If I’ve learned anything from the modern entrepreneur, it is that life need not cease because of work demands. In fact, by embracing a few paradoxes of the modern age, I’ve been escaping the mindset that we must be chained to a desk to be productive. And so, I’ve been letting go of a long-standing belief that my life would be simpler, more steady, and easily managed with a regular job and set office hours.
It has been one of those odd gaps between the reality of practice, and what has been taught by the preceeding generation of workers: life is chaos without regular, predictable employment, but this is not entirely so. For me–in the fray of having children, being married to someone whose normal work hours have always been erratic in everything but their excessiveness, and a personal life full of projects–freelance and contract work has been my working mainstay for most of my adulthood. I had always considered myself a doer of odd jobs. I liked project work as a means to transition between situations, to try new things and to build networks. It’s taken me almost fifteen years of doing this to recognize self-employment is my normal course of action, and pretty much the only type of work that fits well with the life decisions of raising kids, moving around a lot, and needing the flexibility to do double parenting duty when my husband’s stuck out-of-town and running late.
In the past few months my LikedIn account has morphed with me through this series of revelations as I recognize that what seemed like “holes” in my resume could also be the effect of trying to look too closely, and seeing the gaps between the threads of what is otherwise a fairly comprehensive net of connected, continuous work.
Facebook is my collection of local news. I began Facebook with the intention of using it to hold a timeline of interesting articles and sources from the internet, as a means of capturing information I wanted to access again. Because so many people use Facebook as a kind of social address book, I found myself in Facebook-land with a few friends. I felt a little odd posting items and spamming friends with varied articles that held no relevance for most of them. I’ve since become more focused on connecting locally to organizations and news feeds, and becoming more discriminating in my shares.
I am also starting to post a lot of “how to” information on Google+, embracing the site as a place to put documents most people I know would find boring. Usually this is related to social media management or website/blog development, best communications practices, writing and editing for on-line formats. I am in process now of sorting out the postings into various groups, and I think I might eventually shift a lot of my focus to Google+, so as to take advantage of the different circles and sharing options available. There are resources I’ve compiled that I think clients would find useful.
Thanks to a post on Ph.D. to Life, I began experimenting with a program called Evernote. This has made my social network sites much less “messy,” as I am using Evernote in the way I thought I could make Facebook function for me, by capturing items of interest from the internet. Where as before I was also combining “real life” sources–notebooks, photos, and information from print sources–and trying to keep them in documents within folders saved to Dropbox–in Evernote I can capture information from the internet and also compile live sources of information, all accessible to every computer and device that I use.
Even better, having Evernote has finally put to use the expensive smart phone I got last fall as part of a job requirement. By using the camera on my phone I can use the document photo option to snap a pic of text, thus saving the time of copying text either by hand or by photocopying. I have considerably less paper files already, and I find it no less cumbersome to work in multiple windows on my computer’s desk top to access the information than I did shuffling papers across a desk. Evernote has several other capabilities, including searches, annotations and file sharing.
As I’ve noted, Evernote has changed how I use and value my smart phone. A cell phone, for me, had represented the evil of inescapable demands, intrusions upon family time, and the general lack of peace and quite that everyone enjoyed back in the pre-digital ages. I became a cell phone owner when my kids started school. We were living on our little farm at that time, where there was always lots of outside work to do, and being next to the phone in case of an emergency at school wasn’t an option. The cell phone represented, in this case, freedom.
In the same line of thinking, I realized I may as well succumb and connect my email to my phone. This way I can answer queries as they arise, and when I am expected to be available for work, I no longer need to tie myself to a desk. After all, summer is here and my kids are out of school. None of us wants to be stuck in the house watching me watch my email.
Thanks to the suggestions of Mr. A., a Samsung enthusiast I met through work, I’ve learned that with the download of a good security and memory boost app (Clean Master), I am also not tied to my phone’s charger. The battery life on my device is lasting the day, even with indulging in reading WordPress postings when I have a few spare minutes. It amazed me to learn that some of my phone’s pre-loaded apps (ones I’ve never used) have been running-at-will in the back ground and sucking up precious memory, speed and energy.
With the social media apps from Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and Google+, I also get notifications on my phone. Unexpectedly, this makes life easier to be lazy, off-line, or simply focused on a project, as I am less likely to miss receiving messages from friends and work colleagues should I not log in to a particular site for a few days.
I’ve also returned to using Google Drive, now more easily accessed from my smart phone (again) through the download of some handy apps. I can find myself working from as many as three different computers, depending on what I’m doing, so to have my folders accessible in one place is much easier than saving data to a storage device and manually moving it to another computer. (Dropbox and Google Drive also make having only one old printer much easier for the family to share. Someone always seems to need work printed.)
For the most part, my cellular device is a hybrid between tablet and phone. I chose a device with a large screen, which is easy to read, but is still only half the size of a standard tablet. As I am making plans to do more studies in the fall, I find myself liking the idea of having easy and continuous access to my digital files.
All that remains at this point is to find an email manager and agenda app that checks all the boxes for me. I have a few options, including The Secret Weapon, that I’ll be checking out this summer.
Does anyone have suggestions for must-have apps, or a software application they can’t live without? How do you build your portable office?