Saturday 18 December 2010

Toolkit of a Digital Nomad : v1.1

I’ve spent the last 3 months carrying my homemade 'office' on my back. This means that I can work practically anywhere. Recently Jason Fried of gave a excellent TED lecture on "Why work doesn't happen at work". He has a point. When was the last time you managed to get much work done at your office desk?  The joy of a digital nomad lifestyle doesn’t just have to be for the not-employed. If you’re in a job you can benefit too, improving your productivity and reducing your working day. I can now get as much done in about 3 hours as I used to do in 8-10 hours at a conventional office because I’m inspired by my surroundings (that I choose and change) and because no one interrupts me.

Here’s my toolkit...

  • Macbook 2ghz running Snow Leopard - although it’s almost 3 years old it still flies. Once you’ve nailed a few shortcuts you’ll wonder how you ever coped on a PC. I upgraded the RAM to 3mb and this has made it more than capable of running standard graphics and video apps. It also looks a bit old so I hope it’s less nick-able than a shiny new (but slightly slower) Macbook Air.
  • iPhone 4 - love it or hate it the iPhone 4 is a serious piece of kit. It’s now my everyday camera and video cam as well as having an app for just about every online service I use. It’s the device I’d be lost without (literally as I use Google Maps to find everything).
  • Photoshop - insanely overpriced but it’s the swiss army knife of graphics. If your profession includes anything graphical it’s almost a requirement unfortunately. Having said that it absolutely rocks and there’s nothing that can touch it (there's a trial version on their site)
  • TextMate - I’ve switched to handcoding all my HTML/CSS files and the built-in macros have increased my coding speed by at least 30%. You really don’t need an expensive app like Dreamweaver to make web pages/apps. TextMate will help you learn to write excellent code.
  • Cyberduck - Free FTP upload program essential for getting everything onto your webservers. Pros will advise to use a version control program but FTP is ok for most folks.
  • Dropbox - Probably the best online file storage perfect for sharing files and backing up
  • Time Machine with External Hard Drive - I use Time Machine (free in Snow Leopard) to do a full backup at least once a week just in case anything happens to the Macbook whilst I’m out and about, or (like DropBox decides to shut down.
  • Firefox - This is now my main web browser. I was using Chrome but the sheer number of web development extensions on Firefox has made me switch back. Firefox 4 beta is astonishingly fast but doesn’t support all the plugins I use so I’ll stick with version 3 until it does.
  • Toodledoo - Free online To-Do manager that integrates with Google Calendar. Can be accessed online or via iPhone/iPad app. It could do with an overhaul but I’ll stick with it until I find something better.
  • Gmail/Calendar/Contacts/Docs suite - the only email/calendar/contact/office system you’ll ever need. Forget MS Exchange and overpriced Office. Super powerful, although the contact management could be improved.
  • Hootsuite - I use this when I know I’m going to be busy as it allows me to schedule Twitter and Facebook updates across all my channels including Facebook fan pages. 
  • Blogger - probably the simplest of all blogging platforms and the easiest to quickly get to grips with. I have Wordpress and Posterous accounts that I setup and manage on behalf of others, but Blogger has everything I need for my personal writing.
  • Skype - Video conference, talk, chat, share. As long as you’ve got access to decent wifi this can massively reduce the amount of spent traveling as it makes it easy to have an impromptu online meetup.
  • Survey Monkey - Free data collection tool. Just remember to keep below 3 questions and you stand a good chance of getting useful sample of data back.
  • Wufoo Forms - Perfect for idea testing Woofoo provides super easy setup of data collection forms. It's free for smaller data sets.
  • Google Analytics - The beauty of being digital is that you can try things out, track what happens and learn from the results you get back. GA is free and it's easy to setup.
  • Keynote - Sometimes you have to dig out the old presentation software to make a point so Apple's superior version of Powerpoint is my weapon of choice. Prezi has crossed my mind but it makes me go dizzy and you have to upgrade to be able to make your files private.
  • Small notepad + pen - Always to hand for scribbling down contacts, thoughts, ideas.
  • Large notepad - In the bag so that I can sketch out diagrams, wireframes etc..
  • Nike C.O.R.E. backpack - I’m still looking for the perfect backpack but for now this is big enough to fit all my gear including an overnight change of clothes, plus I was given it for free.
  • Berghaus RG1 jacket - Lightweight and surprisingly warm. If there is any chance of rain this goes in the bag.
  • Water bottle - small bottle of water usually filled up at filtered water spouts to keep hydrated.
  • Basic overnight gear -  Carrying a spare Tee, underwear & deodorant means that I don’t have to go home if an impromptu adventure occurs!

My toolkit doesn't weigh too much and it can go anywhere with me.

I do have other applications on my devices such as iWork, Illustrator, Ableton Live, Evernote and also an iPad which I use for Kindle reading and DJing, but I don’t take it out much. These aren’t really essentials. Most of my real work is done on a cheap text editor!

It’s really incredible that we live in a time where with a fairly minimal setup like this, you can break free of the office, get out into the world, find a place that inspires you (even better has good wifi) and start getting more things done. Many of the above are free and if you’re strapped for cash you can even get cheaper alternatives for expensive items like Photoshop, you might even find you don’t need them at all.

So come on what’s stopping you? Offices are boring, venture out into the big wide world, work wherever takes your fancy, avoid the commute, make new friends, get more done, become a digital nomad!!

P.S. do you think I'm missing anything, do you have any favourite nomadic places you like to work?

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