The Key To Staying Connected is Using The Right Technology

The Key To Staying Connected is Using The Right Technology. 

I have been reading a number of blogs about technology and the cool gizmos, apps, plug-ins, devices, software, and services that many of our colleagues here on the ActiveRain swear by on a daily basis.  I did a post last year paperless desktopabout the Tech-on-My-Desk.  I have a Fujitsu Scansnap (on my home office desk and my office-office desk, an iPad, a laptop, and a 2nd monitor).  I love gizmos and find that even with all the advances in technology, I haven’t weaned myself to using just one device.  Each one provides a slightly more refined way to do several tasks that the others can only unreasonably simulate.

That being said, the one thing I would not do without and is the key to my sanity is Microsoft Exchange Server.  I know, I know.  It’s Microsoft – not Google Apps or anything as sexy as Mailchimp, SlyDial, DropBox, or DotLoop.  Bear with me, you’ll understand.

As I  mentioned above, I have a laptop, an ipad, and iPhone.  I use all three of these devices on a daily basis.  Some of their functions overlap but many of their functions are specialized depending on the terrain and the environment.   I use my laptop for keyboard intensive activities like writing blogs, creating presentations, and doing MLS research.  I use my iPad for on-fly-resarch and presentations and general reference – it is also my note-taking device.  With a flexible stainless mesh stylus, I can take dozens of pages of notes and never have to worry about needing more paper.  This is especially important on listing presentations, seminars, and classes.  My iPhone – well, I actually use it to talk to people, text people and many overlapping functions of both the iPad and laptop when I don’t have time to set up and just need the info in a quick and accessible format.

Microsoft T ShirtSo here’s the key – if my 3 devices don’t play nice and get along with each other – I’m screwed.  Each device becomes less valuable because it is data dependent.  Most of my communication with clients and lenders and title folks is still email.  I use Outlook (yeah, I’m a dinosaur, I get it).  That being said, when we opened our brokerage, I wasn’t about to give up the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange environment that allows me to sync ALL MY DEVICES WIRELESSLY.  Yes, WIRELESSLY.  GoDaddy offers a fully functional Exchange Server option for as low as $8 a month (including fully functional Outlook 2010) with plenty of storage and great service. 

Now this may not be any huge revelation to most but I know quite a few colleagues who still struggle to sync their phone data with their tablet data and their laptop data.  What a nightmare!  By using the Exchange server all my emails, contacts, notes, and calendar items sync back and forth SEAMLESSLY.  No more deleting emails from one device and then having to delete them again from another device.  Delete something  from one – it is deleted from all.  Create an appointment on my iPad – SWOOSH – the appointment magically appears on my laptop and my iPhone.  Combine this with a little DropBox and a Scansnap – not only are you paperless – but you have become DEVICE INTERDEPENDENT – not device DE-pendent.

And if this tech tip wasn’t hip enough or trendy enough – enjoy this quick Ted Talk from David Pogue – You’re bound to pick up something you didn’t know!


Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part II: 5 Parts to Paperless Primacy

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part II:  5 Parts to Paperless Primacy

So what have I done to go paperless?  Here are the five things that have really made a huge productivity difference for me and hopefully reduced my carbon footprint:  1. Having a desktop scanner; 2.  Running a dual monitor set-up; 3.  My iPad; 4.  Using electronic storage solutions; 5.  Using Docusign in as many ways as we can imagine.

As I mentioned in one of my other blog posts about paper hoarding, one of the best solutions is to have a desktop scanner at your workstation (Click Here to read more).  The second action that has saved loads of paper is a dual monitor set-up.  I use a laptop as my primary computer and have a larger desktop monitor that I connect to my laptop when working.  I use the “extend desktop” graphics feature and can view multiple documents on both my laptop screen and the monitor (most laptops have this auxiliary video card already built-in).   paperless desktopI know this doesn’t seem like a paper-saving strategy.  However, for me, it has been both a paper-saver and a time-saver.  Having a working document up on one screen and a reference document open in another eliminates the need to print the reference document.  From a productivity standpoint I use Outlook and can have my dashboard with calendar and tasks and emails on one screen while my MLS search interface is up on the other screen.

The third item that continues to move me toward complete freedom from paper is my iPad.  I’m a chronic note taker – whether on a pre-listing appointment, at a conference, or a buyer interview, I use my iPad as the formerly ubiquitous REALTOR clipboard.  I take notes, take photos, record video all on this device.  I don’t print floor plans and elevations – I ask for the docs electronically and present them on the iPad where you can zoom, pan, and see even more of the document than if it were on a static sheet of glossy 65# cover stock.  I LOVE the Notability for iPad app.  It allows you to hand write or type notes as well as append and highlight pdf documents.  You can clip photos to your notes and email notes you’ve taken to other folks.  It isn’t a free app but the cost is so nominal compared to the value – definitely something to check out.

Fourth on the list is electronic storage.  Whether it is DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive or just an external hard drive (and some combination of the above) being paperless can’t truly be achieved unless you have some sort of well structured and redundantly backed up electronic storage solution.  I’ve not used Carbonite but they have a pretty aggressive ad campaign going right now and probably worth checking out.  That product isn’t just a storage facility but a back up for your entire computer.

Finally, no transaction can even come close to being paperless without a simple solution for clients and colleagues to affix their legitimate signatures to binding documents and contracts.  DocuSign has been our e-signature vendor of choice for over a year now and we LOVE it.  It is versatile, well-supported, and accepted by more and more institutions each month.  I look forward to the conservatreeday when the title company simply hands everyone an iPad and we all just use DocuSign Ink to ratify the closing docs and the closer hits a button and electronic copies of the executed documents fly off to all the parties who need them and every closing can save a minimum of 500 sheets of paper. 

According to the website, a case of paper requires .6 trees.  For every 20 paperless closings that’s 1.2 trees.  For a modest sized title outfit doing 900 closings a year, they could either save 54 trees or (even more importantly) reduce the amount of energy expended to produce the paper and reduce our dependence on foreign oil as well as C02 emissions.

For some back story on my relationship with paper, check out part 1 of this blog series


Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part I – My Relationship With Paper

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part I – My Relationship With PaperKinko's Logo

 I used to work for Kinko’s (now FedEx Office).  I worked for Kinko’s back in the day when it was a hippy-dippy-dog-on-the-floor-copy-shop.  We compiled (copied) course texts for the local university and other education institutions.  We also made copies of people’s stuff – lots and lots of copies.  I tell you this because I know paper.  I know how it feels, how it smells.  I can still feel the heft of a ream of Xerox branded 20 lb, xerographic paper with an 85 brightness.  I am fondly nostalgic of those sensations just as I am fondly nostalgic of cracking open a new book purchased off the shelf of an actual bookstore. I’m really dating myself here, but remember how cool to the touch and delightfully aromatic the old ditto duplicates we used in school were? It may seem weird but I have a deep love of paper – and I think our society does, too.

Key OperatorIt used to be that when something was committed to paper, a kind of legitimacy was created.  This thought, this idea became tangible.  It moved from the realm of the abstract to the concrete and could be shared by making copies of it and then saved eternally for posterity.  It is hard to believe that I’m using the past-tense to describe a business that remains a multi-billion dollar industry.

I think one of the most common reasons people of my generation hold on to paper (yes, I’m talking primarily about baby-boomers, here) is because of this sense of possession and ownership.  I own a book.  It sits on my shelf.  I can reference it at my convenience.  Example:  I subscribed to National Geographic and would often read them cover to cover.  I kept them – for years.  Why?  This is going to sound really shallow but in some ways a bookshelf filled with NatGeo mags and my English Lit books was an outward expression of my intellectual accomplishments (almost like a diploma).  I think I was trained by my parents and grandparents to do this as books and paper and the furniture in which we stored them were some of their most valued and prized possessions.  Financial institutions and the government perpetuate this idea of legitimacy through the tradition of hard-copy record retention as a means to prove who you are and what you own and how much (or how little) taxes you owe.

So what does this have to do with going paperless?  From a psychological standpoint, I think many people identify busy-ness with paper.  The more paper on my desk, the busier I must be and the busier I look to others.  Again, the presence of paper legitimizes what I do.  I was always a bit distrustful (and slightly envious) of those who kept their desks completely free of clutter and paper.  In my mind, they didn’t have enough to do if their desks remained that neat and tidy all the time.  Thankfully, I’ve learned to get over that. 

I think it also has to do with mastering technology and trusting in elecopiesctronic and cloud-based storage systems.  My father-in-law is in his late 70’s.  He knows how to search the internet and read emails.  It took him years to learn how to create an email.  All he ever did was just reply to people who sent him emails.  When he finds things on the internet that he thinks my wife and I might find interesting…he prints them and hands them to us.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!!  I’ve shown him several times how he can just email us the link to the site he is referencing but he refuses to do it.  He doesn’t trust it.  Not only does he print stuff off the web for us and other family members – he prints stuff off the web for himself and files it…reams and reams and reams of paper every year.  Paperless isn’t even part of what he sees as a valuable pursuit.  The value is in the paper itself.  Although my father-in-law could be viewed as an extreme case, if you’re having trouble going paperless, I think it’s worth exploring where your own relationship with paper stems from.

If you’re interested in the steps I’ve taken to go paperless, please check out Part II of this Blog by clicking here.