Work/Life Balance: Technology Can Be Your Friend

By Chantal Bechervaise

When it comes to work/life balance, technology, such as smartphones, are often portrayed as the villain. I often see comments and posts about how smartphones keep us tethered to the office 24/7 and how work is always able to reach us.

This is not always the case.

I have read a couple of studies (The Mobile Phone, Perpetual Contact and Time Pressure, and a survey conducted by ILM) that mentioned that people were using mobile phones to connect with family and loved ones more than they were using them for work. And yes, we are working longer hours, but these hours were actually spent in the office and included skipping lunch and were not a result of having a work phone.

I believe that it is how you approach technology and integrate it into your life that makes all the difference. For me, my smartphone is an important tool, not a hindrance. I see the technology I use every day as a part of my lifestyle – a mobile lifestyle.

I also don’t like the term work/life balance. I immediately picture a scale when someone mentions it.

For me, that means that if I want to achieve true work/life balance, then I need to take away or add to each side until they are even. That is not me. My life is constantly changing, with shifting priorities depending on where I am at any given moment of my life or day.

And it would also mean that everyone wants the same type of balance, which is not necessarily true. We are all different and prioritize our lives accordingly. We all have dreams, goals and challenges that affect how we organize our life on a daily basis.

Does that mean one way of achieving work/life balance is better than another? No – it just means that as individuals, we all determine where we focus our energy. We all have choices to make. We all have different priorities and goals, and they tend to change over the course of our lifetime too.

Our goals and priorities tend to shift between career, family, health, spirituality, acquiring knowledge/school, hobbies and finances/obligations. If work and life were truly a perfect balance, our energy would be equally focused amongst all of those things. That doesn’t happen for many and it does not mean that you need to achieve a perfect balance between all of them either in order to feel happy or fulfilled.

Knowing and understanding yourself, so that you know what your priorities are, what your motives are, is part of emotional intelligence. It creates a work/life flow.

A flow is ever changing and allows us to react and adapt to the environment around us. It helps us build resilience and learn and grow.

I like to think of work/life flow as a river….it doesn’t always flow in a straight line but can have twists and bends along its path.

So how does my mobile lifestyle fit into this flow? How does it help me with my priorities?

My smartphone is my personal assistant. My smartphone of choice right now is the Sony Xperia Z3. It is an excellent phone (you can read my blog posts about it here and here.) The features on my Z3, plus the apps I use, integrate so well with my work/life flow that I would be lost without it. My Z3 keeps me organized. It is my backup brain in a way.

Life Balance Harmony Meter Shows Lifestyle And Job DesiresI work a full time job (40 hours a week). I have a family too. Because of choices that we made as a family, I am the sole income provider for my family at the moment. My husband is a stay at home Dad and he homeschools our wonderful daughter. Besides a full time job and a family, I also work as a social media consultant/influencer on the side and help support a few online communities. I blog and enjoy using various social media outlets. I volunteer regularly (as giving back to my community is important to me) and I love to read and learn new things and take online courses here and there. On top of all of that, recently I have also been attending a few conferences which include travel. (And yes – I do sleep!)

This type of work/life flow is my choice. So some days work plays a bigger role as a priority and other days it is all about my family. With the choices that I make there are others I cannot make. But to be able to do everything I do on a daily basis, I need my smartphone by my side as I am often planning and working on my goals months in advance. With my work/life flow mindset, I can adapt if things don’t go as planned or if I need to re-prioritize.

My Z3 is my calendar and agenda, to do list, library, entertainment, travel planner, rolodex, and social connector – via social media apps and phone. It is also my camera and note taker. Instead of writing down notes during presentations, I often take pictures of slides which provide me with the visuals that go along with it.

That is what I mean by a mobile lifestyle. I see my Z3 as a way for me to achieve my priorities and goals. I set my boundaries and my Z3 helps me keep them. Not vice versa.

Whether you choose to adopt a mobile lifestyle or not, be conscious of the choices you make and enjoy your work/life flow.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Repair vs. Replace: What To Do When Tech Breaks Down

By Tracey Dowdy

Over the past year I’ve had to replace both my laptop and my cell phone. I didn’t drop them, spill a drink or get infected with a virus, but my laptop was a dinosaur and the phone had defective hardware. In both cases I faced the dreaded question: “Repair or replace?”

My phone was still under warranty, so that was an easy fix but that wasn’t the case with my laptop. Like most people, I depend on my laptop for everything from social media to online banking, but more than that, my laptop pays my bills. I depend on it for work as much as play, so being without it for any length of time really wasn’t an option. And like most people, I don’t have stacks of cash cluttering my desk, so repair or replace had to factor in the cost of both. In the end the cost of repairs far outweighed the value of the computer and I decided to replace it.

As a general rule, if the cost of replacing the device is more than twice the cost of repairs, go ahead and fix it. The average cost to repair a cell phone is between $50 and $150, which is a bargain if you consider that a new iPhone 6 costs up to $500. For tablets, if the cost is under $200, it’s likely worth repairing. Technology maintenance company Lexicon Technologies recommends replacing desktops every 3 to 4 years, but is more circumspect when it comes to replacing laptops.

Aside from cost, there are other factors to consider when deciding whether you should pay for repairs or bite the bullet and purchase something new.

Cosmetic vs. Hardware Damage

A cracked screen on your cell phone may be annoying but may not impact the functionality of the device. When I cracked the screen on my iPhone, I had a plastic screen protector in place and although it was inconvenient and I couldn’t see everything as well as before, the phone itself worked perfectly. (As a side note, screen protectors aren’t really necessary anymore as most phone screens are made of scratch resistant Gorilla glass. However that thin film of plastic bought me time and kept the broken glass in place until I get the screen replaced.) It’s usually worth the $30-$50 to replace the glass, especially if you don’t have an “upgrade anytime” plan or your contract has more than a year left before you can get a replacement.

On the other hand, if had dropped my phone into the pool or the ocean, water damage would have been likely and you would be looking at replacing rather than repairing. My husband dove into a pool with his phone in his pocket and we were sure the phone was toast. But after 3 days he could turn the phone on with no apparent damage to the operating system and it served him well for another 2 years. However, that’s the exception, not the rule. SIM cards survive water damage better than phones, so if your phone takes a bath, take the card out, pat it dry, and leave it to air dry further.

How Old Is the Technology?

Sometimes the cost of the repair plus the cost of a new operating system just isn’t worth it and if your phone or computer can’t support the latest upgrades, you are putting yourself at risk. For example, Windows XP and Office 2003 are considered “out of support” by Microsoft, meaning they no longer offer technical support or security updates. Considering how much of your life is accessible online, using outdated software is akin to leaving your house keys in the front door with a Vegas style marquee inviting everyone in.

Time to Combine Devices

Something else to consider is whether it’s time to combine your devices: If your flip phone doesn’t let you text anymore and your clunky desktop takes forever to open a Word document, it’s time to skip the repair and upgrade your devices.

Depending on how you use technology on a daily basis, a smartphone that combines phone, text, camera and access to the Web may be enough. For me, each device plays a different role: I work off my laptop, read and play on my tablet and, ahem, live on my smartphone. My life and lifestyle are fully integrated with technology.

I recognize that for someone who never uses a phone for anything except phone calls, a feature phone may be enough. My mother isn’t Instagramming, checking her bank account or taking selfies; in her situation a basic phone and her tablet are all she needs.

Take stock of your needs and how connected you want or need to be. Consider the cost, the learning curve involved with new devices and the immediacy of the need. But don’t wait until one of your devices dies. Evaluate where you are now, do some research, familiarize yourself with what warranties are still active and where you are in your service contracts. Then, when the inevitable happens and your device breaks down, you won’t feel rushed into making a decision.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How To Video Chat with Mom on Mother’s Day

By Tracey Dowdy

When you can’t be there in person, the next best thing to being with mom on Mother’s Day is through a video chat. There’s no better way to show you love her than by putting on that itchy sweater she bought you for Christmas, switching on your front facing camera and sitting down to catch up on her news. Even more than flowers or perfume, she wants to see you and catch up face to face – even if that face is on the other side of the country

There are a lot of video chat apps out there and these are some of my favorites.

Skype

Probably the best known video chat service, Skype has over 700 million registered users. One of its best features is that it’s accessible by such a wide variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices. Skype allows users to video chat, video message and instant message for free or make VoIP calls to external numbers for a small fee. (Free – Android/iOS)

Oovoo

Once linked with your Facebook profile, Oovoo uploads your friends list to your contacts and allows users to chat with up to 12 friends at once. Video chat, instant messaging and voice calls are free, and you can purchase credits to make landline calls for a nominal fee. You can send text messages or watch YouTube videos from within the app or record the conversation to enjoy again later. (Free – Android/iOS; Premium Mobile $0.99 per year; Premium $2.99 per year)

Facebook

Facebook is late to the party but its new video chat option is available across Android and Apple devices. While in Messenger, users simply open a chat window then click on the camera icon in the top corner. The time and date of the call are recorded in your chat history but the calls themselves cannot be recorded. Users can only make one call at a time. (Free – Android/iOS)

FaceTime

Available for iOS and Mac OS X users only, FaceTime allows users to make video calls through its streamlined user interface. Calls are made via wireless or your network connection and FaceTime is already installed as part of the device firmware, so there’s no additional software to download. (Free – iOS)

Google Hangouts

Google designed Hangouts to be just like a live conversation with friends – except with emojis. Search your contacts to start a call or turn a Hangout into a live video call with up to 10 friends, send emojis, or sound effects. Calls to Canada and across the US are free, with low rates to other countries worldwide. Because the app works across platforms no matter which device you’re on – phone, tablet or laptop – your caller will know you’re trying to reach them. If they’re unavailable, the app will let them know you were trying to get in touch. (Free – Android/iOS)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, June 26: The Smartphone Photographer

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, June 26, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘The Smartphone Photographer’

Join @TheOnlineMom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @TheTechDad TODAY at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we focus on The Smartphone Photographer!
While smartphones cameras have become more and more sophisticated, that doesn’t always result in better quality photos. Join us as we demystify some of the increasingly complex smartphone camera settings, and identify the simple steps that will create photos we can be proud of!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win one of two Motorola Power Pack Slim 5100 portable chargers or a limited edition metallic color Droid Turbo smartphone!
Join @TheOnlineMom on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a Droid Turbo smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/MNzJe    
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Verizon Introduces FiOS Custom TV

According to media research company Nielsen, the average U.S. home receives 189 TV channels but tunes in to an average of just 17. Wouldn’t it make sense to ditch all those unwanted channels and just pay for the ones that you actually watch? The new FiOS Custom TV package allows you to do just that.

Introduced on April19, FiOS Custom TV features a base set of channels, which include select national and local network stations. Customers can then add at least two ‘Channel Packs’ that match their specific viewing preferences. At launch there are 7 different Channel Packs to choose from: Lifestyle, Entertainment, News & Info, Pop Culture, Kids, Sports and Sports Plus. If you want more than two Channel Packs, you can add others at a cost of $10 per month for each additional pack.

The individual Channel Packs contain all the popular channels that you would expect under the various genres. For example, The Kids pack includes Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Nick Jr, TV Land, and more, while the Sports pack has ESPN, ESPN 2, NBCSN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and more.

This ‘build your own’ approach to providing custom TV packages has been talked about for a long time but FiOS is the first provider to take the plunge and come up with a customer-first option. This new personalized approach comes at a time when many consumers are ‘cutting the cord’ in favor of the growing number of on demand streaming options from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Even the content providers are getting in on the act, with the stand-alone HBO Now service already available on Apple TV and iOS devices.

FiOS customers who still want to purchase the more traditional TV packages such as Preferred HD or Ultimate HD may continue to do so, and FiOS has retained the Local package for those customers that just want the basics. And, of course, you can still bundle FiOS Custom TV with Internet and Phone to get the most cost savings.

Still worried about all the content you are paying for but not watching? Now you can customize your programming so you only pay for what you watch!

The Online Mom, LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for FiOS.

Friday, June 12: Dads & Grads

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, June 12, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘Dads & Grads’

Join @TheOnlineMom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @TheTechDad TODAY Friday, June 12 at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we celebrate our Dads & Grads!
With graduation ceremonies underway and Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to think of suitable gifts – and that means tech! Join us as we share some ideas, swap a few stories, and show our appreciation for our much-loved dads and grads!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win an Ultimate Ears Boom wireless speaker and a Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!
Join Monica Vila and special guest Jason Ramsey on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/MxL0z     
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Friday, June 5: Essential Apps

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, June 5, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘Essential Apps’

Join @TheOnlineMom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @TheTechDad TODAY at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we discuss Essential Apps!
Mobile apps have the potential to transform our lives but with well over a million apps to choose from how do we find the right ones? Join us as we focus on some must-have apps and chat about a few favorites that are just too much fun to pass up!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Google Chromecast and a Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!
Plus, join Monica Vila and special guest Jessica Bishop on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/MxGbb     
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Friday, May 29: Smartphone FAQs

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, May 29, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘Smartphone FAQs’

Join @TheOnlineMom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @TheTechDad TODAY at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we answer all those Smartphone FAQs!
How can I add more memory? Which applications use the most data? How do QR codes work? Join the VZWBuzz team as we tackle some frequently asked smartphone questions and make sure we are getting the most out of our favorite mobile devices!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a set of Beats Solo 2 headphones or a Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!
Join Monica Vila (@TheOnlineMom) and special guest Shelby Barone (@GlitterfulFelt) on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win Sony Xperia Z3v smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/MxEtu      
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Phone screens: Why Bigger Is (Almost) Always Better

By Tracey Dowdy

When it comes to your phone screen, size really does matter.

A phone isn’t just a phone anymore, we’re moving into the age of the “phablet” – a phone/tablet hybrid. When cell phones were introduced, most of us still relied on our desktop computers, so the idea that a phone could one day replace that desktop never occurred to most of us.

When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, other manufacturers scrambled to come up with phones that modeled Apple’s design – including the 3.5 inch display. Apple more or less dominated the market until 2010, when the Galaxy S and Droid models finally introduced some real competition. Before 2011, the majority of screens were between 2.5 and 4 inches, but since 2013 screens less than 4 inches have pretty much disappeared.

With that larger display it now makes sense that phones are becoming the primary computer for a significant part of the world’s population. Individuals in third-world countries may be unlikely to own cars and laptops but more and more are buying cellphones. For the rest of the world, our phone is how we do everything from pay bills and make dinner reservations to how we start our car or check on the baby.

So why is bigger almost always better?

The most obvious advantage is that larger display allows more text to be displayed, especially convenient if you’re browsing online. A small screen is fine if you’re texting or making a call, but once you try to read text on a website, that tiny screen is suddenly a big inconvenience. Small screens work for quick tasks, but if you’re using your phone for media, you’re going to want a bigger screen.

  • Camera and photos – A larger display won’t improve the pixel quality of your photos but it will definitely improve the composition.
  • Video-chatting and Face Time are better, since the whole point is to make you feel like you’re actually there.
  • Games – You can follow the action more easily and the larger screen also means your accuracy will improve, since it’s easier to see where you should be tapping. Also, icons are more spread out, so you’re less likely to hit the wrong button.
  • Speaking of spreading out, that larger screen means more accuracy with your touchscreen on and offline. Whether it’s the keyboard or closely packed URL options – think Facebook’s Tag Photo, View Full Size, Make Profile Picture – all crammed together, bigger definitely translates to more accuracy.
  • Movies – If you’ve ever tried to watch a video on your phone, this one is self-explanatory. We don’t go to the movies for the grossly overpriced popcorn; we go for that giant screen.
  • Android users have a distinct advantage over iPhone users in one area – split screen display. Users can download an app enabling split screen functionality, allowing you to view two apps at once.

As a side note, in addition to the advantages of a larger display, a bigger screen also means a bigger battery. As screen size has increased, so has battery life. Compact phones meant compact batteries, which was fine when we used our phones for talk or text. The battery of my old Motorola Razr would be completely inadequate for an iPhone 6 Plus or a Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

One of the problems with a bigger screen is that one-handed use is more challenging. Depending on how big you go, you may not be able to reach the whole screen when typing but that’s where Siri and voice dictation come in handy. Besides, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus include a one-handed mode. When you double tap the TouchID button, everything onscreen scoots closer to the bottom making it easier to reach. Android phones feature a similar “Reachability” mode, so that the top of the screen is accessible with one hand. A keyboard configured for one-handed typing is also available. In addition, there are a multitude of third-party keyboard apps to choose from in Google Play, iTunes, and the Windows Phone store.

Larger displays don’t necessarily mean a bigger phone. The Sharp Aquos Crystal and the Samsung Galaxy A3 are millimeters apart in overall size but the screen of the Aquos Crystal is nearly bezel-less, meaning it features a 5 inch display compared to the 4.5 inches of the Galaxy A3.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to go for the bigger screen, the best answer is to go into a store and see for yourself. There’s no better way to see if it fits in your pocket comfortably, is too heavy, or if a bigger screen is more trouble than it’s worth. My guess is once you see the options available and how much it improves your overall experience, you’ll understand why bigger is almost always better.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.