So, some of you know that I’ve spent the past year as an Ambassador for Microsoft, specifically Office 365. I’ve done videos for them during Fashion Week, and I’ve gotten a chance to really delve into their products and services. Well, they invited me back again a little while ago to visit the Microsoft campus and learn more about what’s new. While my expectations were to learn more about the newest apps and product releases, I think I was most surprised to learn a considerable amount about myself. Because, let’s face it: I am not particularly “tech-y.” I like technology, I love my vast array of gadgets. What I didn’t expect — and found pleasantly surprising —was that I would develop a new relationship with technology: it helps me find the time to go out and play and to be incredibly creative.
This time, we stayed in Ballard, an old shipping neighborhood of Seattle that had seen harder times until it was gentrified into a gorgeous, bustling little side of town right off Seattle proper. I am in love. People, if you can get to Seattle, especially in the spring, do it and stay in Ballard. Particularly, stay at the Hotel Ballard, our home away from home for the three days we were there. It’s a relatively new boutique hotel with beautiful rooms and some rather dazzling amenities. My room had a fireplace in the wall between the living room and the bedroom and a bathtub people write songs about. This is what I mean.
My little home-away-from-home in Ballard kept me cozy and happy (the BEDS ARE NOT TO BE BELIEVED) and on the first day, I found myself keeping hours for both coasts, handling client work on the east coast and then trying to stay up an entire day on West Coast time. Thankfully, that was a brief effort. I’m someone who needs my sleep, so by day two, I gave that up.
One of the biggest reasons I decided to partner with Microsoft is that I wanted to learn about tools that can help get things done efficiently wherever I am so I have time to go outside and play. The older I get, I’m a big believer in play time. I think naps are important, I think playing with your hands is vital, and I think you should get outside to do SOMETHING every day, even if it’s just a moment to snap a photo and then go back inside. The partnership with Office 365 was to show that it could essentially help you go “out of office,” so that was my focus when absorbing information during this trip.
And so, here are the fun things I learned about how you can use the Microsoft tools to head out of the office, get your work done, and then take care of another important item, which is enjoying life:
- There’s really no need to keep the whole Macs vs PC battle going. What used to look like the epic rumble from The Outsiders is really no more. Microsoft Office 365 recently released apps from the suite — OneNote, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. — for use on Macs and other Apple devices, such as iPhones and iPads. It’s less about picking sides and more about having the option to get what you need on the operating system you prefer. Also, the apps have 12 million + downloads from iTunes, so feel free to take advantage of the technology wherever you are on whatever you’re using.
- If you need a snappy, fast, powerful portable work solution, I’m obsessed with the super-slick and stylish Surface Pro 2. This tablet with the keyboard that attaches with a satisfying “click” is my new preferred method of working wherever I happen to be. Product inventory, writing the book, editing posts, etc., are completed on time (my editors are THRILLED,) and when I’m done, I detach the keyboard and use it as a traditional tablet. Try it out.
- Do you wish you could take better photos with your phone? As someone who is constantly documenting everything with my phone, I’m completely obsessed with the camera capabilities on the Nokia Lumia 925, which is what I used to snap all the photos in this post. We had a photo session with the photographers behind We Are Juxt, the genius collective of mobile photographers who create and share camera images that you would swear were taken with a professional lens. I, uh, broke up with my iPhone when it comes to digital images. I had to have that camera. In order to save you from this post going super long, I’m posting a few posts of shots I took using the camera throughout the next week or so, including a fun new app I’m loving called Hipstamatic Oggl.
- The Microsoft team is really concerned with digital safety. The conversation we had among the 20-or-so digital ninjas who were invited focused a lot around keeping children protected from the Internet, but it quickly turned to a discussion about how it affects ALL of us. And this is important: it’s only going to intensify, so the tools we use not only need to serve us, but they have to protect us…sometimes, from ourselves.
- You already know how much I love OneNote from the videos I shot during Fashion Week (seriously,if you haven’t tried it yet, I really think you should – you can use it for ANYTHING.) But you’ll notice that sometimes when you’re in a hurry, you want to snap a photo of something that will keep you from keeping a ton of paper on your person (receipts, reminders, salads you want to try and make later, a particularly cute outfit on a passerby, WHATEVER) and you want it to be legible (speed + urgency = shaky photos.) That’s where the cool new item that’s built into OneNote for iPad and iPhone called OfficeLens comes in: it’s essentially a scanner app for your phone that also steadies the image so it’s legible, clear and centered when it’s embedded.
- We also learned about the Bing in the Classroom initiative, which brings ad-free search to k-12 schools as well as Skype’s new video chat feature and the Skype for Families program.
- As someone who loves to work out wherever I am (and I’m trying to get back to it while I’m recovering from an injury,) I’d highly recommend using Xbox’s new fitness tracking capabilities. We watched a gal do a Jillian Michaels workout, and it looked like, well, working out with Jillian Michaels. If you don’t want to hit the gym or you want to start working out in the morning before work, check this out. It’s like having a personal trainer in your living room.
- You and I both know our inboxes over-runneth. You will want to take advantage of the spring/summer cleaning you can do with Outlook.com. I had over 21k emails in my inbox. My inbox was eating me alive. No more. Thanks, MS peeps.
But all in all, when I took off, well-fed and happy, I was madly in love with Ballard and an even happier, connected person who now has the tools to make sure I can disconnect more often. I love what I do, but I love doing it efficiently so I can have more time to spend offline. Maybe I’ll snap a photo of it or jot down some ideas that come to mind while I’m out there, but my goal is to spend more time out of the office. I’m proud to partner with a company that helps me do just that.