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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: Life As A Tech-Nomad
Some tips on surviving an existence on the road...
I was recently asked how I manage my work and travel schedule so I can live a normal life. Good question! But an even better one: what is a normal life? I don't think there is such a thing. Human life has been evolving rapidly since we first moved from all fours to an upright stance. My normality is different from yours, and from my children's, friends' and colleagues'. That is not to say it is better or worse just that as individuals we choose to use our time in different ways.
I have also been asked about my technology choices and how I manage my work as an investor, consultant and speaker across three continents and six time zones.
In short I have become a tech-nomad - a phrase I have used before.
The key here is appropriate technology - a sensible choice of things that meet the precise needs of my particular situation. This is not always the fashionable and accepted raft of kit. To date I use pen and paper (a little), fixed and mobile phones, a digital camera, voice recorder, laptop and headset.
That's right - no fax, no PDA or Blackberry-like device. The fax has no place in my set of tools because it's extremely insecure and limited compared to email - and moreover, involves paper which I try to limit my use of. And PDAs don't give me sufficient functionality. The Blackberry in particular is mainly peculiar to North America, an email-dominated continent with virtually no text-messaging traffic, whereas the rest of the world is text and mobile phone dominated.
My laptop and the other devices I carry constitute my place of work - all of it. I don't have one fixed office. I have a series of offices (over eight at the last count, providing a wide variety of power, phone, mobile and internet connections) where I camp out for a few hours (or days) before I move to the next location. Add to this the hotels, airport and lounges I often work in, and it is clear there is no way a fixed PC could service all my needs.
As for applications, they are very specific to my operation. Email, text, instant messaging, Skype/VoIP, Wi-Fi, plus all the normal office, image, movie and sound editing suites are essentials for me to be self-sustaining on the road. Given that I must be able to get online everywhere I go, I have five ISPs across the planet providing me a number off access modes including Wi-Fi, wired LAN and fixed and mobile phone lines.
As a result of the appropriate application of technology, changing work practices and a continual honing of protocols, I have seen my productivity go up tenfold every ten years. I would need a book to lay out all the tricks of my trade. All I can do here is answer the the original question - how I manage my work and travel schedule.
First, my time-saving techniques:
So, what about travel? You could waste your entire life flying, driving and riding trains - or you could use the time for work. Here are some of the things I do to stay productive on the road:
Finally, on the home front, try to arrive home with all your work completed. It is always better to arrive an hour late with all your work done than an hour early with work to do. And be sure to give your life some balance by making time to spend with family and friends - such as doing wild things like skateboarding, kite flying and climbing with the kids.
First draft written during a few quiet moments at The Grange in Collington, Somerset, where I had taken the family for a very relaxed six-day vacation over Christmas. Additions and changes made during a stopover in Woodstock, UK just before the New Year. The full text was finally dispatched to silicon.com via my home LAN on my first real day back at work after a very relaxed vacation.