the one thing you can do to improve your work life. immediately.

Over and over with clients, I see one thing that can make the single biggest difference in a person’s work life.

Sadly, it took me a little bit of time to connect the dots. The more lawyers (and other folks) I worked with, the more I saw this same issue come up. With some clients, it took a bit longer to get to. We were so busy focusing on a process or system that we failed to take our first look at the primary tool.

What is the primary work tool for most lawyers? Their computer. Of course.

Most of us spend hours on our computer daily. Drafting, reading, reviewing, composing and responding to emails , conducting research, wandering around through Facebook and Twitter feeds …

And once I started connecting the dots, I realized that the starting point for all of my clients was to assess their primary tool first. Before we considered whether a change in PM software, collaboration tools, or anything else was necessary.

What I learned? Pretty much everyone is using a slow, lethargic computer that is slowly sucking the life from them. Now, the reasons for this vary. For some, it’s a budget issue. Others? They’re tied to a system in their firm. And for many, they simply are so used to it that they didn’t realize how bad it was. Until they get a new machine and realize how good it can be.

Here’s the thing: your primary tool should be as good as it can possibly be. As fast, efficient, and powerful as you can afford.

With that said, not everyone needs a new machine. Sometimes a little maintenance can do the trick, to correct the lagging, slowness, and spinning beach balls.

And sometimes not.

While I don’t believe that we’re only as good as our tools, I firmly believe that using really, really good tools makes us better. And happier.

If you haven’t replaced your computer in a while, and especially if you’re experiencing any noticeable performance issues, then do an assessment to figure out if now is the time to replace. This handy primer offers some tips.

And if you’re anything like most of my consulting clients, don’t let you lack of time keep you from doing this. As with most aspects of your practice, you can hire someone to do the heavy lifting for you, and assess if it’s time to replace, and what you should buy. My suggestion is to hire someone who isn’t also selling the computer — you need someone who can figure out what you need, and get you that.

One consulting client of mine replaced an 8-year-old Dell PC. This was a really hard decision for her. Why? Well, moving from XP to Windows 8 didn’t excite her. At all. She, like most of us, would prefer to stick with what she knows works (even when it’s working really, really poorly) than dive into the unknown.

But dive, she did. And after tracking her time for just a couple of days? She realizes that she’s captured so much productivity. Why? Well, her machine isn’t slowing down or locking up anymore. (Yes, she had reached the point of lock-up and constant reboots. Even after de-fragging, cleaning temp files, uninstalling unused files, and the 30 other things you need to be doing to maintain a PC.)

The single best thing I did to improve my work life? Dump my old PC and go Mac. At the end of 2010, I was limping along on a slow slow slow Dell laptop. I would turn it on in the morning, go make coffee, enjoy at least one if not two cups, return to my desk, and wait 15 more minutes before the machine had fully loaded. One day, I had an epiphany. My life didn’t have to be this way. When it finally loaded, the first thing I did was go to the Apple store online and order a new laptop. Which arrived two days later. And my life has never been the same.

Perhaps it’s too big a leap for you to go from Windows to Mac, but being a Mac user myself, I must make a plug. I never felt truly comfortable with technology until I returned to Apple for all of my computing tools. Yes, there’s a learning curve. It’s different than Windows. And generally, machines with comparable stats (RAM, disc space, processing speed) are more expensive at the Apple store.

But if you view your computer as your primary work tool, and acknowledge its importance in your life, then you should give yourself permission to invest in the best.

I shall forgo a lengthy discussion on how to select a new computer. Others have written about what kind of computer to buy — go here and here and here, for example.

I will share a few salient points, however, based on my 16 years in the practice of law:

  • Get a solid state drive. Buy the biggest one you can afford. Why? They’re more reliable and faster than standard hard drives (which have moving parts prone to breakage and wearing out more quickly.)
  • If you have a mobile practice, buy a powerful laptop and add a nice, big, hi-res monitor when you’re working at your desk. I use both the 17” screen of my laptop and a separate 24” monitor when I work at my office desk.
  • If you’ve got the cash, get a lightweight laptop like a MacBook Air for your work on the go. The 11” is not much bigger than an iPad and is much handier for doing real work.

Here’s my set-up:

17” MacBook Pro (no longer made – 15” is currently the largest screen available) with 24” external monitor at the office. With a 500 GB solid state drive and external 3 TB hard drive for extra storage and back up. (I also back up to the cloud via two different platforms.)

11” MacBook Air – with 500 GB solid state drive. I use my iPad as a second monitor when I’m working out of the office (using this app).

27” iMac – with 2TB traditional disk drive, in my home office. It’s slower than my SSD laptops, but has lots of RAM so handles my needs well enough. When the time comes, I’ll replace with the same size screen and either a SSD or fusion drive, which combines flash and regular disk storage.

Enough about me. Stop reading this blog post on your old, slow machine. Go do some homework (or hire someone to do it for you), and upgrade your most important tool!

links i like. July 11, 2014 edition.

Louis CK and the downside of hype in how we promote ourselves.

Can you relate to this at all? Why we get angry. I see glimpses of most (all?) of these triggers in the anxiety-ridden, stressed-out professionals around me. Or the clients they deal with. Or both.

“Unless you are extremely well capitalized, you should not attempt to offer the lowest prices in your market. Bragging that you are competitive on price does not gain more customers.” Pretty much everyone I know should read this: 3 strategies for raising your pricing. 

Need to know something about any Microsoft product/platform? Check out this huge list of free e-books spanning the Microsoft universe.

Mammoth: Evernote meets Tumblr? 

Going paperless on a Mac with Eaglefiler.

Google, take down requests, and “searching for the right balance.”

So true. To solve big [and small] problems, change your process. 

For a quick shot of happiness, spend just a few moments doing one (or more!) of these easy things.

Think beyond the next five minutes. Consider the foundations for flourishing.

 

links i like. june 27, 2014 edition.

A method for beating procrastination. (It shares many attributes with my agile process.)

Here’s another way to kick procrastination’s ass.

A must-read for anyone who feels constantly behind: escaping the time scarcity trap.

Use Evernote? Have an iPhone? Check out these apps for getting content into Evernote even faster.

Want Google to forget you in search results? Visit forget.me.

I rely on Alfred (app for Mac) to get things done, more easily and more quickly, every day. Go here for a beginner’s guide on how you can, too.

How to go from working 60 hours a week to 40 by sending two emails a week. Why not try?

How to make hard choices. [TED talk. Lawyers, especially unhappy ones, should watch this.]

Take fewer photos. Make more memories.

The most important rule about productivity.

Loving what you get paid for.

links i like.

What’s not here?

Want to surf the ‘net in stealth mode? Check out this fast and secure way to search privately.

It’s finally here. And here are five things you need to know about Microsoft Office for iPad.

Use Gmail? Worried about the NSA snooping through your emails? Here’s what Google is doing to thwart the snooping.

For anyone who stares at a computer screen much of the day (like many lawyers I know, myself included), consider using this app (for both Mac and Windows) designed to ease the eye strain.

No matter where you buy e-books, it’s possible to read them in one place. Here’s how. Very helpful for e-book addicts like me.

I’ve ditched Box for Google Drive, perhaps for good. I’m currently exploring the many things I can do with Drive, that I couldn’t with Box.

Try this one-minute hack to grow your Twitter following organically.

Your website copy probably needs reworking. (Mine does.) Schedule some time to rewrite. (I am.) Read this first. It will help you turn bland text into sparkling content.

this is pretty amazing.

I’ve used many methods to access my computers remotely. VPN clients, TeamViewer, LogMeIn, GoToMyPC — and most of the other ways mentioned here.

I didn’t like any of them. For various reasons. Typically I simply need to get into my home iMac to find an image that I downloaded there but forgot to put in a Dropbox or Box folder. Or, even more likely, I want to browse through a few files to figure out exactly what I’m looking for.

Enter Spotdox. This app is quite fascinating. Through Dropbox, and like magic, it allows me to access the entire content of any of my computers, from any internet browser and its iOS apps.

Download the app, connect it to your Dropbox account, and you’re in. Any computer you have configured to run Spotdox.

When you log in to Spotdox (either online or via its app), you’ll see all computers that are currently on and logged into Spotdox and Dropbox. Click on a computer, and you have instant access to all of its files. You can browse, view and copy files to Dropbox from within the Spotdox window.

Lawyers are worried about security, of course. Here’s what Spotdox has to say on that topic:

To make sure you are the only one accessing your Mac you must be logged into Dropbox on both the device you are browsing from, and the Mac you are accessing. On top of this you have the ability to add a unique password to each and every Mac. For even more security Spotdox also supports Dropbox two-factor authentication.

On the iOS client app, security is further enhanced. Data between your iPhone/iOS device and your Mac is all encrypted using the OS X password you supply. We have no knowledge of or access to this password.

Privacy

Spotdox has a database that contains the minimum amount of information required to run our service. For instance, our database does not store passwords in any form – even hashed. We also do not store any access tokens in our database. We use industry standard protection mechanisms to protect our database.

While you are browsing your files we need to hold onto your directory listings and thumbnail images for a few minutes, this information is not stored permanently, and is only accessible by you.  We do not share any personal information collected with anyone. When browsing from iOS devices, even this information is encrypted.

We don’t even require an email address to use our services.

You can find terms of service here.

After a free test-drive, here’s what Spotdox costs:

I’m intrigued by this app. I’ve used it a few times in the past week to find some files that I needed on a remote computer, copy them to Dropbox, and access them easily. I like this convenience.

If you give it a go, let me know what you think.

please don’t do this.

image

Don’t draft a letter, print it, sign it, scan it, then email it. Please. Don’t do this.

And I know some of you are still doing this. Because you’re telling me that you’re still doing this.

Here’s what you do, instead:

If you’re a Mac, then create the document in Pages or Word or whatever app you use. You have [at least] three choices at this point to insert your handwritten signature directly into the document before sending electronically.

  1. Use the nifty app Autograph for Mac (or for iPhone/iPad), which inserts your signature into most any document in Word, Pages, etc. (but not Preview — see below). Just click the cursor where you want the sig to go and autograph it with your touch pad. (Yes, this does require a touch pad, which I can’t imagine not using with my iMac even if Autograph didn’t exist.)
  2. Or print the document to a PDF open in Preview, then do the first thing described.
  3. Or print the document to a PDF open in Adobe, then do the second thing.

If you’re a PC, you don’t have the luxury of the awesome Autograph app. Which IMHO is reason enough to get a Mac. You do have options, although they’re more cumbersome. Create the document in Word and do one of the following:

  1. Insert a signature by doing this.
  2. Or print the document to a PDF open in Adobe Reader then do this.

The whole point of sending correspondence electronically? TO AVOID PRINTING IT ON PAPER. So please pick one of the above methods and do it. The trees of the world thank you.