Photo via Bigstock

It’s hard enough to stay productive in the office or at your desk – with your full array of resources, hardware and professional creature comforts surrounding you.

But when you’re away from your normal workplace – traveling on business, across town in meetings, or anytime you’re working while mobile – there are plenty of best practices to keep you focused and productive.

Here are several best practices culled from some of the most productive “mobile” people I know.

1. Carry pen and paper with you at all times
A recent survey by Lifehacker asked its readers to name their preferred note-taking tool.  Tons of apps and other electronic options were in the running.  But the winner?  Pen and paper.  When all else fails, old-school writing is often the fastest and most flexible means of capturing an idea, vision or simple task to be completed later.

I recommend a good Moleskine notebook.  There are a variety of shapes and sizes; I prefer a thin, pocket-sized notebook that fits nicely inside my jacket.  My preferred pen is the Retro 51 Tornado.  The ink flow and weight in my hand are perfect.  But any pen or pencil will work, as long as you get in the habit of having them with you at all times when on the go.

2. Practice mise en place for your mobile productivity essentials
The French term “mise en place” is a cooking term that roughly translates to everything in its place, meaning you start cooking when your ingredients are ready and tools at hand.  To stay productive on the go, it’s important to know exactly where your tools are for fast access.

For me, that means keeping the tools I need – iPhone, Moleskine, pen, even business cards and Bluetooth earpiece – in the same place all the time in either my suit jacket, pockets or laptop bag.  The same can go for ladies and handbags.  If you know where to find it, every time, you’re more likely to get to it quickly and use it more consistently.

3. Be prepared to work offline
When you’re on the go, Internet connectivity can be unpredictable and spotty.  To maximize your productivity, set out prepared to get work done while offline.  This includes synchronizing your email to offline mode in Outlook or Gmail, and having necessary files available on a local hard drive.  Dropbox and Box make this easy by automatically syncing documents both in the cloud and across multiple platforms.

4. Keep an “anywhere” task list handy
At any given time, you likely have a number of tasks and to do’s that can be executed without the use of technology or any tools beyond pen and paper.

This can include new ideas you need to brainstorm, plans to outline and more.

Keep a list of these “anywhere” tasks with you all the time, either in your written notes or, better yet, via an electronic “everywhere you are” system such as via apps such as Remember The Milk and TaskTask.

5. Send PDFs to your Kindle app for everywhere reading
If you have a Kindle account (even if you don’t have a Kindle and use the app for reading on your iPhone, iPad or Android device), you also have a unique email address that, when used, can send documents straight to your Kindle database.  I’ve started doing this with PDF documents so I can read them on my iPad or iPhone wherever I am.  We all have those PDF documents – white papers, analyst reports, best practice guides, etc. – we’d love to get to but rarely have time.  If you have a few extra minutes (waiting for your oil change, for example), use your Kindle app to catch up on that PDF reading.

6. Carry aspirin & stay hydrated

Aspirin. Photo via Wikipedia

There’s nothing worse than being on the go and having your energy and/or focus drain away. You can mitigate the risk of this by keeping a small vial of aspirin in your laptop bag or purse, and remembering to drink water often.

Water, in particular, will help give you energy to keep going, and keep you mentally sharp as you work through your mobile appointments and offline tasks.

7. Go light on the caffeine
Hard to resist, I know, but the “high” you get from caffeine wears off particularly fast if you’re moving.  Switch to water or at least caffeine-free beverages faster than you otherwise might if you were in the office all day.  This will help you stay energized and productive longer.

8. Have a phone charger in your car
There’s no reason that travel time (especially in your car) can’t also be phone-charging time.  Newer cards often have USB plug-ins that can simultaneously charge your phone while also making it available to your stereo system and Bluetooth.  Great for staying productive in the car while also getting a little battery life back.

9. Find a suite of apps that work well for you on the go
Especially while at conferences or all day meetings away from the office, I’m more likely to carry and use only my iPad these days.  Key to this has been a core set of applications that keep me connected and simulate most of the tools and needs I’d otherwise have while in the office.

This includes Evernote for note-taking and archiving, QuickOffice for accessing and editing virtually any Office document, and TaskTask for mirroring my essential Outlook Tasks set-up.  It’s worth taking the time to inventory the key tools & tasks you rely on in the office (or even via your laptop if it’s not always with you), and finding the applications that can simulate or mirror those needs on the go.

10. Use Reeder to keep up with your RSS feeds
I’ve tried a number of RSS readers to help me move quickly through blogs, Web sites, newsletters and other sources of information I rely on daily.  But the fastest to process, as well as easiest to take action on while mobile (with tasks such as emailing to colleagues, posting on social networks, saving for later reference and more) is Reeder.  And it’s free.

11. Wear a watch
If you’re on the move, you need to know what time it is more often to stay on track and on schedule.  Even if you don’t wear a watch normally, have one with you on your wrist when traveling in particular to make it faster and easier to check the time and stay on track.

What are your “on the go” productivity best practices?  Please share more that work for you in the comments below.

Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. You can connect with Matt via emailTwitterLinkedIn or his blog. He writes occasionally on GeekWire under the column Productivity Porn. Previous columns…An introduction to productivity porn: How to be lazy, productive & successful… 15 New Year Resolutions for Entrepreneurs.… Productivity Porn: 7 tricks for beating procrastination. (Productivity photo via Bigstock)

Comments

  • RRedmond

    Why aspirin? Please elaborate more on that please…

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

       I used “aspirin” here as a proxy for pain killer.  Take your pick, the core idea being that we all suffer the occasional headache or pain that keeps us from operating at our peak.  Sometimes a quick over-the-counter pain killer can give you your focus and edge back.

  • Kerald

    I just checked out Reeder (from the UK) and it’s currently selling for £1.99 ($2.99 in US) on iTunes – definitely not free! Thought you might like to know.

    • Danielle

      YUP! I just checked it as well- $2.99 over here in the US. Might be worth it though.

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com/ FrankCatalano

    Matt, I’m very much in agreement on the water/caffeine equation. Not just locally on the go, but while traveling. I find that if I have too much coffee as I move from time zone to time zone, it burns me out early in the day. Better to switch to water after the first cup or two of Joe. And I always pack ibuprofen in my carry on. 

    I’m also with you on pen and paper and consistency (I keep my briefcase packed the same way for every trip). I’d add that I also make sure I work out when on the road to keep the blood flowing to the brain, usually right after arriving at my hotel or first thing the next morning (even if it’s only stretches, as hard as it can be going East).

    I think, in combo with my tips for geekier air travel (http://www.geekwire.com/2012/geek-guide-air-travel/) our two sets of tips make great on-the-road advice.

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

       Great additions, thanks Frank, and I loved your geeky air travel piece.  Working out while traveling is really important.  Even if you just walk on a treadmill or take 20 minutes to walk outside, it does wonders for your energy and endurance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SharonFShores Sharon Shores

    Great tips!
    In addition to a pen and paper, I carry a hand recorder or make sure your phone has recorder in it, while driving down the road, I may get an idea that I can easily record and no need to  pull over and write it down

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

       Love it.  I use Dial2Do for leaving myself voice messages while traveling.  It’s $3 bucks a month, and translates all those voicemails into text and sends it to me via email.  Really useful to remember the random things that pop into your head while driving.

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