I used to have a rather big office, with a big table, big desk chair, big filing cabinets filled with paper, a big sofa, and every wall covered with overstuffed book shelves... you get the idea, everything was BIG.
We moved recently, and I had to put everything into temporary storage. I only had access to a couple of file boxes and my laptop. I thought it would be horrible, and for a couple of days I pined for my familiar office, but then something happened. I realized that I'd never felt so free.
It dawned on me that I'm always on the road. I'm at board meetings, giving speeches, meeting clients, filming In the Boardroom with Lucy Marcus. I'm on planes, in taxis, in waiting areas. In essence, at other people's offices, or travelling to or from them. I never looked at my carefully collected and filed papers nor did I spend much time at my huge desk. I had been caught up in an old idea of what an office should be.
So I changed it all.
Now I am ultra-portable. My office is my laptop, tablet, phone and a bluetooth headset that works simultaneously with my computer and mobile phone. I have a scanner, printer and an external hard drive/cloud server tucked away in a corner. My desk is any flat surface (often my lap) and with my new setup I have everything I need with me and accessible at all times. I use a combination of Evernote, Dropbox and a couple of other programs to house all the paper I once had in my filing cabinets, and to work on everything on the go. I can access it all from anywhere using any form of technology, even if I have to borrow someone else's computer.
I carry a small notebook and pen with me wherever I go, as there are still a lot of circumstances where it is not appropriate to take out something and type, but then I scan or type the notes in later. I sometimes travel with note cards, as I like to send handwritten notes every so often.
Here's what's in front of me right now:
The most important thing is that this suits the way I actually live and work and I'm much more efficient.
No more overnight packages of big binders with my board papers -- I've arranged to have those all in electronic form. I can read those papers wherever I am, be it train, plane, in between meetings or curled up in front of the fireplace in a comfy chair. It took a little while to re-adjust to reading and taking notes on them that way, but now I prefer it.
No more thinking of things that I want to write but forgetting them by the time I find something to write on or with. I often pick up the closest means of capturing ideas -- be it computer, tablet, mobile or pen -- and if I note it or dictate it in one place, the next time I want to keep working on it, I find it because it has all magically synched. Some of my best writing is done when I wake up in the middle of the night and roll over and write on my smartphone in the dark -- none of that is lost, which it would be if I were wedded to a desk and could only work there. (If you follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn you know that I'm up reading and writing at all times of the night and day.)
I am slightly particular about where I work. I'm not a big fan of working in cafés or noisy places. Quiet spaces, even if it is a hotel room, with natural light when I can get it, are my preferred settings. I tend to situate myself in the part of any room with a view if I can, so here is what I can see from my where I am sitting as I write this:
Finding better and more efficient ways to get things done on the road has become a bit of a hobby -- be it technology, tips and tricks, or a way to carry it all. (I'm still trying to find a nice looking bag to carry all of this in that doesn't look like a briefcase or a small suitcase.) I'd love to know if you have any good ideas to share.
Here are a couple of mine:
Trying to plug all the chargers that I travel with into the wall is often fruitless. Frequently there aren't enough wall sockets or they are too far from a comfortable spot to sit. I carry an extra-long extension cord with me, everything gets plugged into that, and then I only need one converter if I'm travelling internationally and have one wall socket to plug it into.
Also, I drink a lot of tea, so I have a travel cup with me most of the time. I bring it to conferences, meeting, on planes and trains -- it saves me from having to juggle little cups and saucers or paper cups with temperamental lids. It has saved me from mishaps more than once.
Note: This column first appeared in my LinkedIn Influencer column. Come find me there.