Working from home? Blogger, teacher and consultant Sarah Kimmel has advice for you

When consultant Sarah Kimmel sees families struggling to organize busy schedules – especially now, when across the world people are juggling work and school while at home – she can tell them to relax; it’s one of many problems she’s particularly well-qualified to solve.

Her solution for this common scenario: digitizing appointments, setting up different calendars for each child and color coding them. Then everyone can pull up those calendars on their phones and other devices, so they always know exactly what’s going on with each family member.

In these uncommon times, she also recommends parents create additional calendars for children’s new “routines” so they can see when they’re supposed to be doing school work, and what time parents should get their kids outdoors for “recess.” 

“I try and help parents understand technology better by introducing them to things that they didn’t really even know existed,” Kimmel says. “They don’t really know how good it can be.”

When she talks to families about technology, such as work from home set-ups, she does so as a mom of two kids who use a lot of devices in their home and as someone who has 16 years of IT experience. She also runs a blog focused on families and tech (Family Tech Zone) and talks at conferences and events.

“The role I enjoy the most is public speaking about technology,” says Kimmel, who’s based in Utah. “I love trying to get my message to as many people as possible that technology doesn’t have to be scary, and it can actually help you accomplish your goals.”

She usually teaches classes once a month, covering everything from how to set up parental controls to how to start a blog, but now she’s recording herself and editing videos to put the classes online. Microsoft Certified consultant, she also usually travels locally for in-home consultations (though not during this time of social distancing). She’s also been helping people over Skype and using remote control software.

Because every day is different, Kimmel’s organizational tools aren’t just for the families she advises; they also matter to her – a lot. She uses Microsoft To-Do and Outlook to handle her segmented life.

Sarah Kimmel in a living room setting up a home theater

Sarah Kimmel setting up a home theater system. (Photo by Amy Roskelley)

“If I’m doing a class that day, maybe I’m going to be focusing more on (preparing for) the class, or if I have a speech, I need to focus more on that, and I can’t remember everything else I am responsible for that day. So having that all laid out for me every day is really helpful,” says Kimmel, whose expertise covers everything from when to give kids smartphones, to teaching kids about online scams and phishing, to tips on internet safety in the home, to gadget reviews and recommendations, how-to’s and tech news.

One of the biggest issues she sees families facing is how to handle parental controls.

“They want to give their children access to all of this great technology, all of these great educational apps and everything that they can install, but they don’t know how to protect them from all the bad that’s out there as well,” she says. “I like to make it easy and accessible so anyone can feel like they can get a handle on the situation.”

She recommends Microsoft family features, which include time and app limits.

“That’s really what parents want, the ability to make sure that when you’re done with the computer for the day, you’re done with the computer for the day,” she says. “And I also want to be able to filter out that content, so that they’re not accidentally stumbling across any of the bad that’s on the internet.”

For her own family, Kimmel uses Lenovo products to achieve a cohesive smart house. The Lenovo Smart Display in their kitchen helps her follow along with recipes, and in the rest of the house turn down the heat or turn lights off in rooms where her kids may have left them on. A Lenovo Smart Clock helps wake her up. But she also sets routines with it, such as having it tell her what’s going on for the day and playing favorite music playlists.

“I’m always shouting out different to-do list items or notes that I need to keep,” says Kimmel, who is a Lenovo INsider.

Sarah Kimmel in the kitchen working with her son on an open laptop

Sarah Kimmel helping her son on a laptop. (Photo by Amy Roskelley)

She looks forward to technology’s continued evolution in making houses become smarter.

“I used to joke that someday, even my water bottle will be smart — and then the next year, they have smart water bottles,” Kimmel says. “So it’s just going to keep encroaching in all the areas that you’re not even thinking of. I would’ve never thought that my water bottle needed to be smart, but now that I see it, I can measure my water intake and this has been great. All this data that is being collected, we’re going to be able to use that data to help improve our lives.”

Her go-to laptop is the Lenovo Yoga C940. It’s the fourth Yoga she’s owned.

“Whenever my laptop is getting old, I go right back to Yoga,” she says. “I like the portability of it and I really like the way I can put it in work mode and do a lot of my work or that I can just flip it around and watch Netflix, if I want to do that. It’s really versatile.”

Work mode includes editing YouTube videos and podcasts.

Reliability is a big reason she sticks with Lenovo.

“I’ve never had to send it in for service,” she says. “I think being without your computer when you have to send it in to for service would be very difficult. And so it helps with productivity to minimize all of that. And that’s kind of what sold me on Lenovo.”

Lead photo: Sarah Kimmel at home, fixing a laptop. (Photo by Amy Roskelley)