I’ve always been intrigued with building a fully efficient mobile office. I travel a lot, and I like to travel light yet be fully functional whilst traveling so I don’t waste precious waiting hours doing nothing or not being productive!
So below is a breakdown of every tool, office supply, software/app I use to keep my mobile office functional. Hope it helps you build your own mobile office too.
(P.S.: Feel free to share recommendations with me, I’m always interested to “upgrade” my Mobile office).
Briefcase/Bag - Brenthaven Slim Brief
This is my favourite brief-case of all time. It has multiple pockets for almost everything you need and it’s compact and easy to carry. I fell in love with Benthaven bags since 2007, and I never looked back! (A small admission: I’m currently experimenting with Tumi bags :P)
Cocoon GRID IT
If you want all your laptop accessories attached to your laptop in one easy carry on sleeve, the Cocoon GRID IT is what you’re looking for. This genius organizer is a must have if you’re like me and tend to carry lots of laptop accessories (explained below).
I don’t know about you but I find it really hard to sleep/nap during flights, a travel pillow is a must carry on that I take with me on flights and I’ve found them to help me a lot!
Who said scanners aren’t mobile? The DoxieOne scanner is the smallest, most mobile scanner you can ever have. I normally like to carry it around when I know I’ll be traveling a lot and I need to scan receipts on the go instead of losing them and not being able to claim expenses for my travels. But there are lots of other uses to it as well. A warning note though: it’s a tempting toy to buy, so only buy if you’ll use it!
Yes, I’m a mac fan and proud :)! I’ve always had a mac since 2000. For traveling, I like to carry my 11″ Macbook air, which is small enough to fit in an airplane seat tray and large enough to get work done (I’m still contemplating whether I should move to an iPad or not, haven’t made a decision yet on this, any suggestions?)
Traveling to so many countries I’ve seen some interesting plugs which always left me stranded and not able to charge my laptop/phone for days if I don’t have the suitable plug. With the universal adapter, you can rest assured that no weird wall plug would be impossible to go through + they are really safe to use with your devices.
Did I say I was an Apple fan? So yes my iPhone is my living breathing personal assistant, syncronising everything from Travel plans, to files, to e-mails, to appointments and contacts. One of the true blessings of the 21st century.
One of my best purchases to date is my Amazon kindle. It’s reasonably priced, extremely useful, and I read so many books through the kindle last year more than I read in the last 5 years! I wrote a detailed review about it here.
I cannot travel without my Fajr watch since it gives me accurate salah times in any city I’ve visited. Best thing about the watch is that unlike the iPhone salah apps, it doesn’t need to connect to the internet, and it’s very accessible. A quick glance at your wrist, and you’ll know exactly when’s the next salah coming and how long you have between athan and iqaama. A must have watch for any mobile productive Muslim worker.
Mobile prayer mat + Qibla compass
Praying on time is a must for any productive Muslim and you never know where you’ll find yourself when prayer time comes up. With this mobile prayer mat + Qibla compass you’ll be perfectly praying anywhere (provided you have wudhu of course, see next accessory). I know some of you might say why carry a Qibla compass when you can use your iPhone’s compass; honestly speaking, I’ve had many failed attempts locating the right Qibla with my iPhone. I prefer to rely on a good old compass.
This is the coolest bottle you’ll carry around, sometimes known as “mobile lota :P” So for those moments when you need to make wudhu..or umm..wash yourself, this bottle comes pretty handy.
VGA adapter + Cable
If you’re like me and do lots of presentations on the go, I highly recommend that you carry a VGA adapter + cable to plug your laptop to any projector you come across. (For those tech geeks among you, no I haven’t yet tried mobile projectors, coming soon ;)).
Ahhh..my beautiful lovely Moleskine. My travel & life companion that I can’t be anywhere without. This is a small 64 page notebook with blank pages where I record absolutely anything that comes to mind from ideas, to brainstorms, to-dos, contacts, quotes..etc. It’s always with me and I honestly feel lost without it! (Yes, I’m still old-school when it comes to note-taking, don’t like taking notes on my iPhone, nothing beats the pen and paper).
There’s something magical about writing with a piercingly sharp mechanical pencil on the soft pages of a moleskine. Life feels more concise and your handwriting looks better! Call me a neat freak, or picky, but I honestly love mechanical pencils when taking notes than normal pens/pencils.
Sometimes you do need a pen especially when filling official forms, so carrying one (or two) around is pretty handy as well.
When I read, I like to highlight, and hence I always have a highligher with me. Bright yellow or green are my favourite colours!
Ever printed so many business cards and simply forgot them in your office? Carry 50 at least with you in your briefcase, you never know when you’ll meet your next investor/business partner or client ;).
I love perfumes! And a quick way to looking fresh and ready for meetings is a dap of perfume you carry around in your briefcase. My wife actually taught me to buy those travel size perfumes and they are so light and useful. Always have one in my briefcase now. If you prefer oil-based itr, those are light and small as well and great to freshen up for salah after a wudhu.
If you want to know when’s Ramadan starting or what’s the equivalent in Hijri/ Gregorian calendar is today or any other date, IslamiCal is the app for that. You might think you won’t need it, but trust me, you’ll be surprised how often you use it.
Speaking of dates, FastReminder is a great app that reminds you of the sunnah days to fast, e.g. Mondays/Thursdays, the 13th-14th-15th of each Islamic month, Arafat day..etc. If you’re trying to keep the habit of fasting, this is the app for you.
Although I’m a huge advocate of carrying an actual Qur’an with you (even pocket size), but having the app is also handy as you never where you’ll be stuck and you won’t have a physical Qur’an next to you. Qur’an Reader is my favourite Qur’an app, but I’ve also used iQuran which is very good too.
The fortress of the Muslim, the small booklet we all had when we were young and memorised various duas from it as we grew older is now in an app format. Great for reading morning/evening remembrances from or any other remembrance/thikr which you haven’t memorised. They’ve even recently updated the app to have an audio version of each dua so you learn how to pronounce it.
Given I work on so many workstations (home, work, laptop, on the road) I have files in various devices. Dropbox is the nerve system that keeps them all syncronised for me. Even better, I actually use dropbox with the ProductiveMuslim team so we keep all our files syncronished across all team members.
Speaking of teams, Podio is THE best online collaboration platform we’ve ever used. Currently, we’re over 55 volunteers working worldwide and virtually and Podio is our virtual online office. Nothing gets lost, all discussions are saved/recorded, easily searched. It’s simply the best. (We’ve tried other platforms like Basecamp, but Podio is way better, I highly recommend you to try it!). The Podio iPhone app is simply awesome!
When it comes to e-mails on the go, gmail app is very good. And there are many third party apps that help me organise my gmail. I personally use the official Gmail app and find it perfect for my needs. (One day I have to share with you my e-mail system and how I manage my e-mails In sha Allah!).
For sending/receiving cash, paypal is your friend (provided you’re in a country that supports paypal services). It’s a quick easy way to make/receive payments for almost any service. If you don’t have paypal in your country or you want to use your bank account, ask your bank if they have an app, most large banks have their own apps these days that help their customers do some transactions.
If you don’t want to carry the doxieone scanner; then I highly recommend you download this app. By simply taking a photo of anything you need to scan, it’ll immediately process the photo and return to you a scanned image of the document you took a photo of ready to send as .jpg or .pdf to your e-mail or via message. Your boss/colleagues would never guess that you scanned the document via an app!
Meeting people in so many different places, I always get lost trying to find their exact location. Enter GoogleMaps app and I’m saved! Works in any country, it’s a brilliant easy way to find your way around any city (yes, internet connection needed!). Even better, if the person you’re trying to locate can send you their coordinates via the googleMaps app and you simply click on the link and follow instructions.
Since I do travel quite a bit, I’m always on the lookout for various flights. SkyScanner is simply the best app for this. It’ll “scan” all available flights on the dates you choose for the destination you choose and help you choose flights based on price, route..etc. A useful little app to quickly look up travel plans.
If Skyscanner is for searching flights, then Booking.com is for searching for hotels. Based on the popular website Booking.com, you can literally search and book your hotel right from the app in a few steps. This app saved me hours of searching for reasonably priced hotels when I’m traveling.
Speaking of travel plans; once you do book your flights/hotels, simply forward them to TripIt.com and it’ll organise that information for you in an easy to read format. You can then either print all this information, or carry it around you on your Tripit app. What’s even better, you can share details of your travel with your family/friends right from inside the app.
If you’re a PRO traveler, then I suggest you get TripIT pro which will give you live updates of your flight in case there are any delays/cancellations.
Every once in a while, I find myself on the road and I receive a document that I have to sign. Normally, I would have to quickly find a printer, print the document, sign it, then scan it and e-mail it back. Now with RightSign, I simply open the document, highlight where I want to sign, actually sign the doc with my handwriting and e-mail it back to the sender, all in less than 5 minutes.
There’s no mobile office without Microsoft Office on the go, this is where DocsToGo comes in. You can open word, excel, spreadsheet, and work with them like you normally do on your computer (with some missing functionalities). A very useful app for document viewing/editing on the go.
I hate being stuck somewhere and have no idea what the exchange rate is for the local currency. This is where XE currency is so helpful. Carry this app around and you won’t ripped of in local bazars anymore (well most of the time at least).
One of the most useful applications we use at ProductiveMuslim is Highrise, this is 37signals’ Contact Management System. If I ever need to know who said what by when, and how the latest conversation with a vendor/supplier is going, highrise is the place to go. It attaches all meeting notes/e-mails/phone calls data to each contact so you have a complete history of interacting with that person. Even better, if you update highrise, you can add all the contact details and social media details of the person so you can learn more about them and contact them easily when you need to.
I’ve had an on/off relationship with Evernote. I know that the productivity community is crazy about this app, but I’ve to admit I’m not that of a heavy user of evernote. I do still use it to capture random notes and store links/articles which I want to refer to somewhere, but if someone has advice on how best to use evernote, I’m all ears!
Ahem..a bit of shameless marketing here.. this is ProductiveMuslim’s own app. It’s my way of organising my tasks around Salah times so they don’t conflict with each other. It’s still a work-in-progress, and I’m sure we can improve a lot, so let’s hear your feedback once you try using it.
If you attend my seminars, you know I’m a big advocate of the concept of “pomodoro”. The idea of timing yourself to do a particular task for 25 minutes before you take a 5 minutes break. This helps me focus and beat procrastination. FocusTime is the app for that and has helped me many many times overcoming my procrastination (yes yes even Abu Productive procrastinates).
If you are like me and you have over 50 websites you deal with each with their own logins and passwords, you’ll need 1Password! The one place I store all my passwords and sensitive details (e.g. bank accounts, passport details..etc) easily retrievable by the tip of my hand from the 1Password iPhone app.
Most of my meetings are held online via Skype or GoogleHangout. Having an app for both of them is really useful to have meetings on the go. Never be late for another online meeting, simply find a quiet spot with your headphones and mic and your moleskine with meeting notes and you’re good to go.
If you want to keep your brain sharp and stop your brain functions from degenerating, I highly recommend the brain trainer from Lumosity.com. I’ve recently started using it and I found it really helpful, I’m told that it helps improve your brain functions especially as you grow older.
Well, that’s all there is to my mobile office. Anything I missed? Anything I must try? Let me know in the comments below!