Inbox Zero

Having trouble reaching “inbox zero”? Inbox by Google is a stand-alone app for Gmail accounts that displays messages in auto-sorted bundles labeled travel, promotions, updates, etc. Even better, the app allows you to check off whole bundles of email without having to open them. Mailstrom is an app that works with Outlook and Gmail. It offers a wide variety of actions to help you clean that inbox up. In addition to delete and archive, you can also choose chill, which hides selected messages until a later date, or expire, which auto-forwards future emails from the sender to a set folder. Click here to read more about useful apps for managing your email and you could be at “inbox zero” in no time!

Travel Gadgets

The upcoming holiday season means a lot of us will soon be travelling to visit family and friends. Before you take off, check out some tech gadgets that can help you avoid common pitfalls that can make your travel plans less than pleasant. Whether you’re using your smartphone to navigate your travel plans or to wrap up a few loose ends at the office, the last thing you want is a dead phone battery. The UNU Ultrapak Tour Portable Battery Pack stores enough power to fully recharge most smartphones three times. Another big travel worry is lost luggage. Avoid this by using the LugLoc Luggage Tracker. Place this little device in your bag and you can track your luggage’s location on your iPhone or Android phone via the LugLoc app. Click here for even more great travel gadgets.

CryptoWall 2.0

Several small firms in SC have been hit by new a ransomware virus called CryptoWall 2.0. This type of ransomware typically comes disguised as an invitation to open a Google Docs or Dropbox file. When you click the link to open the shared file, the virus infects your computer. Since firewalls and antivirus programs are often not adequate in protecting against this type of attack, prevention is your best defense. Tell your employees not to open any shared files that arrive via email from senders they do not know. If a recipient is in doubt, they should call the person they believe sent the link to confirm it is legitimate prior to opening the file. Also, make sure your office has adequate backups. Check out the SC Bar’s Cyber Security page for more resources on protecting your office from cyber attacks.

Stand up! Part two

VarideskIt is hard to believe it has been over a month since I began using my Varidesk Pro Plus standing desk. First, and perhaps most importantly, I’m still using it. It has caused a lot of interest and curious looks from coworkers. I’ve even had one reader of this blog (yes, apparently there is one!) come over to my office from hers to see it in person.

Now the nitty-gritty review: I ordered it directly from the company website, as it is sold on Amazon but does not qualify for Prime free shipping. The total cost with the hefty shipping charge was just under $400 for this model. When it (quickly) arrived via FedEx Ground from Texas, I could see why. The box alone weighed a ton (I’m going to have to guess at the weights since there aren’t any warehouse scales in my office). With the Varidesk inside, it was twice as heavy. After getting masculine help moving it to my office, I was able to unpack the box alone on the floor. I have never seen a better packaged product. There was cardboard packing in this box that could support a house. Made in America and packed by Texans, apparently. The entire unit slid out of the box and I picked out all the packing around it. It was entirely in one piece, all assembled, down to the last screw.

It then took another woman in the office to help me lift it onto my computer credenza (I had, of course, cleared the monitors and things out of the way). I was worried it wouldn’t fit, but it does. My credenza is 23.5 inches deep and under 5 feet long. There’s still room on the credenza on either side for me to put my drink, a small scanner, etc. I then placed my two 19” monitors on the top of the Varidesk, plus one of my speakers. There was room for me to put my cell phone and a few small items. The bottom portion of the Varidesk Pro is lower, like a keyboard drawer affixed to a desk. I put my ergonomic and rather large keyboard and mouse (neither of which is cordless) on that.

To adjust the Varidesk from the “sitting position” when it is lowered all the way, one grasps large levers on both sides of the top level. (Varidesk calls them handles; I call them levers.) Simultaneously pulling these out and then pulling the desk up is the most work you will have to do. With the monitors, etc., it can take a little muscle, but if I can do it, I think most people of average strength and ability can. There are several spots where you can let go of the levers and the desk stays – so you can adjust it to several different heights. I do agree with a reviewer who said it was too low for a very tall person. I would solve that issue by putting old books under the legs of my credenza and raising everything up! Luckily for me, I’m 5’4” in bare feet and have no problem with finding a comfortable, ergonomic spot. To lower the Varidesk, grasp the levers and let it down gently. You can then work from a seated position.

Speaking of bare feet – a very cushy floor mat is a must, unless you wear running shoes all day. I purchased this one from Bed Bath and Beyond, the GelPro® Elite Comfort. Not inexpensive, but I’m pleased with it.

Once I was set up properly, I downloaded the Varidesk app from their page. This, sadly, is the most disappointing part of the Varidesk. There are ways to set your preferences, but not many. You set it to the number of minutes you want to sit and stand, and it alerts you via countdown when that happens. There’s an audible alert, but for some reason I could never hear it on my PC. If you add your weight, you can track your calories burned while sitting or standing. All well and good, but soon the Varidesk app and I were at odds. I could snooze the “sit” command, but I couldn’t figure out how to just make it go away or switch to “stand.” Also, the app window itself takes up a ridiculous amount of real estate on my monitor and wouldn’t let me resize it. In fact, I’m not sure it would even let me move it. My only option was to minimize it totally, where it kept running, but out of sight. Where was the pleasure in not seeing the countdown clock or calories theoretically being burned? I tried some different countdown clocks from online, but in short order I realized that I was standing all the time I was at my computer and only sitting when I was doing something on my desk or maybe on the phone. Yes! Within days, I was used to standing and typing and thinking at the same time. What is more, I felt more alert after lunch, because I was standing. Interestingly, my lower back pain (a lifelong pain) was significantly better. Most likely this is because I have appallingly poor posture when I sit in a chair. I am like a 4 year old who can’t sit still and leans this way and that. Or it could be that sitting is bad for your back.

Now, when I stand, I shift my weight from foot to foot. Or stand on one foot for a while. Or do ballet plies or calf raises. I’ve been freed! Is a standing desk for everyone? Of course not. But I hope that I keep up my newfound standing passion. The nice thing about the Varidesk is that if I do get too tired to stand, I can easily sit and type. Lastly, the quality is impressive. It is well-built, solid, doesn’t shake, and is generally well designed. It comes in several sizes and styles, with different price points.

Draft Better Bills

Lawyers enjoy practicing law, but rarely do you find a lawyer who enjoys billing for his or her work. There are steps you can take to draft bills that clients are more likely to pay. Put a date on your billing statement and a due date for when payment must be made. Without a due date, your bill will end up at the bottom of your client’s stack. Make sure you include entries that were done at “no charge.” Clients appreciate when this is pointed out. For more billing tips, read Billing Pointers That Can Improve Your Cash Flow.

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