How to pack a portable office – consultant style.

Posted by on Jul 7, 2012 in Featured, travel & technology | 13 comments

My TUMI bag

Consultants are a truly mobile workforce. Give us a chair, a table, and a power plug, and we can get going. (I have worked without a chair, without a table, and without power in some cases, but not with all three missing so far…)

In a post about buying travel gear I promised to give you all an inside scoop to my portable office – today is the day!

This is gonna be a long post, because I got something to say on almost every item. For those short on time: Look at the pictures, see what you might be missing, consider adding it. Done.

 

What does a consultant have in his briefcase?

The laptop plus charger is a given, I didn’t take a photo of it. Then there is always some amount of paper you carry around – though I have been able to minimize this since I use the iPad at work. I exclusively take notes during meetings with the iPad now, and most documents for review are handled there as well. Works great!

But what about the details? Let’s start with the cables department.

The tech bag

All cables (except for the laptop charger) are in the one bag shown below – so there is no clutter, nothing tangling up in the bag. As you can see, one of the main things is to keep my phone charged up – but one after the other:

  • Wireless presenter. Great for presenting in front of larger groups. I wrote about it here in more detail. Also has a laser pointer that makes our cat at home go bonkers. There is a new one on the market now that looks better but basically does the same. Get it at amazon
  • Charging cables for iPhone and iPad, plus the charger for the iPhone. I charge my iPad off the computer, so I don’t carry the small 10w brick that came with it.
  • iPhone/iPad car charger. This small gem is powerful enough to power the iPad 3. I love it. Works great on boats as well. Get it at amazon
  • USB drive. 16 gigs, use it for everything really. You can never have enough storage.
  • Bluetooth mouse: I’d prefer a cable mouse, but with only two USB ports on my laptop, wireless is the way to go. Plus: Less clutter. Works great, only sometimes it doesn’t, and then it costs me an hour of agony to reconnect. Thus no amazon link here…
  • Mophie battery case for the iPhone. Saved the bacon more than a few times already, with lots of calls and no power plug anywhere near, this is a life saver. Get it at amazon
  • Spare headset: I got a set of Sony in-ears as primary, but in case I forget it or it breaks, I take the original iPhone headset.
  • 3,5 mm audio cable: In case a rental car has no bluetooth, no USB, but at least an old fashioned AUX in – I can still get the music going.
  • Not shown: There should be a set of spare batteries for the bluetooth mouse and the presenter here, as well – have to restock!

 

The “small stuff I don’t need often” bag:

  • Hand lotion. Great for winter time, but if I unpack it in summer, I don’t have it when I need it.
  • Compeed anti blister plasters. The best, especially when wearing in new dress shoes.
  • Small former gum pack with useful medication – against pain, hay fever, colds…
  • Pocker-sized stapler. Great to keep papers together. Since I switched over to the iPad, I might get rid of it soon.
  • Post-Its: Always good to have some of those, but I wouldn’t call them essential. I used to carry a pack of really big ones (like A5 sized – half a legal page) – they are great for some use cases, everybody loves them, but I didn’t have enough application to carry them all the time.

 

Other stuff that goes into the organizer pockets of my bag:

  • Business cards – always carry some.
  • Keyfob is for paypal – seldom used, but good security measure.
  • Markers: Random selection.
  • iPad stylus: Very important – enables me to take written notes, annotate documents, etc. Get it at amazon
  • Fountain pen: I got myself a nice Pelikan pen and matching pencil and ballpoint pen as well. Carrying a classy pen actually makes an impression in meetings.
  • Sun glasses: Gotta carry that Oakley in style!
  • Umbrella: Never a good idea to arrive somewhere soaked.
  • Passport: yeah. I ended up abroad once without one (luckily in Europe). Thank god they didn’t check on the flight back home… since then I always have my passport in my briefcase.
  • Calculator: This comes in useful more often than you think. It is ten times faster to use than the one on the laptop or the iPhone – and especially when you are sitting over printouts, it is much faster than using Excel.
  • Bag for receipts: Whatever I want refunded goes in here. Saves my wallet from exploding from all the cab receipts.
  • Change: I don’t have place for small change in my wallet, so it ends up in the trouser pockets. Before I enter the airport, I empty those out into my bag. Affords me a nice meal once I clean that out once in a while.
  • Not shown: Some mints.

Where does it go? Apart from the receipts bag and the tech bag (who go into one of the two main compartments, along with the laptop charger, iPad, and papers) all this fits into the front pockets of my Tumi Alpha that you see above in the first picture.

It is essential that everything has its place. This enables you to make a very quick check in the morning to see that you got what you need. Also, avoid removing stuff from your briefcase and packing it somewhere else. I make that mistake with iPhone cables sometimes – but as I carry two by default, that never got me :-)

 

With this setup, I am up for 95% of my daily tasks, regardless of my location. The morning check takes less than a minute, and when I pack up for the day, everything goes into its place almost automatically by now. That’s the portable office – consultant style.

 

What is your best practice for the portable office? Is something missing here? Go wild in the comments!

9 comments
top of foot pain
top of foot pain

Great stuff! you write too well. Moreover your post contains some worthy information which i guess will help lot of people...

WilliamDykes
WilliamDykes

Because I'm majoring in Consulting, this blog was very interesting. I had no idea how important a consultants "tools" were. I personally don't take notes with a computer but I guess it is becoming a better way to have notes that can be shared amongst co-workers. I'm sure that by the time I actually become a consultant, digital notes will be the norm. Thanks for the great post!

 

William Dykes

A.B. Freeman School of Business

Tulane University 

 

WilliamDykes
WilliamDykes

Because I'm majoring in Consulting, this blog was very interesting. I had no idea how important a consultants "tools" were. I personally don't take notes with a computer but I guess it is becoming a better way to have notes that can be shared amongst co-workers. I'm sure that by the time I actually become a consultant, digital notes will be the norm. Thanks for the great post!

 

William Dykes

A.B. Freeman School of Business

Tulane University 

lorddouchebaag
lorddouchebaag

That's a pretty good list. It appears that the use of the iPad for taking notes is becoming more and more prevalent now. What app do you use for it? I have made a couple of attempts at it, but I find that note-taking software has not reached the ease of use of pen and paper yet, especially for drawing out slides before putting them on power point 

buy my car
buy my car

An optical cable contains one or more optical fibers in a protective jacket that supports the fibers.

tjz_digital
tjz_digital

Missing a Airport Express to quickly set up a wireless network, especially in hotels that only offer wired internet access

floho
floho moderator

 @lorddouchebaag I use NotesPlus for handwritten notes. I use it almost exclusively for interview capturing and meeting notes. With a good stylus, I am now up to pen&paper handling speed, with added benefits (no additional weight after a week of taking notes on the road, directly send notes via email to colleagues without scanning them in, always having the whole history of notes from a project with me, etc.).

Drawing is a different beast - I have yet to outline slides on the iPad. For me, it still makes most sense to directly work in PowerPoint.