6 Mobile Computing Tips for Digital Nomads

By Mike Elgan Print this article Print
Mobile Computing Nomads

Digital nomads bet everything on their ability to connect and work from anywhere. Here are some tips, techniques and best practices every professional can use.

The beauty of checklists is that you never miss something, and you can take advantage of what you learn. Here's one example: I once had a tiny pocket knife confiscated by airport security because it was in my pocket. After that happened, I bought a new knife and added a to-do item to my pre-airport checklist to pack such items in checked luggage.

My to-pack checklist is a marvel of specificity. I itemize even certain USB cables and the exact number of AAA batteries. I never forget anything anymore when I move from one country to the next.

But even when I'm in the U.S., my backpack checklists assure me that I have everything I need, that everything is charged and that I'm prepared to work anywhere.

3. Don't skimp on hardware.

I'm always baffled by professionals who prefer one smartphone but buy a different one because it's a little cheaper, or who suffer the frustrations of a lesser laptop because of price. In my view, the best-quality device will pay for itself many times over if it offers better performance, greater reliability and (most importantly) superior ease of use.

Smartphones and laptops are part of us—part of our brains, really. Would you choose an inferior university because tuition was $100 cheaper? If you're a digital nomad who relies on a smartphone and laptop as the primary tools of your career, buy the best.

4. Live in the cloud.

It pays off to embrace cloud versions of everything—a cloud office suite, cloud email, cloud storage and cloud backup—over the local versions. This enables you to keep working even if your equipment runs out of battery power, gets stolen or is destroyed.

Lesson learned: I met one executive who had all the data for a secret company acquisition on his laptop, and the airline lost his carry-on bag! They asked to store the bag for landing in a different part of the plane and then couldn't find it after landing.

5. Don't count on the cloud.

Always assume that you may not be able to gain access to your cloud-based services. Seek out offline versions of cloud services as backup. For example, I use a Chrome extension called Gmail Offline that does exactly what it sounds like it does.

I also use a blogging platform that enables posting by email, and I always post this way. That means I can post items regardless of whether I'm on a plane, on a boat or in a remote location, and when I connect, the item is sent and posted.

6. Protect your hardware.

Very few people understand how to prevent theft of mobile devices. I see people all the time at Starbucks asking a nearby stranger to watch their stuff while they go to the bathroom. This impulse reveals profound ignorance about how laptops are stolen at coffee shops.

Here's how it works: A teenager who runs faster than you grabs the laptop and runs away. This can happen even if you're using the laptop.

Always take your most valuable stuff with you when you go to the bathroom. When you're in a coffee shop, sit in a place without easy access to the door. Clip the strap of your backpack to a chair, so if someone grabs-and-runs, they'll also take the chair, which they'll drop before running out.

Never keep your phone in an open purse or backpack, or even a closed backpack. Thieves will unzip it and grab the phone, even while you're wearing it.

Use a case for smartphones, tablets and laptops to mask their quality, especially if you use Apple devices, which tend to have higher brand recognition and resale values. Also beware of signals that you have Apple products. White earbuds and Apple Watches, for example, are dead giveaways.

Digital nomads think about mobile computing as an art form. Whether you travel or not, it's a good idea to learn from the people who obsess about the ability to work well wherever they are.

This article was originally published on 2016-03-30

Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. http://elgan.com/

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