Here’s the thing, I know that working from anywhere is not possible for everyone; or as I call it, location independence. But what if it could be possible for you? Following a year of 150+ days of work travel in 2017, I wrote Lessons from working from anywhere. Many of those still stand, but after over 180+ days on the road in both 2018 and 2019, including three months working in Hungary, Germany, UAE, Thailand and Australia, I have some updated thoughts on location-independent work and location independence generally! (This post includes affiliate links which help support our pro bono program).
So how do you optimize your ability to work on the move, to work from anywhere, and truly gain location freedom?
How much work can be done with minimal equipment in different locations?
For anyone who is a knowledge worker, or whose work does not require a large or bulky piece of specialist equipment, it may truly be a possibility. It is important to honestly assess if it is possible to be location independent. A fundamental question to answer is how much of your work can be done in many different contexts with minimal equipment needed?
Tips for Location Independence
1. Minimize location-specific activities
First step is to minimize those activities that are location specific.
Try changing up where you work each day for a week – visit a local library on one day, a coffee shop or two on another, your living room rather than your office on another. Even setting yourself up on your patio or balcony will help you figure out if there are any bottlenecks or technology needs.Take notes on what works and the challenges/problems that are specific to your work – once you know the problems you need to solve, you will have a place to start!
Remember setting yourself up properly can take time and some strategic investments in a technology set up that works for you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you will need to find a set-up that works for you and your work.
2. Examine Key Work Processes
Look carefully at all your key work processes. For example, the team member who handles finances for Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates works remotely, so we have set up a process where I scan receipts using a scanning app and submit to a secure document vault, or use an app to record travel expenses attaching a photo of the receipt and syncing it with the accounting solution we use which is secure and cloud-based. This finance piece is a game-changer as bookkeeping was an area where I previously ended up with a large backlog because I couldn’t do it all on the road. Location independence is a way of thinking as much as a lifestyle.
3. Find out your minimum viable equipment needs for location independence
So what do you need? After you’ve looked at your systems and processes, do an assessment on the utility of the equipment you already own and the gaps in your work process.
My equipment set up took time to develop and while I share it here – because it took me lots of time to find the right resources and information – to help you, it is important that you base your technology investments on your needs and your work.
I destroyed a hard drive in a laptop because of the repeated vibration from train travel and hard plane landings. I have now upgraded to using a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD) that can withstand the vibrations inherent in such a heavy travel schedule. This is the laptop (with SSD) that has worked well for me.
On the low tech end, a pad of paper and a pen, or a notebook might be all you need, but for most of us, having an internet-capable device is essential to any possibility of working untethered to the office.
I find I am most productive with a laptop, a smartphone that can be used as an internet hotspot for internet purposes, a portable battery for my cellphone (not a skimpy little one either – I use an Anker 20100) and a set of headphones (I use these ones from Bose). For longer trips, I might also take a portable power strip that combines USB and AC outlets, and an AC inverter that lives in my car console for extra power on long drives.
If you’re into recording video or creating your own social content, this kind of 8″ Selfie Ring Light with Tripod Stand & Cell Phone Holder might be just what you’re looking for.
4. Maximise Use of Cloud technology (And Build in Redundancies)
Firstly, look at your use of cloud technology, Software As A Service (SaaS) products and tools which can help you automate and make your work-life portable. This technology was absolutely one of the game-changers for us to be able to build location independence into the fabric of ABR&A.
A future article will share the platforms we run to make Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates function and thrive!
Here are some questions to consider:
- Can you list your essential functions? How closely does the SaaS allow you to perform those functions?
- What kind of security and access do you need? A desktop application that syncs? all cloud-based?
- What is the cost/benefit?
There are some extraordinary platforms out there – but some of them are overpowered for what we need. Don’t feel like you need all the bells and whistles. If you won’t use them or the learning curve is super steep, it simply might not be worth the cost.
Tip: Ensure that you build in redundancy. For example, I used to carry a copy of my password log for key information I need on me to ensure that I have redundancy in case of technology failure – now I use 1Password that I have installed on more than one device. I also use a VPN when travelling internationally.
I have a pretty compact set of equipment, but I try to make sure there isn’t a risk of a single point of failure.
5. Pack Efficiently
Practically, I pack as light as possible while on the road. If you are working while in the middle of a move (like a PCS with the military) then make sure that you have a dedicated bag and maybe a tote box you carry with you with work-related materials.
Here is my packing list for electronics and equipment:
- Travel organizer bag for electronics
- Anker 20100 Portable battery charger
- AllPower 30000mAh Portable Laptop charger
- 2 x USB charging cords
- Belkin Swivel 3 powerstrip with surge protector
- Car Inverter – laptop battery charger
- Laptop with SSD
- Headphones (noise cancelling)
- External hard drive
Don’t overlook the importance of your luggage. I work with luggage that is as light as possible – mainly because I make sure I can carry all my own luggage. I plan to be self-sufficient whenever I choose which luggage pieces to use. For example, I take my R.Riveter Otto handbag, my rolling backpack (for electronics) and a small rolling suitcase. Packed it weighs less than 60 pounds in total. This is what I took for the American Identity tour!
What can you live without?
Location independence is as much about working out what you can live without as it is what you need. My setup in my home base office is more substantial than my location-independent setup. I create a home base office when I know I’ll have a base that’ll exist for more than a year, but the work from anywhere setup is always ready to go!
The reality is that the technology exists for working from anywhere to be possible for so many more people!
Speaker. Reader. Thinker. Writer. Traveler. Advocate
Anna Blanch Rabe, the founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, works with Law Firms, Socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community-capacity, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.