Hurray! The holidays are here, and checking email already feels like a distant memory.
Unless you work for a company that uses the word “holiday” as code for "work from home.” Or, at the very least, code for, "Please be accessible by email in case anything pops up, which it will, because it always does."
If that’s your life, I feel your pain--as do most people. It’s increasingly rare to be able to completely unplug during a holiday. And while I can’t stop your Great Aunt Helen from giving you the evil eye as you check your email under the dinner table, I can recommend some apps to help you get things done and keep your sanity during your family festivities.
Stay in Touch
Keep those not-so-stealthy email checks as quick as possible with myMail. You’ll see all your email accounts together in this app and get an easy-to-scan summary of each message. In addition, you can sort messages individually or in bulk with just a couple swipes and customize your notifications so only the most urgent alerts come through at turkey time.
If just checking your email isn’t enough, you can at least make replying simple with a text expansion app like TextExpander or Texpand. These tools go beyond auto-correct word prediction and let you insert whole phrases, sentences, or paragraphs of text by typing in a shortcut of your choice.
Or, if communication is getting complicated, why not clear things up with a screencast? A video can be worth a million words if you need to explain a process or give detailed instructions. Screencast-O-Matic records your computer screen along with your voice so you can both show and tell to get your point across. Sounds a lot more fun than sending one million emails back and forth, right?
Don’t crush your tech team’s visions of sugarplum fairies by trying to sneak out of the office with your confidential company information scribbled down on a sticky note. Do the responsible--and safe--thing by setting up a password manager so you won’t have to keep track of all your log-ins as you travel across the country and back. A password manager app like 1Password works on both computers and mobile devices so you have access to all your accounts with just one secure master password.
When you’re outside the office, you’re also on your own when it comes to data security. But you can control your online activity with an app like TripMode or Network Usage. Once these are downloaded, you decide which programs or services can access the internet. This stops unwanted uploads and downloads so your data is safer. Oh, and, as a bonus, you won’t waste your precious data allowance if you’re tethering to your phone.
To protect yourself on any network, be sure to use an app like Hideman. It creates a VPN (virtual private network) that encrypts your data so it can’t be read by anyone on the same network. Because, as reliable as the coffee at your favorite hometown haunt is, it doesn’t mean its Wi-Fi security is, too.
If you just have to put in a few hours after your family goes to bed, protect your sleep hygiene with f.Lux or Twilight. As you know, spending time in front of a screen just before bedtime usually means you won’t rest well. But these adjust the lighting of your device so that you aren’t quite as affected. So, even if you’re up late, you’ll sleep better and be ready for more holiday fun, festivities, and political fights with your family the next day.
If you just have to get away from everyone to get your work done, check out CubeFree. It’s where you’ll find information about places with reliable Wi-Fi, power outlets, and a reasonably quiet environment where you can actually do some work. Look at the map for your nearby choices of cafes or co-working spaces and read reviews from other remote workers. And, if you really need a break from explaining your job to your grandma, you can even meet up with other users to talk shop (or just sip a pumpkin latte in sweet, sweet silence).
Sometimes travel time can be your most productive time. A service like Routehappy gives you the best chance at that by scoring flights by the amenities offered on them. Just enter your travel plans into RouteHappy to see the price, Wi-Fi quality, device charging options, and seat room on different flights. Then choose the one that’ll let you focus on your work during the trip so you can spend time with your family once you arrive at your destination.
All these apps are free for a trial period (or for forever!) and are available on multiple platforms. So, no matter how much or how little work you have to get done while you’re away for the holidays, you can do it faster and easier and get back to your family gatherings, nonstop bargain shopping, and football games. Or, maybe, just enjoy a bit of peace and quiet during this busy time of year.