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     Top Ten Technological Tools: Part III

In this final installment, we cover some TANGENTIAL (but very important!) technologies to round out your arsenal of business weapons -- such as pagers, handheld devices, and scanners...

It’s funny –- no one ever really cared about having every single piece of contact information at their fingertips, before technology took over. If you were out and about and someone asked you for a phone number, you would have said, “Sure, I’ll call you with that when I get back to my office.” But now, with PIM and PDA technology (like the Palm Pilot) so popular, people are almost shocked when you don’t pull your entire database out at lunch!

Scoff though I may, there are still some great benefits to having a handheld device -- the first being the incredible convenience of having tons of INFORMATION right at your fingertips -- addresses, notes to yourself, even entire Word documents. You can also keep your calendar and to-do list close at hand -- recording new appointments and reminders with the tap of a stylus. You can even set up a wireless INTERNET access, allowing you to surf the net and check your email away from the office. But best of all, your handheld can be SYNCHRONIZED with the contact manager on your home computer -- automatically updating the most recent changes in information to both machines.

Now, here’s the down-side. Handhelds run on batteries -- and if you let the batteries die without BACKING UP your information, you will lose everything (it’s happened to more than one of my clients). And just like the contact manager on your computer or the planner in your briefcase, a handheld is useless unless you COMMIT fully to it. If you try to keep two kinds of systems going at once, you will just get confused and frustrated with both. Finally, there is a learning curve for using a handheld -- just figuring out how to write with a STYLUS will take a minute. If you are having a hard time mastering the special lettering techniques, go for one with a small typing keyboard.

When I first started my business, my husband wanted me to get a scanner. And I said, “What on earth for?” Years later, I am kissing his feet daily for making that suggestion! A scanner is one of the most VERSATILE pieces of office equipment you can ever own -- especially if you run a small home-based business with limited space. But before you buy a scanner, think about WHAT you plan to scan. These machines come in all sizes and with all kinds of functions. If you plan to scan legal-sized documents, make sure you at least get an 8.5” x 11” scanner. If you want to be able to edit the text on a document you have scanned, get one with optical character recognition built into the software. And be sure to talk to other people who have used the scanner you are considering to find out about its quirks, bugs, and features.

Scanners can be incredible space-savers, replacing other bulkier equipment in your office. If you don’t have room in your office for a full size Xerox machine, you can always use your scanner as a COPIER. Just scan the document in, and print it out on your computer’s printer (full-color copies if you have a color printer). There is also no reason to have a FAX machine in your office when you have a scanner. Just set up your computer with an internet-based faxing program, scan your document in, and fax it directly from your modem. Most scanner software also allows you to link directly to your E-MAIL program, sending scanned items as attachments. And if you are running low on space in your file drawers, why not scan some of your documents into the computer and save them on a DISK? Unless you need an original of that document, why keep the paper? You can always print it out later, if you need to.

And the OCR feature found with most scanners brings document creation to a whole new level. Let’s say you receive a fax that you would like to send to some other people. But the page is messy. You can scan the document into your computer, use your software to CLEAN UP the page, and send it back out. Or pretend that you receive a printed report and need to change some of the wording. The last thing you want to do is RETYPE the entire document. So you scan it in, use your software to import the document into your word processing program, and make the necessary changes. Voila! And don’t even get me started about the GRAPHIC possibilities. If you do any kind of design work -- creating your own marketing materials, putting together a website -- the possibilities are endless. Just scan in your graphic an export it into Publisher or PhotoShop or whatever program you use for design, and go to it!

Okay, I’ve saved the most offensive piece of technology for last (that was a little subjective, wasn’t it?!) Pagers embody sort of a “yin-yang” of good and bad -- convenience and connectivity paired with constant INTERRUPTIONS and a pressure to respond immediately. And my favorite is the people who page you with a “911” after the number -- indicating that their issue is an emergency -- and then they ask some inane and completely non-urgent question when you call them back! So you will have to draw your own BOUNDARY lines around how you use your pager – who you give the number to, how quickly you will return calls, and when you turn it off. But there are some great technological features that can save you a lot of headaches and make using a pager much less intrusive.

If you need to stay connected on many levels, you may consider a WEB-ENABLED pager. This device allows you to receive e-mails and internet updates on the go. In many cases, you can also respond to e-mails that require immediate attention. You can even hook up with a variety of REMINDER services that will send you a page to remind you of meetings, medication times, and other important daily events. You can also talk to your pager dealer about having your voice MESSAGES transferred to your pager. In fact, many pagers now offer multiple messaging options -- people can leave the typical numeric page, a voice message, or (in some cases) a typed message which you read on a small display screen. And if you want to save space and avoid carrying too many devices around with you, find a cell phone with a built-in pager. 

Of course, the fact that you have a pager doesn’t mean you always have to respond to it. With the old pagers, you either ignored the beeping or turned it off -- meaning that no one could reach you. But now, especially with the voice-enabled pagers, you can have your party transferred to VOICE MAIL, where they can leave a message that you will pick up at a later time. And you always have the option to turn the thing to VIBRATE rather than beep -- a courtesy to those around you when in a meeting, movie, or other occasion when you don’t want to disturb others.


Copyright 2000-2009 Ramona Creel -- you are welcome to reprint any article, but you MUST include this resource box.

"Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook."

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