Over the past four years, I haven’t had an office at my job. The organization I was working for was running out of space, so I volunteered to go without an office and let the space be used for other things. I would work from wherever I could find space. Sometimes this was an empty office, the desk of a co-worker, or even sitting on the floor. Since I was rarely in the same spot, I had to keep everything I needed in my computer bag. In addition to roaming within the building, I spent a good amount of time traveling.
In time, I refined what I needed in my bag down to the items that I found made me most productive, whether I was working from a quiet spot I found on the floor in a hallway, riding in a plane, in a cyber cafe in Mexico, or visiting in-laws. Since I moved around a lot, one of my requirements was to make it as easy as possible to pack up and move. I accomplished this by using wireless technology wherever possible. I’ve seen many people setup their “mobile office” and it takes 15 minutes to get everything plugged in. I can usually be up and running in 2 to 3 minutes.
My “office in a bag” will evolve as my needs change, but here is a list of my current inventory along with the rationale for each item.
- Brenthaven Bag for 17inch Powerbook. This bag is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever used. It is well-endowed with pockets, padded to protect the contents, has an extremely wide, soft shoulder strap and fastens to the top of my wheeled carry-on luggage bag. The back of the bag has a single un-zippered pocket that I use for driving directions, tickets, reservations, etc. Everything in this photo fits easily in the bag with some room to spare for more books or magazines.
- 17 inch Powerbook. The laptop has a built in DVD burner which gives me an easy way to back up important data on the road. I have a power adapter for my laptop that is just for the bag. I have another one at my home desk and one by my bed. This means I don’t have to take my power adapter out of my bag at home. It is always ready to go, which saves me time and I don’t have to dig under my desk to unplug it every time I pack up my laptop.
- Moleskine notebook. These notebooks come with a small pocket in the back and an elastic strap to keep it closed. I do most of my work on the computer, but the notebook is perfect for times when I can’t use my laptop.
- Two books. I usually carry one work related book and one personal book with me. I used to travel with a large number of books, but I’ve found that having this arrangement meets 90% of my needs. On a longer trip, I may pack additional books in my suitcase or plan to buy one on the road.
- Airport Express. This allows me to work wirelessly in a hotel room or anywhere else where I have an ethernet port, but not wireless internet. It also allows me to share a single connection with others as long as they have wireless capability.
- Extra battery for Powerbook. This battery is kept charged and ready for use. One of the nice things about the Powerbook is the fact that you can change the battery simply by closing the computer. It doesn’t require you to shut it off even though it only has a single battery.
- Stamps, notecards, and envelopes. I use a leather note card wallet from Levenger and 3×5 personalized note cards. In a world where everyone is switching to email, I’ve found that sending a physical card through the mail can make a huge impact.
- iPod and iTrip. The iPod is loaded with several book recordings or podcasts. The iTrip lets me play it through almost any vehicle’s radio. I keep the following cables in the bag as well: white iPod earbuds, black Sony earbuds, earphone splitter (so my wife can listen with me if we are on a plane), iPod sync/charging cable.
- 2 Pilot G-2 Gel Pens, Maglight Flashlight, Tuning fork.
- Sony Ericson T610 Cell Phone. This phone has Bluetooth so it can sync wirelessly with my laptop so my contacts are always up-to-date. It also gives me internet access from the phones browser and my laptop through T-mobile. I also keep a hands-free earpiece and charger in the bag.
- Bluetooth Mouse. A wireless mouse is one less cable to wrap up. It doubles as a remote control for making presentations.
- Firewire cables. I travel with one Firewire 400 and one Firewire 800 cable. I don’t need them often, but they aren’t the type of things people usually have on hand.
- Roll-up telephone cord and calling card. With my cell phone, I’m using this less and less, but I still occasionally find myself somewhere without cell phone service.
- DVI to VGA adaptor. The Powerbook only has a DVI out, so this lets me hook up to older projectors and monitors.
- Crossover network cable. The Powerbook’s built-in network jack will automatically switch
to handle crossover or non-crossover cables, so the crossover cable works just fine when I need to plug in to a wall jack. It is more difficult to find a crossover cable in small towns or other countries, so it is nice to have one on hand if I need to do some impromptu rewiring of older networking equipment while on the road.
I’ll point out that I don’t use a PocketPC or Palmpilot. I tried several of them, but they didn’t ever make me more productive. From a data standpoint, a pocket computer is more powerful than my phone and less powerful than my laptop. Once I set things up so my phone keeps contacts and calendars synced wirelessly with my laptop, a pocket computer just became extra baggage.