Apps That’ll Make You Feel Like There Are 40 Hours in a Day

Time: it’s a wonderful thing that nobody has these days. Too many meetings and appointments and happy hours and Instagram photos to get everything done.

But stress no more! With a few downloads, you can possess the apps that’ll make you more productive by saving minutes and hours you would otherwise waste away. Ready to check them out?

  • Fetch (free)—Calling itself a “personal buying assistant,” Fetch makes shopping so much faster. Tell the app what you want to buy by uploading a picture, writing a message, or speaking to it, and then real people research the best prices and applicable coupon codes. Plus, they place the order for you using the billing and shopping info from your account. Easy, right?
  • Waze (free)—If you hate traffic (aka if you are a normal human), download Waze now. The app not only tracks traffic, but uses real-time traffic conditions as reported by users able to see the most current road conditions, construction delays, and accidents. It doesn’t get much more accurate than this, and that’s all you can hope for when you need to get somewhere without any hassle.
  • Doodle ($3)—Planning a get-together with friends or meetings with co-workers can be such a pain. How many emails do you send back and forth trying to figure out a day and time that works for everyone? With Doodle, you choose a few date options, send out a poll to the group, and quickly see what works with everyone’s schedules. Your work and social life just got upgraded.
  • Cabin (free)—Great for families or friends, Cabin is a quick, effortless way to communicate and plan with groups. Aside from messaging and photo sharing, you can assign tasks (like pick up dinner) or get reminders to check something off your own list. There’s also location tracking to see where people are if you’re expecting them, so you can cut out all the back and forth texting.
  • Evernote (free)—If you only use one app to kick up your productivity levels, make it Evernote. The app is a streamlined place to take notes, store articles, record memos, snap pictures, organize receipts, and so much more. The best part is it makes it supereasy to search this data, so you can find all your essentials in a jiffy. Oh, and it runs off cloud storage, which means you can access all this precious info from nearly any device.
  • FastCustomer (free)—Ugh to waiting on a customer service call. If you’ve ever spent part of your day listening to an automated voice or pressing “0” to talk to someone, then you’ll appreciate this app. Just enter which company and which department you’d like to talk to, and your phone will ring once a real, live agent is able to talk to you over the line. It’s so simple, it’s genius.

The story was originally published on PopSugar.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

8 Ways Salespeople Can Keep Generating Leads

During a client’s sales meeting, we got into a discussion regarding pipeline values. Needless to say, the number of prospects and dollar values were insufficient to achieve the overall corporate revenue objectives.

Several of the salespeople blamed marketing for not generating enough quality leads (ever hear that before?). As the discussion of “territory development” evolved, several of the salespeople simply didn’t feel it was their responsibility to prospect because of the futility of cold calling and event marketing.

In many organizations, marketing is expected to develop leads via a well-messaged nurturing campaign with a quality database and an objective, in order to set up the salesperson with a highly qualified opportunity. In this format, there may be a series of marketing campaigns, tele-salespeople and a well-designed CRM reporting system. In other organizations, there is limited marketing of this nature, with an expectation that sales will build relationships that lead to additional business opportunities. The question is, as a sales manager, how should you structure your sales team’s expectations around prospecting?

First, it depends. What is your sales process? Are you selling large accounts with a complex sales cycle or are you more transactional with short sales cycles selling to small business? Are you territory-based or open territories? Your business type will alter what works.

Second, it is my belief that salespeople need to prospect continually: the real question is how.

Listed below are eight tips for how salespeople can keep prospecting.

  1. Networking: Every salesperson should attend one networking event a month; this should not be negotiable.
  1. Circles of influence: Develop a list of individuals who can influence your sales opportunities or refer business to you. Depending upon your industry, these could CPAs, commercial real estate brokers, contractors, architects, etc. Each of these individuals need to be contacted at least once a quarter.
  1. 20/20 plan: Each salesperson sends two distinct direct mail pieces referring to your products/services to 20 suspects: 20 pieces one week, 20 the next week. The third week, the salesperson calls the 20 suspects. This process is repeated each week.
  1. Thought leadership events: Schedule one breakfast event a month with a topic based upon thought leadership marketing. This event is driven by marketing, but the salesperson is responsible to call and invite individuals to the meeting. This gives the salesperson a reason and message to communicate to their prospects.
  1. Referrals: The salesperson should ask their customers for referrals twice a year.
  1. “Bus-ecosystem”: Each salesperson should develop relationships with three to five other salespeople who sell non-competitive, but related products or services in a common marketplace.
  1. “Who you know” list: Each salesperson should create a list of everyone they know: friends, business associates, professionals. Then hold a sales meeting idea to come up with “titles” of individuals your sales team might know. Make sure these contacts know what you do and what problems you can solve using a personal letter.
  1. Review calendars: Set aside some time to review your calendar for the past 12 months, you might find someone you had forgotten to follow up with.

The story was originally published on Entrepreneur.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

Architects Shaping The Offices Of The Future

In what was to be his last public appearance before his death, Steve Jobs detailed to Cupertino city council, California, in 2011 the plans behind Apple’s new headquarters – a 71 hectare (176 acre) campus with an enormous O-shaped building for 13,000 employees at its heart.

Jobs claimed that they had the opportunity to construct “the best office building in the world”, the donut-like plan by Norman Foster hinged not just on aesthetics but also ensuring the possibility for collaboration between workers who would be able to walk around the new campus, a concept which is central to how architects now look at the modern office.

Much like when he scrapped plans for three buildings for a new Pixar headquarters in 2000 in favour of one vast space with an atrium at the centre so that employees had to run into each other and interact, the building is aimed at encouraging collaboration – a trend which illustrates that the modern workplace is no longer just seen as the desk but also the area around it.

Simon Allford, a director of architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), said that when he started his career, design centred around getting from the lift to the desk as quickly as possible. This has changed in the last decade.

“The journey is actually seen as beneficial because as people are working in different ways, you are not expecting them to be only working in one place, therefore work is a kind of continuous activity and you are always thinking,” he said.

The BBC’s new Broadcasting House headquarters in central London has large units similar to American diner booths in common areas where staff can have chance meetings, while the redeveloped headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) at Portland Place will have a “forum” where different parts of the organisation can congregate.

In California, the design of technology firm NVIDIA’s new headquarters takes its influence from computer chip design, where the connections for the flow of information are made before other parts of the chip are added on. With this in mind, stairs were replaced with platforms so that other activities could be carried out there and landings are oversized and used for meetings.

“There are great stories of researchers having incidental space and just bumping into one another and having ideas,” said Stephen Hodder, president of the Riba and chairman of Hodder and Partners Architects.

This move away from the office desk as the main place of productivity is one of the developments in workplace design which has seen the real estate departments of large corporations realise that packing employees tightly into spaces will not necessarily result in greater productivity, according to Philip Tidd from the design and architecture firm Gensler.

“The idea that the desk is a unit of productivity is changing very, very rapidly. Your productivity is not measured by the amount of time you sit behind a thing called a desk. It is what you do. It is about your output,” he said. “It is about getting the balance of specs right so it is not just get everybody in the open, have open plan but have the right balance of spaces where you can get in a zone of concentration.”

This requirement for varied features in office buildings is cemented by the longer hours of many workers, notably in the technology sector, and as a result new offices are now seen to need different areas for working and letting off steam, a tactic most notably championed by Google.

The new White Collar Factory, which is to open beside east London’s “Silicon Roundabout” and designed by AHMM, will have a running track for the companies that take up space there.

“When people work longer hours, you need to escape from work at work and also do different kinds of work in different places,” said Allford. The new Google building in King’s Cross is being designed along the lines of a theatre with the furniture as props which can be moved depending on the needs of the staff, he said.

The all-inclusive use of office space and breakdown of traditional barriers has also been seen in the new BBC building, the interior of which was designed by architects HOK. As all carpets and fabrics have been tested for the screen, filming can now take place across the whole building, according to Andy Baker, who oversees the corporation’s London locations. Radio studios were also rehoused in glassed areas which cut the space they needed and added to the atmosphere, he said.

This breakdown of traditional barriers is also beginning to creep into status and hierarchy, according to Tidd. Those higher up the food chain got bigger offices – culminating in the cherished corner site. But those who usually get the prime spaces are typically executives who are out a lot and do not need them.

“Your seniority in the organisation, your status in the organisation, does not need to be reinforced by how much space you get,” he said, citing a Brimingham law firm which is all open plan where none of the partners have offices.

The Riba says the demand for high-quality workplaces is on the rise constantly and contributes to the recruitment and retention of staff.

“As the country has shifted from being a largely manufacturing base to a service base, I think there is a staggering statistic which is that almost three quarters of the UK’s GDP is generated largely by office service industries. It is incredible to think of that and so the design of those and the optimisation of design of workplace is hugely important to underpin,” said Hodder.

The story was originally published in The Guardian.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

10 Ways To Decrease Distractions In The Office

The Internet is full of gloomy articles about workers who hate their open cubicles and yearn for private offices, where they believe their lives would be full of productivity and peace.

Today’s open environments are designed to foster collaboration by eliminating barriers and making informal interactions easier and more frequent. However, an increase in informal interactions creates distractions, making it more difficult to get the work done.

Susan Cain, author of the book ” Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” says this can be difficult for introverts, since they “are more easily overwhelmed, reacting to what’s going on around them.”

Since it’s unlikely that everyone can claim a private office, here are 10 ways to decrease distractions for the introverts in us all, based on Cain’s design principles for the workplace:

Give employees permission to be alone:

  1. Create drop-in workstations where no phones or interruptions are allowed.
  2. Turn a small conference room into private drop-in space, and add homey touches like a small sofa, a pull-up table, and a lamp.
  3. Give staff permission to select the correct setting for a particular task. Make sure management adapts the attitude that it’s OK to work away from your desk and lead by example — management should use these spaces too!

Allow staff to have control over their environment:

  1. Introduce music speakers in quiet rooms, and allow users to control the playlist.
  2. Give workers a desk lamp for personal control over lighting. Haworth’s LIM desk lamp is slim and energy efficient.
  3. Create boundaries around technological distractions, and set policies and expectations around how frequent you expect staff to respond to email/phone messages. Email, phone calls, text messages, twitter can be just as disruptive as that annoying co-worker, and you can experience this loss of productivity even if you have a private office.

Create sensory balance:

  1. Add touches from home by using different textures and patterns to the workplace like pillows, plants, rugs, vases, books and sculptures. Society6 has an awesome collection of fun pillows at reasonable prices. I especially love the faux books of Bookworm or the geometric shapes in tryypyzoyd. Introduce calming colors with wall paint or add interesting accent lighting – go retro with the Aston by Rejuvenation. Or, add a touch of wood with West Elm’s Bentwood pendant.
  2. Try some acoustical solutions to block out unwanted noise.

Provide psychologically safe areas:

  1. Apply “frosted-look” film to glass windows on private spaces to give workers more privacy. However, keep the bottom 12-18 inches clear to increase a sense of security, and to allow occupants to see if someone is approaching.
  2. Think about the orientation of desks and furniture: Orient desks and seating towards doors and openings so occupants can see visitors approaching.

Don’t forget about the extroverts, either: Make sure you have places in the workplace that have increased activity levels like coffee bars, gathering areas, and social spaces. Make sure you buffer these spaces from the quiet ones.

The story was originally published in Dallas Business Journal.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Sales Lessons Learned From Golf

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Planning A Corporate Event To Remember

Planning a great corporate event is time-consuming. Make your investment work for you by giving your attendees an event that inspires, motivates, and engages. Regardless of its size, any company can host a successful corporate event to promote its brand, motivate its employees, and attract new customers. For example, an online magazine may wish to boost its marketing efforts by throwing an event at a related venue. These sites can include a historic building or an industry-related location such as a classic car showroom or a tech museum. Additionally, your corporate event can reach a new level by highlighting a keynote speaker who can add value, expertise, and innovation to the attendees’ experience. While your imagination is the limit when choosing a theme, savvy planners take advantage of emerging trends to create a memorable and successful event.

Plan an Experience, Not Just a Meeting

With the exception of new hires fresh out of college, most professionals have attended at least one corporate event. Over the years, these meetings may have become predictable events with little new to offer its attendees. Even if the subject matter is new, its impact is muted when attendees spend the entire conference in a hotel ballroom, peering at a PowerPoint presentation while drinking coffee.

One tourism board in the U.K. reports that the country’s many historic structures are popular sites for corporate events. These include sweeping cathedrals and castles, lending an exotic sensibility to an unforgettable conference. Other memorable sites for team-building exercises include outdoor venues such as beaches, wildlife parks, and survival programs.

Hire a Compelling Guest Speaker

Regardless of your industry, a vibrant guest speaker can energize and engage your attendees. The ideal keynote speaker does not need to be an industry expert. Often, a speaker from outside your business sector can spark a reaction from the attendees in a way that an insider cannot. Professional speakers are able to make a variety of presentations that can motivate the audience, challenge their assumptions, and inspire them. For example, you may hire a speaker who can address adversity, conflict resolution, customer relations, and time management. Other relevant subject areas include persuasion, ethics and integrity, life balance, and mentoring.

Your industry may not relate to shrimp boats, but a talented speaker who is able to use life lessons from the movie, “Forrest Gump,” can bring a fresh perspective to the event. Likewise, an Air Force pilot who survived an ejection into the ocean can inspire an audience of telecommunications professionals with a narrative of persistence and resilience. The sky can be the limit in selecting a guest speaker who engages, inspires, and motivates your conference attendees.

If your schedule and budget allows, look for speakers who can offer one or more auxiliary presentations in addition to their keynote address. When your attendees connect with a speaker, an additional presentation on another day injects a sense of anticipation and continuity into the conference.

Break from Tradition

Holding a corporate event at a hotel or conference center may be an expensive proposition. Every aspect of the meeting might be costly, from coffee and meal service, wireless Internet, and a hefty gratuity. Many event planners mitigate the cost of a conference by selling sponsorships to related entities. These sponsorships typically result in a conference room full of banners or an attendee packet filled with colorful flyers trying to out-neon the others. A few innovative and effective sponsorship ideas that can attract the attendees’ attention include:

  • Event apps with sponsored splash pages, banner ads, or show schedules. Be sure you don’t overdo it and have sufficient bandwidth to handle the app traffic. Perhaps a company can sponsor a code that enables the user to access faster connections to improve their user experience.
  • Event sponsors can underwrite the cost of Wi-Fi service within the venue, placing their corporate logo on a handout with the login code as well as ensuring the logo appears on the login page. Sponsored connectivity services also reduce the planner’s budget, boosting attendance and making it more affordable.
  • Industries that require its professionals to maintain a polished appearance can include sponsorship of a portrait photographer and a makeup artist, giving attendees free head shots. These professional portraits add gravitas to professional profiles, website bios, and LinkedIn profiles.

Event planners can present bundled sponsorships, allowing the sponsors to maintain a continual and useful presence throughout the event. These opportunities include blogs, white papers, webcasts, a prominent place on the event’s website, and placement on video walls.

No longer are corporate events a week-long snooze-fest fueled by bad coffee and lit by hotel ballroom lighting. Make your event a memorable one with fresh, uncommon indoor and outdoor venues; a compelling guest speaker to add value and variety to the schedule; and corporate sponsorships that involve and engage your attendees. While some events are mandatory for many employees, optional events will perish or flourish depending on what you offer attendees in exchange for their investment of time and money.

The story was originally published in Small Biz Daily .

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

3 Simple Ways To Build Great Customer Relationships

Organizations with great customer relationships are able to grow their businesses without gimmicks, fee cuts or special treatment. You have to be good at what you do, of course, but having a truly successful business is based on one simple concept: trust.

With trust, you’ll have customers (or clients) for life. Without trust, you may as well pack up and go home.

Building trust takes time and a lot of hard work. But it’s entirely doable if you and your teamwork on three of your most important core competencies: service, consistency and transparency.

Great Service Matters
According to a Concerto Marketing Group and Research Now survey, when customers trust a brand, 83 percent will recommend a trusted company to others and 82 percent will continue to use that brand frequently. While hardly anyone talks about the time you went above and beyond for a customer, you’ll certainly hear from the disgruntled ones if you failed to make a deadline or delivered a product that didn’t do what you had promised.

Earning a customer’s trust starts with giving great service. How would you want to be treated if you were a customer? The reality is that service should come naturally, instead of being strategically planned. The more you plan for great service, the less time you’ll spend delivering it.

Sure, there will be times when you’ve tried your best and can’t seem to make any headway with a particular problem. But you want to strive for responsiveness, timeliness and exceeded expectations.

Consistency Breeds Harmony
Consistency goes hand in hand with providing great service. Internal expectations lead to external results.

From a business perspective, consistency applies to every aspect of what you do:

  • Your employees should provide equivalent levels of service.
  • Equipped with the tools they need, your sales team should answers questions the same way.
  • You should stay the course with your products and services, rather than constantly shifting gears to try new tactics or initiatives.
  • Create meaningful measurement to determine whether something is working. If it isn’t viable, you should have a plan in place to make changes.
  • Consistency puts your money where you mouth is within your organization. From a leadership perspective, consistent performance shows employees what you expect from them. For example, if you miss a meeting without a good reason, don’t be surprised if they do the same.

Transparency Is Clear
Transparency is another competency that should come naturally. Yet so many businesses have trouble coming to terms with what it really means.

Customers and clients are smart. They know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth. If honesty is the best policy, they’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether.

Don’t try to hide or cover up your errors. Address the issue directly, explain how you will handle it and share what steps are being taken to prevent the errors from occurring in the future. To implement transparency effectively, lead by example. Your employees will also admire you more for your honesty.

Sealing the Deal
Maintaining solid business relationships does not mean your customers or clients have to like you. Everyone wants to be liked. But creating customers and clients for life is more about them trusting you to deliver on your promises. It takes effort, but in the end your hard work will pay off again and again, with repeat business, more referrals and personal peace of mind, knowing you met and exceeded your customers’ expectations.

The story was originally published in Small Business Center.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

5 Ways To Put More Welleness Into The Workplace

In recent years, workplace design has centered on creating hip, collaborative spaces with more open offices and flexible space to promote innovation and evolution within the companies that operate there. But the next wave of workplace design is promoting something arguably even more important: employee wellness.

One of the ways designers are facilitating healthier environments in corporate office space is through the subtle but thoughtful use of active design, where trash cans are built in to places that require employees to walk, or the eating area is purposefully designed with a staircase to access it. Other wellness options may be more obvious, such as incorporating more natural light into a space, having windows that open, or a gym.

Here are five other ways that designers are changing office spaces to make room for important wellness-focused amenities:

  1. Standing desks: “Sitting is the new smoking” and causes many long-term health related problems. In fact, according to a recent study by Ergotron, 67 percent of Americans hate sitting at work and 85 percent take breaks from sitting for symptom relief. Furthermore, 96 percent would be willing to stand more to improve their health or life expectancy. Adding standing and conference furniture throughout an office gives people the option to stand while continuing to work.
  2. Outdoor space: Even in colder climates, it’s important to encourage employees to get some fresh air and go for a walk. In many suburban locations, corporate office parks are looking for ways to establish walking paths, which can be great for employees but also a means to brand or connect several buildings on a campus. Walking paths not only encourage exercise, but provide new venues to hold group brainstorms. Another option is incorporating patio space adjacent to ground-floor conference rooms, so that meetings can spill outside, while fostering collaboration, creativity and a more exciting office culture.
  3. Showers: While gyms are a highly sought-after amenity, showers are even more important, especially in urban locations where employees may be likely to ride their bikes to work. Of course, having a place to safely store a bike is also key.
  4. Wellness/Mother’s rooms: A special room for mothers to breast feed is not only a considerate amenity that may encourage a woman to return to work, but one that is more sanitary and comfortable than the typical backup option of pumping in bathrooms. In some states such as Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Tennessee, and more, providing a proper place for women to breastfeed is becoming a requirement or strongly encouraged as a way to promote wellness not just for moms, but for their babies. Wellness rooms offer staff time and space to escape from the main office.
  5. Green building materials: Transparency about the chemicals that comprise building materials takes wellness a step further. This site, Transparency, shows people what building products are made of and whether or not they are bad for humans, animals and the environment as a whole. Clients are then informed of alternatives so they can make conscious decisions for the future wellness of their workplace. This keeps wellness front of mind for people and their families who come to work every day in a healthy and safe environment.

As people become more concerned with their own wellness, it makes sense that the place people spend the majority of their day adjusts to promote a healthy lifestyle. Architects and designers are listening; they’re incorporating thoughtful amenities into the future workplace design so that we can all be healthier. Ultimately, a healthier workplace is happier and more productive which benefits both employees and employers.

The story was originally published in Work Design Magazine.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

How Often Do You Unplug?

Here’s a chart that’s both surprising and unsurprising.

People in the United States rarely unplug from gadgets according to a survey by CivicScience. As you can see, 43% of those polled say they never unplug. And 17% say a few times a year.

CivicScience seems to have cast a very wide net for its definition of “unplug” with TV, internet, smartphones, etc. counting.

For what it’s worth, I would say I never unplug entirely. I always check the internet even when I’m on vacation. I enjoy it. I like seeing what’s going on in the world. I don’t check email as much, but that’s about it. It doesn’t stress me out too much, unless I see the wrong email.

Anyway, what about you? Do you unplug, do you feel like you need to, or even want to?

Unplug

The story was originally published in the Business Insider.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

The Right Way To Unplug When You’re On Vacation

Vacations are for unplugging: we all need to escape the daily grind from time to time, after all. But that doesn’t have to mean unplugging from the entire internet. In fact, you may have a more enjoyable and meaningful vacation by staying connected–as long as you’re staying connected to fun, friends, and family, rather than to work.

That takes a combination of planning, tech tricks, and self-discipline. In an ideal world, you’d work-proof your devices and online activities so that you could use the phone, computer or internet without coming into contact with any work-related stuff.

But many of us simply aren’t in a position to take completely off-the-grid downtime, so you’ll need to figure out just how disconnected from work you can be so you can appropriately minimize the frequency and duration of your work-related check-ins and trigger each of those check-ins manually (so you won’t be tempted to respond to the ping of each incoming message). It will also be essential to draw a clear line between work and personal technology use.

Plan before you go.

Whether you’re planning to disconnect from work completely or simply to keep your work time minimized, you need a clear plan for how you’re going to use your devices while in vacation mode.  Ask yourself these questions:

What’s the least amount of work connectivity I can get away with? Understand your office culture and separate your colleagues’ expectations from your own anxiety. If the idea of ignoring all your work email fills you with fear, is that because you like to be in touch, or because you really could lose your job if you disconnect? What is the minimum connectivity that will be accepted at your job?

What do I still want to use technology for while I’m away? Make a list of the specific ways you want to use your phone, tablet or computer while you’re on vacation and limit your tech use to what’s on that list. (This will focus and constrain your tech use more effectively than making a list of online activities to avoid.) For example, I am using the fantastic app RoadTrippers to organize my family’s itinerary and activities, an Evernote notebook as my personal travel guidebook, Yelp as a travel journal, and Facebook to stay in touch with friends.

Which accounts will I disconnect from? It’s easier to disconnect from entire networks or accounts than to ignore work-related correspondence once it hits your radar. So once you know what you want to keep doing—and how much you can stop doing—identify which accounts you’ll stay away from and plan accordingly, setting up vacation messages or alerts as necessary. If you use email, social media, or text messaging for a combination of personal and professional conversations, get clear up front about how you’re going to draw the line between what counts as work and what counts as play.

What do I and my fellow travelers expect from one another? Your work colleagues aren’t the only ones you need to consider. If you’re traveling with friends or family, get clear up front about your technology game plan. Agree on when it is and isn’t ok to use your devices – for example, you may agree that it’s fine to read the morning news on your tablet over breakfast, but not ok to check sports scores over dinner.  Setting shared expectations about tech use is especially important if you or your fellow travelers have kids you’re trying to keep offline or off-screen.

Prepare to leave. The work of disconnecting begins well before your vacation. Here’s how to set expectations – and set up technology – to increase the odds that you’ll be able to unwind without unplugging completely.

Plan some out-of-cell-range travel. Whether it’s a few days at an off-the-grid cabin or a few hours in a wifi-free plane, it’s great to be truly incommunicado for at least some portion of your vacation. This allows you to sincerely set the expectation that you will not be reliably reachable, making it easier to assert control over how much or how often you’ll check in.

Set up a vacation email address. It’s hard to avoid your work email while you’re on vacation if opening your inbox is the only way you can access certain information or check if there’s a crisis with a key client. You may find it easier to avoid peeking if you set up a separate account to use during vacations. Share the address only with the people you really want to stay in touch with while you’re away (like your spouse, house-sitter, or traveling companions). Use mail rules and filters on your work account to automatically forward any travel-related emails to this address (flight confirmations, for example), as well as any key messages (like any email message from a key client or from the company CEO).  Just make sure you don’t reply to messages from your secret address, or share that address with more than a couple of people, or it defeats the whole purpose.

Set up a smart out-of-office reply. When you set up the vacation auto-responder message on your primary work account, write a message that helps you avoid the dreaded backlog that typically awaits your return: let your correspondents know that you may not review all the messages you receive in your absence, and that they should email you again after X date if they need a reply. As a courtesy, provide an alternate way of addressing their issue more quickly, such as contacting your assistant or colleague. If this isn’t a possibility given your clients or prospects, set up a more conventional message for external correspondents and then set up rules and filters so that their messages are automatically filed in a separate folder where you can review them promptly without being sucked into the rest of your inbox.

Move travel info out of your email. TripIt is an itinerary manager that you can connect directly to your email account; it monitors incoming emails for anything that looks like a travel confirmation, and puts it into an itinerary you can access from the web or the TripIt app on your phone or tablet. Not only does this keep you out of your inbox, but it gives you a more convenient way of tracking travel details or sharing them with your fellow-travelers.

Set up a check-in schedule. If you are planning to check your business email or voicemail during you holiday, set up a schedule in advance. Maybe you’re going to look at your email for 15 minutes every morning, or twice a week after the kids have gone to bed.  Talk with your traveling companions about this schedule so they know when you’re going to be in work mode. And share your game plan with your colleagues, so that they know if and when you will be checking work-related email.

Pack only personal devices. The easiest way to separate work from play is to leave your work phone and work computer at the office. This doesn’t mean having to go out and buy new hardware; for your phone, for example, you can buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card, so that you can use the device without using your work number. Similarly, you can set up a separate user profile and account on your computer. Another trick is to get a set of walkie-talkies: that way you can stay in touch with the rest of your travel party, even if you turn off your phone or go out of cell range.

Adjust while you’re away. The moment your vacation begins, implement your disconnection game plan by making the following tweaks to your devices.

Turn off notifications. Disable any work-related notifications on your phone and computer for the length of your vacation. On a Mac or iOS device you can disable notifications on an app-by-app basis or by using do not disturb; Android users can turn off notifications for individual apps or download an app that lets them turn off notifications globally. Windows users can get away from notifications by using an alternate user account on their computer, or by turning off reminders associated with an individual application like Outlook. And don’t just do this for email and calendar reminders: I share Evernote notebooks with some of my colleagues, so even though I disconnected from email over my last vacation, my work brain got reactivated when Evernote notified me of a new note titled “Things to discuss with Alex when she gets back.”

Limit access to work-related accounts. You can go a step beyond turning off your notifications and disconnect from certain accounts altogether. For example, since all my work-related social media accounts are connected to HootSuite, I sign out of HootSuite for the duration of my trip, and use an alternate app to check my personal Twitter account – and only my personal account.

Get yourself on board. The biggest obstacle to disconnecting isn’t technology: it’s your own level of commitment or compulsion when it comes to work. If you work 80 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you may find it pretty hard to get your head out of the office – and even harder to break the Pavlovian association between hearing the ping of an incoming email and immediately shifting into work brain.

That association is exactly why it’s so useful to develop strategies that put your devices in vacation mode. You probably don’t leave Oreos in the cupboard when you’re dieting; for the same reason, it’s best to put work out of arm’s reach when you’re on vacation. Instead of relying on sheer willpower to keep you from checking in on work, you can use your vacation tech setup – and a little up-front planning – to support your efforts to minimize work time.

With that setup in place, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of online connectivity and digital tools, as well as the benefit  of disconnecting from work. And instead of apologizing for bringing a phone on vacation, you’ll be able to relax even with your devices in tow.

The story was originally published in the Harvard Busines Review.

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