The work loadout for travel
Issue 179: What's in my bag (work edition)
There is a concept of a loadout in video game genres like first-person shooters: the set of items, abilities, and tools equipped by the player. I'm heading to New York City this week. For the longest time, I would spend hours deciphering what to bring on a trip. The result was wasted time and packing too much. I decided to craft my loadout; something I can have preset on trips so I can reduce the cognitive load of thinking about it. Inspired by The Verge's "What's in your bag?" series and prep for New York, I'll share what's in my bag and loadout for longer trips.
For each loadout, the abilities vary based on your role and what you need to do. The needs of a video editor on the road is much different than my needs. As an executive who stays close to the work, I have a nuanced set of things I do. My primary use cases are:
Reviewing and editing documents (mainly G Suite)
Email (and a lot of it)
UI drawing and mockups
When going back and forth on decisions, it’s always good to have attributes that guide you, or at times, override your indecision. I lean on these three primary attributes that helped me.
Traveling on a plane for hours and then being scrunched up in a hotel room feels terrible on your body as it is. Add hunching over on a laptop and working for hours in a space foreign from your office makes it even worse. It's even more important to consider economics when working on the road. I’d rather look a bit silly with my setup if it optimizes for better body posture and other ergonomic considerations.
Mobility over power
When I travel and work, the majority of my interactions are in-person—that’s why I traveled! Because of this, I optimize for mobility and moving around the city. I hate having a giant backpack that hits people like it’s a Ninja Turtle shell and the weight of stuff adds up over time if you’re walking and commuting over cities. I’ll sacrifice processing power in exchange for lighter weight.
Reduce cognitive load
Travel can be stressful and overwhelming as it is, and I do whatever possible to reduce the number of things I need to think about. For example, I've decided I only bring devices that charge with USB-C so I don't have to wrangle all different cable types (huge thanks to the European Union for enabling this on the iPhone).
Long flights are productive until the person in front of you leans their chair back and goes to sleep or you forget to charge the device. Plan for the worst-case scenario. On the plane, I work analog first. It's simply my LECHTTURM 1917 notebook with a set of index cards to write and strategize. In the spirit of reducing cognitive load, carrying a notebook allows me not to worry if I'm burning too much battery on my phone needed to navigate the city or hail a car.
In suboptimal workspaces, I focus on capturing as much as possible. When I get to the hotel or a proper office, I have all the notes I can quickly type up or have a plan. When meeting with customers or clients, I go analog-first. It feels a bit silly to me to have a laptop and scribe notes when you're in person with someone. I take notes when needed while trying to give the most attention possible to the in-person interaction happening in front of me.
The mobile command center
This setup is when I am at the hotel or onsite at an office. It allows you to be more expansive in your setup. Most Hotels are not built for remote work and their business centers look more like a section in the Computer History Museum. You have to set up a space to make it work for you. I need my laptop at a proper viewing angle if I’m working hours in a hotel. The Roost laptop stand is saving my back and neck. I also use the Logitech Mx Mini keyboard to be able to type for hours.
Let’s look at the specific gear I pack. Here's a list of unaffiliated links to what I use.
Roost laptop stand: I can't recommend this stand enough. It's so light you'll hardly feel it in your bag. It's essential for me to have an ergonomic workspace when traveling
Airpods Pro: I love over-the-ear headphones but they take too much room
Magic Trackpad: I don't pack a mouse because surface areas are unpredictable
Opal Tadpole: A great boost for video calls
Logitech MX Keys Mini: The best Bluetooth keyboard out there is the Logitech MX mini. It's nice to be able to pair across all three devices (yes, I type on my phone with an external keyboard at times) quickly.
Good luck on your next away mission
I hope this gives you some ideas if you have a trip coming up. My different work configurations are documented in my notes so any time I have to pack, it's merely something I need to do, not constantly think about.