It occurred to me that those of us in the “Sandwich Generation” can be identified by the number of keys we keep dangling on our key ring. Right now, I have the keys to my home, my car and my office. I also have the spare key to my younger daughter’s car and the key to my older daughter’s home. In addition, I have the keys to my parent’s condo and my in-laws’ condo.

Those keys represent our level of responsibility up and down the scale of our family relationships and support. But what about our own support?  Can technology ease the burden of the sandwich generation who is focused on building a business?

If you only have a desktop computer to run your business, you already know this is not allowing you to complete your goals and responsibilities when you’re away from your one working spot. If you’re pulling baby-sitting duties with the grandkids at their home, and sitting with your elderly parents at their home, this represents a chunk of time that you can’t work on your own objectives for your career. Yes, the focus of your time with them should be on your parents, children, and grandkids – but – does that mean your desires for success for your small business grinds to a halt?

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It doesn’t have to when you have a technology plan in place. And with the right advice for your specific situation, you can spend a modest amount of money on appropriate tools for you.

Taking a look at the myriad of hardware choices and software applications can make anyone’s head spin – and the fact that brand new hardware and software are developed every hour can leave you in paralysis by analysis – how do I know that the choice I make today won’t be obsolete tomorrow?

The answer is – Who Cares? The key is to focus on what is appropriate for your situation today, with an eye toward what may happen in your situation in the next 3 to 4 years.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How often am I going to be working out of (my grandkids’, my parents’) home? Is it on an as needed basis? Two or three times a month? Every week?
    • Add up the number of hours per month – the answer may surprise you.
  • Am I working on my business by myself or is there a partner, an intern, a virtual admin to help me?
    • Some day to day activities you may have been stressing about can disappear with the ability to delegate.  If you’re on your own, I strongly recommend at the minimum bringing on an intern, but ideally a virtual administrator paid by the hour on an as-needed basis.
    • If you’re fortunate enough to have a partner, make sure the work distribution is balanced equitably – your partner may be in a sandwich situation of his or her own.
  • How comfortable am I with learning different forms of technology? How quickly can I adapt to new tools?
    • Don’t make a major jump into a whole new technology if you know that in itself will stress you. Let your new equipment and operating system be a version of what you already use.

Some scenarios to consider –
Mary runs a small business on her own, from her home. She spends one day a week babysitting her grandkids and one day a week at her parents’ house. She purchased a 15 inch laptop that was light enough for her to carry but had an ample screen size for getting work done. At first she thought she would retain her desktop as her main business machine, but now actually it serves as a backup receptacle for documents – 90% of her business is now mobile on her laptop so she picks up and carries on her with her business everywhere she is with her laptop.
Joe owns a storefront business which he runs with a partner. He has worked out a schedule where on some heavy client traffic days they are both at the business; on the lighter days, either he or his partner are present with a part time helper. They share a virtual admin who takes care of background office duties. When Joe is with his parents twice a week, he finds it easy to check in and video with his partner and V/A as needed with his iPad and Skype.

Susan runs a business from various locations. Sometimes she works at her clients’ location, sometimes at home, sometimes in her office. She visits her parents every other week and is the “on-call” baby-sitter for her grandkids. In short, she needs to be able to work in all sorts of situations at the need arises with little time to plan. Her choice is to carry a netbook and remote in to her main computer at home via LogMeIn. If she needs to handle a client while at a remote location, she uses Mikogo to have a virtual screen sharing session with them. If she needs to have a face to face meeting with a remote client, she uses Skype and her webcam to have a productive meeting.

These are just 3 examples of busy, organized, focused professionals using technology to balance their family responsibilities with their career goals. The choices are limitless today, so there is no need to feel stressed at the looming deadline which can’t get done when you’re not tethered to your old, traditional office desktop scenario. Use technology to free yourself and tend to your own career needs when and where you want to.  Just don’t mis-place those keys!