Household Wednesday: Best Portable Speakers

best portable speakersThis is another entry in our very occasional feature on household items — see our previous discussions on the best sheets, best towels, indispensable kitchen items, and more.  

Ladies, what are your favorite portable speakers — whether for use at your office, around your home, or in the great outdoors? I’ve been on the hunt for a while now and thought I’d pose the question to the group. I recently bought a very affordable one that was recommended by the usual place I go to for these things, The Wirecutter. Not only was the sound horrible, though (and I am not an audiophile), but my toddler managed to break it within about two weeks. (The Amazon Echo is our default kitchen speaker, but it requires an outlet. I’m not sure I feel strongly enough about Alexa to get Amazon’s more portable version, the Tap.) After my “my cheap speaker sounded lousy and then broke” experience, I’m open to spending more on one but am hesitant because I feel like I ought to have a greater plan in mind. One of my friends did this — he and his wife bought a Sonos speaker pretty much every year for their big holiday present to themselves; after a few years they had a multi-room system. (Do note that Sonos speakers require WiFi, so if you hope to use them on a picnic or some such, you may be out of luck.)

So let’s hear it, ladies — which are your favorite portable speakers? Are they part of a greater home system or plan, or did you buy yours for some other reason (like the super-cute and affordable Kate Spade polka-dot speaker, pictured)? (This should be a separate post entirely, I suppose, but does anyone have strong opinions on their headphones or earphones? I just bought my husband these Bose earphones for Fathers’ Day.)

Pictured above, clockwise: SoundLink® Mini II Bluetooth® Speaker / UE BOOM 2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker / kate spade new york ‘le pavillion’ Bluetooth® speaker

Further reading:   

  • Best Portable Mini Bluetooth Speakers [CNET]
  • The Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2016 [PCMag]
  • Amazon Echo vs. Amazon Tap [NerdWallet]
  • 5 Best Wireless Speakers Under $300 [ConsumerReports]

Psst: our favorite podcasts for working women, and my favorite songs, for no reason whatsoever. 

Online Shopping Apps for Busy Women: Save Money, Get Deals, Keep Track of What You Want

Online Shopping Apps2017 Update: We’ve updated links below!

We’ve talked about some of my favorite online shopping tools before, but not in a while — and a lot of the older ones have gone belly up, so let’s discuss the best of today’s online shopping apps. Ladies, what are your favorite tools these days? These are the ones I use:

    • Covvet: This takes the place of the dearly departed Shopping NotesPoachIt, and Hukkster. The idea is simple: If you see a product you like, you click a bookmarklet on your desktop and tell the program what price you’d like to pay — then they’ll notify you if/when it goes on sale. I use this a LOT, and really like it — my only regret is that it doesn’t work on my iPad.
    • Amazon Wishlist. A year or two ago, Amazon changed their wishlist so that it now can track products on ANY site. If they can match it on Amazon they’ll let you know; otherwise they link your list to the third party site. I have zillion gift idea lists in here; it also helps me keep track of all the makeup I want to try/investigate in person.

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The Hunt: Laptop Totes and Sleeves

stylish laptop totes for women

2017 Update: We still stand by these stylish laptop totes and sleeves (and links have been updated!), but you may want to check out our more recent roundup of the best laptop bags for work.

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t done a roundup of computer bags and laptop sleeves in a THOUSAND YEARS, so I thought we’d take a look today. Ladies, do you have any trusty laptop totes? Do you prefer a laptop sleeve or an entire tote for laptops?

Psst: we’ve talked about how to lighten your load in the past, as well as how to save your back while commuting.

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Tool of the Trade: Bluetooth Keyboard

Corporette's Tool of the Trade: The Bluetooth KeyboardI’ve mentioned my love for my Bluetooth keyboard a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a whole post on it, so I thought we’d discuss. If you tend to do a lot of writing in your life (even just emails!), I highly recommend it.  There are a ton of options out there; the one that I have is the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard, which sells for around $25. Mine was a gift from my father, received around the same time I got my first iPad, and it mostly lay around collecting dust until I figured out how to use it… (2018 Update: it looks like the exact one I bought is sold out; this $19 keyboard is Amazon’s top pick for a replacement, though. Want more thoughts on essential tools for bloggers? Sign up for Kat’s email list here.)

Use it for focus.  For a long time now, I’ve known that whenever I have significant editing or writing to do, the regular desktop is just the death of me — too many distractions.  (At my old law firm I even tried to unplug the Internet cable so I had less distractions and, if memory serves, got a visit from tech support because they wondered what was wrong.)  One of my old tricks has always been to write longhand, on paper.  But: then you have all this text (largely illegible, if you’re me) to get into the computer, which requires time from either you or your assistant, both to enter and review.  I had been gifted a keyboard  forget the original reason why I had gotten a Bluetooth keyboard, but I had one laying around, so it occurred to me: why not try the iPad and keyboard?  I now think of it as my little typewriter for 2015 — I never switch between screens the way I do on my desktop.why every blogger needs a bluetooth keyboard

Use it for travel. The Bluetooth keyboard is super lightweight and fits in most of my bags.  It’s easily turned off and on (simple switch on the bottom) so you don’t have to worry about running the batteries down or anything when you chuck it in your bag.  I’ve even started using it with my iPhone if I’m flying or taking a train because it fits on the little tray table better.

Grab and go.  It’s so lightweight that I even grab it if I expect I might have to wait a while somewhere, like the doctor’s office. No cords, no need for wifi (unless you’re using it for email, but even then I usually just work off previously downloaded emails and then sync when I’m back in a wifi zone), and it’s so lightweight you don’t feel like you’ve sacrificed anything if you didn’t actually get around to using it.

The only cons of note that I see:  1) It sometimes takes a few tries to get it connected via Bluetooth, which is annoying.  2) If you use a ton of keyboard shortcuts involving keys like Ctrl, Del, etc, this particular keyboard is laid out differently than my desktop keyboard, so things like function keys are in different spots.  3)  Yes, it is a smaller keyboard — I haven’t felt too cramped on it at all, but then I have fairly small hands.

Ladies, do you have a tool, device, or app that you aboslutely LOVE? Share it with us in the comments. 

Want more thoughts on essential tools for bloggers? Sign up for Kat’s email list here.

 

Do Multiple Devices Boost Your Productivity — or Your Overwhelm?

multiple-devices-boost-productivityHow many devices do you have? Does having multiple devices boost your productivity — or just add to the feeling of being overwhelmed? Reader A has an interesting question:

So I was wondering, how many pieces of technology do you and your readers have? I am increasingly getting overwhelmed by it all. I have a desktop both at home and at work of course, then an iPad, then a MacBook Air, then my personal iPhone, and my work iPhone!! Too much I am thinking. So, if you had to ditch one (or more than one), what would it be? I would think the home desktop; yet, it is a pain to connect remotely to my desktop at work from my laptop or others. What then?

Interrrrrresting question — I’ve talked about my being overwhelmed by information, but not about device overwhelm. I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I may have some solutions for you to help prevent device overwhelm… (That said, if possible I would ditch one of your two iPhones if at all possible — but if you’ve maintained two for so long I’m guessing it’s because there is a valid reason for it, and of course work/life separation is important.)

There’s a lot of interesting reading about how having different devices can actually boost your productivity; as this Wired article describes, it helps you focus by associating certain tasks with certain screens. (Question for the hive: does anyone have a multiple-monitor setup? How do you like it?) Here’s how I use this method:

  • I use my desktop almost exclusively for daily blog stuff.
  • I use my laptop (which doesn’t do well without a power cord) as a standing workstation (I just set it on top of our credenza), usually when I’m opening a zillion bookmarks and shopping for TPS reports or the like.
  • I use my iPad for work email as well as for focused writing with my Bluetooth keyboard. (OK, I also use my iPad for fun web surfing while watching television.)
  • I still use my netbook for work whenever I travel. (It’s very clunky but gives me a PC experience.)
  • I’m pondering getting a Kindle because I’ve learned that I simply do not read books and other long-form things on my iPad but would like something to bring to my bedside table. (Although really, if I could find the cord for the Orbo my son hates I could use that as a Kindle!)

That said, I do depend on a few different services to keep everything aligned among my devices, and I highly recommend them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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Tool of the Trade: Morphine Plugin for Chrome

Tool of the Trade - Morphine | CorporetteI have written before for my love of focus-boosting tools like Leechblock and RescueTime, but I’ve been using a new one that I like, and thought I’d share: MORPHINE. When I switched to Chrome a while back, I was bummed to find that my beloved Leechblock was only available on Firefox. (Firefox kept crashing, everyone said Chrome was faster, and I know most of you view the site in Chrome, so I wanted to switch over to make sure the experience was the same.)

I looked around and found this great little plugin, Morphine, which I now use all the time, primarily for Facebook (SUCH a distractor for me!). The idea is that you only “earn” time with the URLs you put in Morphine after you’ve been using the computer for more productive purposes for a certain amount of time. Perfect. I used to have it set to 1 minute of play time for every 10 minutes of work time, but that left me with far too many minutes in my bank — so I switched it to 1 minute of play time for every 60 minutes of work time. That was a bit too little (I’ve decided I need at least 3 minutes to look at Facebook, even using the Social Fixer plugin, because when I try to sneak a peek for one minute, and inevitably try to refresh it for another minute more, it would take me at least 30 seconds to find my place scrolling down the page. (Lazy load, you kill me!)

Ladies, what are your other favorite productivity products, especially for blocking internet distractions? (Any favorite Chrome plugins to shout out?)

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