I travel frequently in my job as a reporter—in fact, I’m typing this on a plane right now. After each trip, I start to evaluate which gadgets I used the most, which apps I found most useful, and—most importantly—which gadget mistakes I made.
We’ve all been there: You decide on a whim to bring your heavier and faster laptop instead of your new MacBook Air and then have to lug the thing to every meeting. Or, you bring a car charger along only to find out that your rental has USB ports for your phone. Here are a few of my own recent revelations, and what I could have done differently to get more work done.
1. Use a battery management app
An Inc. colleague told me about an app that proved to be a life-saver on a recent trip. (And by life-saver, I mean the battery life on my phone.) I was testing a powerful Android phone with a large screen and 4G service. I quickly realized the specs were handy at the office, but on the road the phone could barely make it through lunch. The colleague recommended the Juice Defender app, which disables the data connection and other wireless services, and dims the screen, to make the battery last much longer.
2. Bring a back-up 3G/4G card
I recently wrote about outdated business gadgets. One of them was a Mi-Fi device, which allows you to share a carrier signal with co-workers. I stopped using them because my phone has a hotspot built-in. But that doesn’t mean I skip a back-up method for getting on the Internet. Lately, I’ve been toting along a small 4G card that plugs into my laptop – just in case the airport Wi-Fi doesn’t work.
3. Go slim with your laptop bag
I’ve been testing a new bag called the Ace Messenger. My laptop fits snugly inside, and there is just enough space for some earbuds, a charger, my phone, an Apple iPad 2, a few cables, and a 3G/4G card. (I have been travelling light lately and loving it.) I used to carry a larger bag with a back-up battery for my laptop and phone, larger headphones (Princess Leia-style), and sometimes even an extra laptop. (Actually, I am still partial to bringing two laptops.) The laptop bag does not look techie, so it can double as a briefcase with notepads and pens for meetings, but it has extra padding inside.
4. Pen and paper
This is a very recent lesson: I like going analog on occasion. I know I can always type notes at meetings with a laptop or the iPad, but recently I have taken a break from the pixels and just scratched out written notes. Of course, at my hotel every night, I’ll type in the notes to Evernote for long-term storage and easy access from any device.
5. An über organizer for your social networks
In a recent column for Inc. magazine, I wrote about the wonderful social networking tool called Sprout Social. I’m still using it months later as a paying customer. One reason I like the tool so much—other than the colorful interface, the rating system that shows your engagement levels, and the handy reporting tools—is the fact that I can post one message that is sent to multiple social networks in one shot. Okay, some experts warn against this—you probably have a different set of followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. For me, there are times when I do post only to one of those, but I often post something relevant to all three audiences. Sometimes, I even post the same message to a non-business Facebook account. Sprout Social now has an app for iPhone and Android phones, but they still don’t have apps for tablets.