apply a discount to the invoice, which is often annoying as it means (gasp) manual calculations!

    Harvest is a web app for time-tracking, making it easier to calculate your fees and write up an invoice (with invoicing built in, if you find it easier to track time and invoice from the same app).

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    Communication

    Basecamp is a web app that endeavors to improve your project communication and collaboration, allowing you to make to-do lists, share files, track time (as part of a team, rather than for freelance invoicing purposes), and schedule milestones.

    Campfire is another one from the makers of Basecamp that we here at Lifehack use for collaborative meetings. Imagine the chat rooms that typified the net in the nineties, repurposed to accommodate business and creative meetings

    Meebo is handy if you need to chat with clients, colleagues or business partners while out and about on AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk or MSN instant messaging networks and you don’t want to download anything. It’s a web-based client to handle them all.

    Diversions

    C’mon, everyone needs a diversion once in a while! It’s part of what keeps us productive. There’s no point trying to be productive at all if we don’t have a little time to unwind in between bursts of hard work. It is actually a proven scientific fact that all work and no play makes for zero productivity in your day, though I am going to whistle innocently for repeating this claim even though I can’t seem to re-find the article where I read this.

    Twitter makes for a good diversion since it’s not intrusive, so you can have some social fun while not allowing the application to take over in such a distracting way as instant messaging. It still can get distracting, but there’s an order of magnitude between Twitter and something that beeps and flashes like MSN or Skype.

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    I was recently surprised to find that Shockwave is still around–I used it for diversions probably around a decade ago and thought it had since disappeared. It hasn’t, and currently has some excellent word games that can both “warm up” my mind when I’m having trouble getting in the writing mood, and cool it down after too many hours spent typing (thanks to Gina-Marie for this one).

    YouTube is a site you already knew about, but when it comes to taking a break, nothing beats a surf around this site. Especially if you want a totally passive break, as both Twitter and Shockwave require a certain level of interaction.

    So there you have it: the most useful web apps for running your office away from the office. I could have given you some mega, massive resource list that listed every web app in the world, but there are plenty of those out there just a Google away. This article gives you the essentials that sometimes get lost in bigger lists. Enjoy, and do add your own essentials in the comments!

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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