Are you in the habit of working on the move? There are ways to do it better.
With freelance and entrepreneurial lifestyles taking off in a big way, work is not limited by hours or locations. It’s great if you have the liberty to work anytime, from anywhere. But this can result in a skewed work-life balance unless you optimize your workflow. If you stay highly productive on the go, when you get back home you can afford to set work aside and focus on other important aspects of your life.
Here are a few pointers to help you make the best of working on a notebook, no matter where you’re working from.
Get Your Setup Right
Fiddling with this setting on your notebook or that can cost you a precious chunk of your work time. Plan ahead, set up your device to your satisfaction, and keep it ready to go. If you’re about to make a new notebook purchase, read Aaron’s post on transitioning from your old device, and steer clear of these laptop-buying mistakes.
Pick Your OS & Apps With Care
The OS forms the backbone of your device. Opt for one that feels intuitive and makes your workflow simpler, even if you have to do some research or a major revamp first. The goal is to find an OS that you’re comfortable with.
Next come the apps that you use for work. When you plan to do most of your work on a low-powered machine like a notebook, you have to choose your apps extra carefully, to ensure that you’re not slowing yourself down. Go for lightweight apps to keep your device speedy.
There’s no sense in wrangling with an unfriendly app no matter how beautiful it looks or how popular it is. Install apps that stay out of your way and allow you to focus on your work. Cloud-based apps can be good alternatives to resource-heavy desktop ones. Whether you need an office suite, an image editing program, or some other program, it is likely to have an online version that works well.
Don’t leave all your work at the mercy of an Internet connection. Choose offline versions for all of your frequently used apps. This can prevent panic when you find yourself without Internet access or with a shaky connection at best.
If you have multiple devices, you have to spend time readjusting to each of them when you switch from one to the other. Try to maintain similar ecosystems of OSes and apps on all of them. To make your switch from one device to another smooth and seamless, use your browser as a central dashboard.
Once you find a device setup that works for you, stick with it. As it is there are many uncertainties and obstacles to deal with when you’re working from different locations. Don’t introduce any more by changing your OS and apps whenever the fancy strikes you. Save that kind of experimentation for your spare time and your home computer.
Keep Your Devices In Sync
If your notebook is the only digital device you own, you can skip this section. But chances are that you own more than one — maybe a smartphone, a desktop, a tablet, to name a few. It helps to keep all these gadgets in sync, so that your data is available on each one of them and you can pick up where you left off every single time.
Be sure to sync your data when you have a steady Internet connection. Visit these portable app websites to find installation-free software for your notebook, and make data synchronization effortless. Use a service like Dropbox (our guide/) to keep your important and most accessed data at your fingertips. If you’re plagued by privacy concerns that go hand in hand with hosted cloud-sharing services, try these self-hosted Dropbox alternatives instead.
Set Up A Remote Desktop Connection
While a compact notebook is functional, at times you need the capabilities or the data that only your high-powered desktop at home can provide. In such cases, having a ready-to-use remote desktop connection can come to your rescue. Configure your portable device to have access to your home computer, to control your desktop remotely.
Plan Your Internet Access
Public wireless networks everywhere have made it easy for people to work online from any location, but you cannot guarantee the reliability as well as the security of such networks. Plan your Internet usage and access to ensure that your work won’t be stalled by the lack of Internet connectivity. Explore options like tethering, USB dongles, and WiFi finders, and arm yourself with these excellent tips to get free WiFi anywhere.
Tighten Device Security
Your computer is the gateway to all of your data. You cannot afford to be lax about its security, regardless of where you’re working from. It pays to be doubly careful when you’re working away from your home network. You never know who is waiting for a chance to take advantage of momentary lapses in security, putting both your data and your privacy at risk. Be aware of the dangers of public WiFi. Boost your privacy by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Choose from these five great VPN services.
Keep Your Notebook Charged
It’s frustrating to have your notebook run out of juice when you’re in the midst of something important. Charge your device when you’re at home, and do what you can to improve battery life. Invest in a good battery backup if you’re unsure of finding charging outlets when you need them.
Here’s a tip that I found floating on the Web, which promises to speed up your work and limit the duration of your workday. Start with a fully charged notebook and work only as long as the battery has charge left in it.
Minimize The Cables
Gadget cables are known to create a tangled mess in an instant. You can go crazy having to detangle them every now and then. You’re also in danger of tripping over them or disconnecting them accidentally.
The advantage of working with a notebook in tow is that the entire setup is lightweight and created for portability. Weighing yourself down with too many cables and accessories defeats the whole purpose of that. Keep your makeshift work space clean and comfortable by minimizing those cables. Opt for wireless or Bluetooth accessories wherever you can. If you’re using something wired, keep the mess in check using options like Applecores.
Streamline Your Workflow
Every time you open your notebook, you might be tempted to see what’s up on your social networks or to check your email. You know how time flies once you begin to do that. To prevent this haphazardness in your workday, have a specific workflow in place. Earmark time to indulge in digital activity that’s not related to work, be it reading, surfing, or playing games. When you fire up your notebook at other times, let it be only to power through your work.
Have A To-do List Ready
You can never predict when and where you’ll get the opportunity to get some work done. Create a to-do list beforehand. When you find yourself with some extra time on your hands and decide that you want to work on something, pick a task from the list at random and start working. If you prioritize your tasks, that’s even better.
Also make a note of the tasks you need to complete once you’re back home. For example, items like syncing your data, taking a printout, planning your work for tomorrow, etc. can go on this list.
If you work from just about anywhere, you have reduced control over your surroundings. You run the risk of multiple distractions, including the inconvenience of a cramped space, noisy chatter in the background, and digital notifications. Even if you’re adept at focusing despite these distractions, you can’t deny that they cause lapses in concentration. If you’re an introvert, they are likely to stress you out even before you have begun work. Pick quiet corners, turn off notifications, wear noise-cancelling headphones, or listen to music that aids focus. In any case, prepare to keep annoyances at bay before you leave home.
Try this trick: Complete each major task on your to-do list from a different location. This will enforce a break even if you don’t remember to take one, and the change of scene will refresh you.
Pack A Paper Notebook
No matter how optimal and efficient your digital notebook is, it is still a step behind the one of the analog variety. Even in the Digital Age, paper is a killer productivity app. Do carry a notebook and pen for taking quick notes, in case your portable computer goes out of action anytime.
Work Smarter From Anywhere
With the variety of tech aimed to facilitate working on the go, the number of people opting to do so is ever increasing. In this case it’s a good idea to join the herd. It can help separate your work from the rest of your life. Work smart on the move and keep that notebook powered off when you’re at home.
What helps you stay productive when you’re working from random places? Share your tips in the comments.