Even if you’ve got a really swanky office, home or otherwise, sometimes you need a change of scenery to get the creative and productive juices going.
At Cooper & O’Hara we’re big fans of taking our work on the road, working in coffee shops or public or private co-work spaces. And then of course there’s times when we’re flying or driving to some location for a shoot and it can’t be avoided that we need to bring our “mobile office”
From our experiences we’ve found that although it’s best to keep things as simple as possible, a few tips and tools can go a long way to make sure you can do any work no matter where you are.
skim through this checklist for a rundown of the tools to help you be your best.
Click the details for more info and suggestions.
A Sturdy Bag
Backpacks are welcome of course, we don’t judge, it’s just a personal preference. Sometimes my back & shoulder agrees with you backpackers! Really it doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but comfort and durability are primo importante, and some organization built-in by way of compartments and pockets is helpful.
A few contenders if you’re in the market for a bag:
Tenba DNA 11 or 13
Everyday Bag – Peak Design
This one picture is a genuine goat leather bag bought on Etsy at the time, but now they’re sold through Amazon for about $80 if you search for it (though the shoulder strap connection has started to fail after using it non-stop for 3+ years which is still quite impressive for the price).
“It’s not a man purse, it’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.”
Laptop (with killer productivity & creative software)
We love Trello because it’s open-ended and customizable. It’s basically a portable pin board that you can use for tasks, ideas, or whatever else you want! We use it to keep track of jobs through the pipeline from Leads to Finish. Check out our template for that here
Another multi-faceted piece of tech that we use for everything from receipts, shoot ideas, blog drafts, production notes, itineraries, and more. One specific thing we’ve used it for lately that’s working really well is to make a “Weeklies” note that cover the evolving to-do’s of the week that we first setup during a Monday morning meeting. Very helpful for collaborating in that way.
We have a subscription for 100GB of Google Drive space because we use it so much. Predominantly we find it’s helpful for sending big files to clients, doing spreadsheets and other documents we wouldn’t do in Evernote, and storing a lot of our recurring content like our portfolio images, logos, etc. We also dump photos for using on social media on there because it’s easy to access from our phones later.
Pomodoro One/One Task
if you’re anything like me, you have lots of energy when you’re working on the computer, but it can be easy to get off-track of what’s the most important thing to be working on right. this. second. These apps either separately or in conjunction, help me reign in my focus, with visual reminders of the ONE task I should be working on, and by encouraging me to take breaks, thus preventing the Youtube rabbit-hole from escalating.
Kiwimail is just a really great desktop Gmail app that lets you quickly pull up your email and get notifications while still keeping it like the Gmail you know and love. We found this series of videos to be super helpful in making our Gmail inbox organized and actionable. We don’t follow it exactly, but some great core concepts to check out if you have the time.
The native calendar app is great. We sync it with google calendar for collaborating and sharing calendars between the two of us which is a big deal for co-ordinating and scheduling. Seriously, this is incredibly important tool, and we’re so happy to be using google calendar syncing to share our personal and business schedules so we never double-book!
We also use Adobe Creative Cloud Suite for all of our creative software needs.
“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
“A poor workman blames his tools”
pictured in the cocoon organizer: 3 external harddrives, post-it note pad from a client, power brick, lufthansa travel pack of playing cards (cause you never know), small cf card reader, old-school iPad cable.
Like I mentioned in the bag section above, getting a pack with organization built in like with the Tenba or Everyday Bag is great. But even regular compartments can be tricked out and organized further to just the specs you need. The benefit being that it’s easier to notice if something is missing from your kit. Some companies sell little organizers like Tenba’s toolboxes which may come in handy so your bag isn’t a bottomless pit.
And even though the bag I have does have some pockets and dividers I still benefited from the invention pictured. The Grid-It Cocoon.
This one doubles as a laptop sleeve which is nice. There are others that are just accessory organization pads as well.
I’ve used it for a long time to create the ideal messenger bag system. I’ve since switched to instead using a larger bag that accommodates camera bodies as well and I use the Tenba BYOB 10 for extra organization plus it holds a DSLR or Sony RX10 video camera as well as a mirrorless kit in just the right way to make access and storage easy.
Tenba BYOB inserts. Here’s a link to the BYOB 10 but they come in different sizes, if you have a regular messenger bag and want organization and camera protection. You may have noticed, I like to mention the Tenba gear. Their designs are really clever!
If you’ve got enough pockets, awesome, but have a place for everything, or else you won’t notice when it’s missing and you’ll waste your time running back to grab forgotten things.
“A place for everything, everything in its place”
Harddrive Space/Data Management
Pictured above: The best rugged external hardrive for under $100 (for 1TB)
The newest laptops on the market are wicked fast and more durable than ever thanks to SSD or Solid-State Drives. But the sacrifice is usually a small internal drive size unless you shell out A-LOT of money.
External drives are where we store our photography work. This includes the raw photos, the lightroom catalogs, and the output files. The external drive allows us to plug it into another computer and open up the files we need. We each have a duplicate copy of the hardrive so as part of a good backup system the data is in separate locations. Two temporarily and also uploaded to cloud storage frequently via Crash Plan.
As mentioned above, we love this Silicon Power line of harddrives because they’re rugged, affordable, and the usb cable is just a regular sturdy usb A instead of the ubiquitous microUSB connection that we found always disconnected with even the faintest nudge or adjustment on a table. Yay for avoiding that hassle!
Our newest data related acquisition is a mini-drive micro sd adapter that fits in a macbook pro SD card slot, fitting flush with the side of the laptop body. Bonus space at all times, which is especially good as a location for our synced google drive storage. Something we use for client file delivery, sharing edits to post from our phone, documents and spreadsheets, and many more things.
We also use the minidrive as a spot to temporarily backup files during import as Lightroom is capable of doing that.
“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.”
Notebook & Trusty Pen or Pencil
Bullet Journal is an open-concept style of task lists combined with scheduling and documenting ideas and other thoughts, and it simply requires a gridded notebook.
Thomas uses a Classic Moleskine Large Squared (5 x 8.25), whereas I opted for a bit more portable option and something I can compartmentalize – The Midori Traveler’s notebook (or MTN as it is referred to often online), with 3 passport sized cahiers (field notes, moleskine, midori’s own brand, etc.)
Of these 3 mini notebooks one is for tasks and scheduling, one for daily journaling, and one for ideas and random thoughts and writing drafts.
My fountain pen (an inexpensive but dependable and durable Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen with Fine Nib) is also stored with it on a pen loop and the whole lot just goes in my back pocket almost always, or in my bag.
The fountain pen is gaining resurgence amongst creatives and hipsters alike because it’s such a fun and unique writing experience after a life dominated by rollerball use.
I like that I no longer lose pens I don’t care about, or chuck plastic ones that run out of ink far too fast. I simply refill it and it’s always the same great experience.
If I had to do anything different, I would consider using the Lamy Safari pen just because it has an ink window so you can see if you’re getting low and need to refill soon.
“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now”
Extras (but super-duper helpful)
A Sleek Travel Camera
Drawing & Retouching Tablet
iPad or Tablet
Water bottle or other beverage of choice
And Anything Else You May Want/Need to Bring
Phone, Extra Memory Cards & Batteries, Card Readers, Post-It Notes, Business Cards (we get ours from Moo.com!), Travel Chargers & Power Bricks, Car Power Inverters (This one’s a life-saver for road trips!),Travel Playing Cards, Documents, etc!
We hope we provided you with lots of ideas of how to pack for your mobile office for the road (or the coffee shop just down the road).
Remember that although some of these things might be necessities, less is more. If you don’t use it, don’t bring it. Your shoulder and back will thank you!
Shoot us questions below in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org