Back to the Office: Make the Most of Your Vacation, Even Back at Work

Labor Day is almost here, and that means that summer is just about over. Hopefully you took some time to take a vacation, staycation, or whatever helps you relax and recharge. It’s important for our health, mentally and physically. Vacation helps reduce burnout, decreases our resentment of others, and actually helps us concentrate and make less mistakes once we’re back on the job.

So, all week we’ll be talking about “back to the office,” with tips and tricks to help you hit the ground running after your vacation. Perhaps the biggest (and best) thing you can do for yourself is to use the clarity that relaxation provides, before you get too bogged down in the details. A few things to think about, while you’re still feeling fresh and relaxed:

What are my realistic goals for the next six months? This can be both personal and professional – after all, it’s hard to separate these. Take this opportunity to reflect on what’s important to you, and think strategically about how you can get there. Write it down, and give yourself deadlines, not to give yourself a hard time, but to think about how you can (and will!) make progress.

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Protect Your Data, Part 2: Cloud Backup Recommendations

Cloud Backup for iPhone
Earlier this week we talked about how to back up your data using an external hard drive, so that your data will be safe even if your devices meet an untimely fate (like those of Wired writer Mat Honan). But cloud backup is important too, and as the major industry players push services like iCloud, Google Drive and Amazon Backup, it becomes more important than ever to make sure that remote data is secure.

It’s important to note that hackers got into Honan’s computer through what’s called “social engineering,” which describes exploiting the people involved in security rather than hardware or software. Specifically, they were able to find out the last four digits of his credit card from Amazon, and were able to use that, combined with his billing address retrieved from an online lookup, to have his Apple ID reset by Apple tech support. So, while password security is essential, it’s not enough. Read More

Will a portable dual monitor help you be more productive?

In Mario’s latest Small Biz Go Mobile podcast, he talks about using a portable dual monitor and offers tons of tips about how they can be used.

Although we’re doing more with our smartphones and tablets, for the ultimate in mobile productivity most of us still our laptop. While mobile apps can provide many of the tools we need to work, for some tasks there is simply no equivalent to fully featured software. On top of my preference for an actual keyboard to write on, I personally depend on several outstanding apps every day that provide professional features not yet present on mobile devices, including Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. While similar or alternative apps certainly exist for these, including Apple’s Pages and iMovie and Adobe’s Photoshop Touch, these often lack key features only available on the desktop.

With a workflow that involves heavy multitasking, simultaneously working on writing, video and images while sharing on the web, social media and via email, there is no alternative for a good laptop computer. So check this out: what if you had two screens to work with while on the go? On a desktop with dual monitors, you can have twice as many windows open, be looking at twice the amount of data without switching apps. Wouldn’t that be great on the go? With a USB dual monitor solution like the 720p Cinq, you can replicate that desktop experience while on the go.

Like this tip? Want to hear more? Check out Mario’s Small Biz Go Mobile podcast today.

Productivity Tip: Avoid Distractions By Timing Yourself

Distractions are everywhere. But what if you only challenged yourself to pay attention for short, manageable bursts of time? Would you be more productive?Pomodoro Technique Logo

That’s the theory behind the Pomodoro Technique, which prescribes 25 minute burst of attention. That means you set a timer, and for 25 minutes you concentrate on just one activity, and don’t check email, Twitter, your eBay auctions, nothing. Just one task. And if you’re interrupted, you start the timer over. Just the threat of being forced to start over (and going an extra few minutes without Twitter) should be enough to scare some people into 25 minutes of attention.

After 25 minutes, you take a break of five minutes, give or take. Then after four Pomodoros, it’s time for a longer break. The idea is that consistent breaks in your attention saves your brain from burnout, and that setting small, manageable goals helps ward off the anxiety of the overwhelmingly long to-do list.

Frencesco Cirillo, Pomodoro creator, has made a basic introduction to the technique available as a free pdf on the website There are also testimonials from other Pomodoro users, program updates, meetups for practitioners and even t-shirts for the true believers.

Cirillo recommends using a standard kitchen timer, but for the connected professional there are also digital and mobile alternatives. Pomodairo is a free Adobe Air app that lets you make intuitive to-do lists, a timer for pomodoros, and helps you keep track of your work (and any unanticipated interruptions). For just a timer, try, which works in the browser and doesn’t require a download, even on iPhone and Android.

For an app proper, iDevice users can try Pomodoro Time Management Light for free to see if they’re ready for the full version. The full version is only $1.99, so if you decide to upgrade it won’t be a huge pain point. Android users can try Pomodoro Tasks, available for free in the Google Play store.

If you’ve tried the Pomodoro technique before, fill us in on your experiences in the comments. We’re all looking for ways to be more productive – help us out!

How-To: Organize Online Shopping Receipts

Keeping track of business-related expenses is a must. And if you’re doing most of your office supply and equipment ordering online, it makes sense to use Slice to keep track of all your receipts digitally.  No more sifting through paper receipts and invoices come tax time!
slice app for tracking receipts

Slice is simple: give the application permission to see your email, and Slice will archive all your purchase records from major online retailers like Apple, Amazon, and eBay. You can add up to five email accounts to your single Slice account, so it’s perfect for small business and remote collaborators.

The app (available for both iPhone and Android) makes your purchase history easily accessible anytime, but can also deliver push notifications about deliveries en route regardless of the shipping carrier. And the UI is far superior to the mobile offerings of certain other shippers who shall remain nameless, since we’d really like to keep getting our Amazon purchases in a timely manner.

Slice is currently in beta. More info and signup at

iPad Still King: Why Artists Can’t Take Samsung’s S-Pen and the Galaxy Note Seriously

2 of my drawings. Galaxy Note (left), iPad 2 (right)

Professional artists are increasingly looking to take advantage of the latest in Tablet and Smartphone tech to make the transition from tools like pen, pencil, watercolor and oil paint into the digital age. While solutions like Wacom tablets have existed for a long time, the high-end models with screens have two problems. While they’re fantastic tools for artists, they keep you bound to a desk as they require a computer to interface with. Plus, they’re not cheap—a 12″ Cintiq 12WX is lower resolution than the new iPad and twice the price.

So, within the artistic community, tablets like the $499 iPad 3 and phablets like the $249 on-contract Samsung Galaxy Note are getting increasing amounts of attention. The recently-released Paper app for iPad has specifically brought a lot of people to the iPad, while Android apps like the $2 Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile have emerged as premier artist tools for AT&T’s Galaxy Note.

The Verge updated their comprehensive guide to iPad styluses today with tons of new pens and new winners announced. This is the most comprehensive guide I’ve found on stylii for the iPad and a good place to start if you’re feeling lost. From personal experience with a variety of Styluses, however, I honestly find them to be all about the same. I love the Kensington Virtuoso, for instance, because it comes in a variety of colors, has a good weight, and can be picked up almost anywhere for around $10. If you’re out and about and left your stylus at home, you can easily pop into a Best Buy or a Staples and just pick up a new one without hurting the wallet.

But I bring up the Verge article because the #1 response from the community seems to be, “What about the Samsung S-Pen on the Galaxy Note?” This is especially relevant because Samsung has already announced they’re delaying the next 10″ Galaxy Note Tablet in order to incorporate the same S-Pen tech they use in the note. Technologically, this sounds like a good thing, as the S-Pen has several advantages over the iPad’s stylus like pressure sensitivity and OS-level support for things like handwriting recognition. But can Samsung win artists over to Android?

I’ve been using the Galaxy Note as my primary phone for a few months, and while it’s great for a ton of different uses, the answer is “hell no,” at least until Samsung fixes some major problems with the S-Pen tech. Keep reading to see why.  Read More

Accelerate Small Business Growth: 10 Mobile Apps to Consider

Curlis Phillip is a Senior Marketing Manager at AT&T. You can find more blog content from Curlis and other experts on mobility on the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.


Small business (SMB) owners face several challenges including attracting new customers, improving cash flow, retaining customers, automating business processes and increasing employee productivity.  Mobile applications can help SMBs address these challenges and provide tremendous value.

According to an eVoice survey, seventy-one percent of small business owners have reported becoming more mobile over the past two years.  Mobile applications are helping small businesses to save time, improve business operations, be more responsive to customers, and increase sales and profitability.

SMBs are jumping on the mobile apps bandwagon, however; finding the right apps can become a daunting task with more than a million apps available across Android, BlackBerry and iPhone.  Here are 10 mobile applications you should check out that can help enhance your worker productivity, improve the way you do business and drive revenue growth.  Read More

Video: Dual Monitors On The Go With AirDisplay


Speaking from personal experience, it is true that you’re more productive with multiple monitors. Now my setup at home is pretty dope, but there are times when I’m out an about and sure could use multiple screens to get things done, sans all the window switching.

An app that lets you use multiple mobile gadgets at the same time to be more productive is AirDisplay. Simply put, you can use your mobile device (iOS or Android) as a second screen for your desktop/laptop. (Mac or PC). Read More

CUBED 5: How Text Messaging Can Be the Icing on the Cake for Small Business

In the latest episode of my CUBED video series for the American Express OPEN Forum, I take a look at IcedGems, a boutique bakery that specializes in deserts like cupcakes. They even have a Cupcake Truck which operates as a mobile storefront in the greater Baltimore area. But getting in touch with customers when your storefront is constantly on the move is a difficult process, and having to juggle text messages, tweets, and Facebook was a bit too much for IcedGems to handle. So I came up with a solution to help them out that I think a lot of you entrepreneurs and small business owners out there will love. So head on over to AmEx OPEN and watch the video now!

How to Justify the New iPad for Your Business

I must admit, the “New iPad” features are really impressive. The 2048 x 1536 resolution alone is enough to have most people justifying the purchase. Add that with a quad-core processor and 4G/LTE connectivity, and the New iPad will practically sell itself.

There are a ton of features that make the New iPad a no doubt “buy” if you’re a small business owner who hasn’t quite bought into the whole tablet craze. But the “Resolutionary” features alone won’t make you a on-the-go productive whiz on the device. You still need a solid suite of business apps to uncover just how productive you can be on the New iPad.

Now, if you’ve been following Small Biz Go Mobile, all we do is identify resources, services…and apps that can help you stay at work, even when you’re not at work (did I just blow your mind?). Now, we don’t want you to just go out there and download tons of apps without knowing how you can use them for your business, so here are just a few ways you can close those deals on your New iPad…cause we all know you’re getting one.

Document Management

If you’re not in the cloud, or don’t have a way to retrieve important documents from your office computer, you might as well stop reading now. There is nothing like leaving an important document on the printer because you rushed out the door to a meeting with a client, or to catch your flight. That’s one of the reasons why I suggest any small biz invest in the cloud to at the very least, make sure you have access to all your documents on any device, whenever you need them.  A good document creator/editor is needed as well. If a client or team member wants to adjust some numbers in a spreadsheet and you’re not nowhere near a computer, you still need to capability to open and edit that document from your email, then send it back to them lickity-split. Read More