Staying Productive With My Office-in-a-Bag

Covering the communications industry requires a lot of travel. For a business devoted to erasing the boundaries of distance, we spend a lot of time crossing those distances and getting together face-to-face at conferences, trade shows, workshops and occasionally at the bar.

While I'm traveling, I need to be able to write, snap photos, take thorough notes and communicate with distant business associates. Over the years, I've evolved my office-in-a-bag to keep me productive when I'm on the road. The process started at the beginning of my career, when the main tool was a TRS-80 Model 100.

Eight months ago, while at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Düsseldorf, I made a big change to my toolkit: I sacrificed vanity to practicality and bought a rolling computer bag -- the Alpine Swiss Rolling Briefcase on Wheels ($69.99). It's great so far, but I won't recommend it to you just yet. Ask me again in another year to see if it holds up to 12 more months of bouncing off curbs. (See Pics: Düsseldorf Delights for SDN Congress).

At the end of my last trip in mid-June, I dumped the contents of the rolling briefcase onto a hotel room bed and photographed it.

The right tool for the right job.
The right tool for the right job.

Here's what you're looking at:

Dominating the left side of the picture is my workhorse MacBook Pro 2010.

Above the MBP: 1' extension cords ($4.67), which free up space on a power outlet that would otherwise be taken up by A/C adapters.

Top-left corner of the photo: Two Monster four-outlet mini power strips, for extra electrical power. One of the power strips takes up residency on my hotel room desk, the other on the nightstand. These have been discontinued, but the Targus Power Strip ($14.95) looks like a good substitute.

Below the power strips: Paper notebooks, because sometimes you have to resort to that. This is my current brand ($32.99 for 12). I like the 4"x8" size; they fit nicely in the breast pocket of a jacket or back pocket of a pair of jeans.

I also carry a ridiculous number of pens with me, especially considering I almost never use them. They're just cheap, random disposable pens, many with company logos and rubber tips to use as tablet styluses.

Pro-tip: When getting up from your seat at a conference, leave a notebook and cheap pen behind to save your place and bring your briefcase with you for security.

Below the notebooks and pens: The iPad Mini 2 2013, with 32 GB storage and cellular connection from AT&T ($479). Like the MBP, it's a workhorse. I use it for hours every day when at home or travelling. The red Smart Cover ($39) is the only cover or case I need or want.

Below the iPad is my latest portable keyboard, the Jorno ($99). It folds in three sections into a black rectangular case that fits in the palm of your hand. The case unfolds into a stand for your tablet or phone. The hardware design is brilliant and I love the portability. But it takes a few moments to set up and sometimes loses Bluetooth connectivity, which is vexing.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($71.38) is my previous iPad keyboard, and it works great, but it's not as compact and sleek to tote around as the Jorno when it's not in use. I also like the Origami Workstation ($27.89), which works as both a case and stand for the standard Apple Wireless Keyboard ($64.12).

Yes, I have bought far too many iPad keyboards. Is there a 12-step group for that?

The blob above the notebooks is the Vita rePETetote ($13.14), made from recycled materials. Here it's folded into its own attached pouch. When I put it in my briefcase it's a bag-in-a-bag-in-a-bag!

Next to the Vita bag and above the notebooks: Sunglasses, sunglass case, and house and car keys.

Next to the sunglasses: The Kenu Airframe ($24.95) is a little clip that attaches a smartphone to a car's air conditioning and heating vent, making it convenient to use Google Maps on the road. I have two -- one in my office-in-a-bag to use in a rental car, the other one in our regular car at home.

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Next to the Airframe: iPhone cord for the car and USB car charger I picked up in an airport or drugstore somewhere.

The iPhone cord is wrapped in a Velcro wrap. These are fantastic. I wrap each of my iPhone and micro-USB cords separately and they don't get tangled up or disappear into the cavern of my bag. I occasionally lose one, but that's OK; they come in a roll of 100 for $6.14.

To the left of the Kenu Airframe: Microfiber cloth for cleaning my eyeglasses and electronics, which are perpetually filthy anyway.

Next page: A 21st-century Mr. Scott

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MikeP688 7/4/2015 | 2:45:43 AM
On the "brief" Prowl... As I work away tonight, the first "fireworks" have begun--even though they happen to be illegal in my local City :-(   @Mitch underscored that OlloClip was not for him--Some of the latest products they have is quite interesting and enticing--which is part of parcel of the evolution we have to see and be witness to.    May we live in interesting times!!

Happy 4th of July to all...may it be a safe and joyous one!!

Mitch Wagner 7/1/2015 | 11:40:11 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction MikeP688 - Oh, I'm not dismissive. It's just not for me. 

I'd like a decent, inexpensive zoom lens for the iPhone. Haven't found one yet. 
MikeP688 6/30/2015 | 10:59:35 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction The "pano" feature of iphone is amazing--no question.   Yet, the supplemental capabilities of Olloclip (and others that operate within the iphone "Ecosystem") underscore a sense of transformation.   The need for "SLR's" will never really go away--they just need to innovate further and yes be an engaging part of the ecosystem and be even more smart than they have.     I would also humbly suggest not to be too dismissive of start-ups like "ollo clip" because they seem to have a specific niche that serves them well.

Mitch Wagner 6/29/2015 | 5:39:00 PM
Re: Keyboard addiction I've looked into the Olloclip and I'm afraid I don't see the point. I use the panorama setting on the iPhone and in Google Photos for the equivalent of wide-angle photos, and I don't see enough need for a fisheye or macro lens to warrant buying the extra equipment. 
MikeP688 6/29/2015 | 10:47:42 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction ..and to add to thoughts from @Susan, I use my iPhone  as a SLR utilizing Ollo Clip @ http://www.olloclip.com/ which has given me some  interesting shots.   I have also been using it to produce video clips using Animoto.    The possibilities are quite limitless aren't they?

MikeP688 6/29/2015 | 10:40:40 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction Hopefully we're see an "evolution" in exercise gear so that you all don't have to pack up so much as you are.   If it is not, it should be though--because we have to be "expansive" in our view of what an "Office' should be.  :-) 
Mitch Wagner 6/29/2015 | 10:23:29 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction I pack my exercise gear when I travel. It's not shown here because it's not part of my office kit. 

I never use it, but I pack it. 
Susan Fourtané 6/27/2015 | 5:58:04 AM
Re: Keyboard addiction Mitch, 

I have also thought at some point about getting a good camera, but I believe the iPhone 6 Plus does the job pretty well. Apple keeps on improving the camera on the iPhone, and I finally see no reason to add more stuff to my office-in-a-bag.

Speaking of the iPhone, I also carry with me my Yoga Studio, FitStar personal trainer, and iRunner for my walks. There is no need to stop one's exercise routine. You can also carry your gym-in-a-bag along with your office. :)

Now that I see you also carry snacks, sometimes I carry some snacks, a bottle of water, and a Design Museum cup to avoid getting those paper cups in places, or the minuscule cups at press rooms. :D 

Mitch Wagner 6/26/2015 | 10:31:07 AM
Re: privacy screen for laptop... mhhf1ve - Good tip. Seems like another complication in an already-too-complicated go-bag, though. 
Mitch Wagner 6/26/2015 | 10:30:25 AM
Re: Kenu Airframe for $24?! mhhf1ve - The phone holder works great. It SEEMS a little loose and that worried me when I started using it. But it has never lost its grip. 

If your $3 phone holder is as good as my $25 ones, I'm going to be frustrated. 
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