Planning For a Digital Nomad

pulling cart Following on from my post about information flexibility and how computers will change to accept this, I got antsy for wanting to do something with this all today. I started thinking about what you could do today to plan to be a digital nomad. Here are some starting thoughts.

Get a Smartphone

First, your regular cell phone won’t cut it. You need a good smart phone. Here’s reviews of 10 for you to choose from. I’m using a BlackBerry Curve. It’s not bad. The iPhone isn’t that bad either. Maybe having both or a micro laptop (What did Eric Rice show me back in March?) would do the trick.

The BlackBerry Curve has both the Edge network (yes, slower than EVDO, but not horrible), and also WiFi. So I can use the phone in more than one way. I can browse the web. I can get email from Internet and POP3 accounts, and I can read some file types on it. Still not perfect, but a good start.

Move Applications Online

The more your stuff is web-accessible, the more you can reach it from anywhere. My primary mail is Gmail. I use Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheets, and can use it for more. You could also use the million awesome apps by Zoho. (Those guys rock). In fact, Zoho might be better, because I think they support mobile.

Centralize to Decentralize

There are two things that go together in this next part. Centralize information about you, but only so that you can spread it out to the places where it needs to be. I’m thinking that phase 2 of OpenSocial will do this for us. I think that Lijit does some aggregation on this front. Maybe making a wiki where your common centralized information can be stored would be good, too. Or, dare I say it, Plaxo. (Still not sure I trust them).

Mix Online and Offline Storage

With companies like Box.net making their free (you pay for more storage if you want it) service accessible to all kinds of other online apps, it’s cool that you can store stuff up in the clouds. I don’t trust this 100%, so buy some really decent storage, like a couple external hard drives. Get in the habit of backing stuff up online and off, and then take that second external storage drive and bring it to a relative’s house, or somewhere other than in your building. Remember to update THAT copy every 30 or so days. Why? Because then you’re relatively safe from losing your digital “stuff.”

Central Numbers and Presence Management

Switch from using a standard AIM or Yahoo! client to Adium or Trillian. Use the applications that make it not important which networks you’re using for IM. Same for your phone.

Switch to YouMail for your voice messaging service. Consider getting a Grand Central number to blend together all your telephone presence.

Use tools like Skype to videoconference. Look at ways to share your presence info, so that people collaborating with you know the story. (Simple things like Twitter work well, especially because Twitter works with phones, IM clients, 3rd party apps, and the web.)

Structure Work To Pay You for RESULTS
**Updated as per recommendation by Mark Harrison.

My new job has a pay structure built so that my employers don’t really have to worry where I’m doing my job. Meaning, my incentives are set up that if I’m working, I make money. If I’m not, I don’t. Solves the problem of bosses worrying that you’re doing what you say you’re going to do. I’m paid to make business. I can do that however I make it work.

Try working out the same for yourself. Subscribe to Web Worker Daily, and pay attention to other sources of information on how to build yourself into a digital nomad. The more you can convince your bosses that your meat in a cube isn’t the same thing as working, the sooner you can be ready to transcend into the 21st Century’s definition of work: doing something meaningful that adds value.

More Gear

Travel with your chargers. Travel with a power strip (in case you have to share). Scope out electrical outlets everywhere, and get over your shyness about using them. Carry a super small LED flashlight so you can see your wiring in the dark. Carry extra batteries if you can, especially if you can charge them without the primary device. Get really green and cool and think about ways to charge things via solar panels, etc.

Why Go Mobile? Why Be a Nomad?

As information and information workers get more modular, new value sources will arise in the value chain. Think about the changes to your business when you consider what it’d be like if fewer and fewer people showed up in the office. Imagine what works and what doesn’t work about data moving out to the Net instead of just being locked into your hard drive, or some shared office servers. How do things move differently when they don’t have to be tethered to a PLACE or a set of machines?

What do you think? Does any of this make sense? Could YOU go nomad? Are you already there? Give us your thoughts and advice.

Photo credit, Moriza

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