Mobile Office and File Management: How I Get It Together or, the Sexy Side of Organization

Confession time: I don’t have it together. At all. Not even a little.

I haven’t sat at my desk to work in Lord knows how long—not just because I spent the summer with my parents out west. But because I cannot see the surface of my desk. I tell myself, "It’s an easy fix: just pick it up, Lexi."

But picking it up means I’ll then have to deal with the stuff on top (i.e. find new homes for it), and that means that I’ll have to start picking up and rehoming other stuff. And that means where will it all end I just need to give away everything I own and start over hopefully in some remote mountain town with a sexy bearded hermit on the property adjacent to mine.

In short (melodramatic BS aside): I’m a messy cow.

And aside from the messy cow business? Honestly? I just can’t work from home these days.

Now, can’t might be a touch dramatic. I can, and often do, work from home—but not in the traditional sense. I do Dragon Dictation from the comfort of my cozy couch or brainstorm/daydream from same cozy couch. And I bust out the laptop on--you guessed it--the cozy couch to research or take care of administrivia.

Back when I left the traditional workforce and started writing and doing freelance work, I think I was most excited about not having to deal with people. I wouldn’t have to live in a sad, grey paneled prison/cubicle all day long. Moreover, I wouldn’t have to: sit in my cubicle and listen to conversations about my co-worker’s newest medical appointment; sit in my cubicle and cringe at the terrible overhead lighting; sit in my cubicle and have people straight-up ignore the giant over-the-ear headphones that broadcast I am working please don’t bother me and bother me; or sit in my cubicle and endure other various and assorted horrors of cubicle life.

But a funny thing happened. For the first two months I worked from home, instead of being so happy to have things my way and to not have to deal with people, I got really bloopy. Really bloopy.

I started buying groceries for a day at a time so I’d have an excuse to get out of the house. I started checking my post office box every day instead of once or twice a week like I used to. And, slowly but surely, I started taking my laptop with me when I went out so I could work. Yeah, yeah, in loud, noisy places with terrible lighting and even worse human behaviors on display.

Madness! Turns out, I’m not as much as a hermit as I thought. It was depressing the ever-loving heck out of me to be in my house alone all day and all night. So I began to make the world my office. Coffee shops. Museum cafes. Patios on temperate afternoons. Under a pretty tree at the Arboretum.

But what about all the ish you have to deal with when you’re out and about with the general public?

It all comes down to control. I couldn’t control my cubicle buddies and their loud talking. And I cannot control the people around me. But I can control when I get up and leave the coffee shop because the guy at the chair next to me is a fidgiter and oh my gravy stop bouncing your legs are you high or what stop you are so annoying.

This is a post on (dis)organization. This isn't a post on overuse of run-on sentences & stream of consciousness.

My #GetItTogetherHop tips are about how to work on the run (not from the law). I guess I could title this: office in a bag. Because, honestly, except for a printer (and how often do you use one anyway?), I pretty much have everything I need to work productively in my bag, with or without my laptop.

So, what’s in my bag—and what kind of bag do I use? I use a tote. This is me we are talking about, so I have a rotating cast of totes. Most notably, I use a Lands’ End canvas tote (link to) because it’s super rugged, pretty roomy, and has handles that distribute weight fairly well so I don’t want to cut off my arms by the time I reach my destination. (And it’s monogrammed.)

Since I’ve returned from RWA in New York, my office in a bag lives in the Longchamp bag (link to) I carried in the city because of its zip top nature. (I have to carry my laptop in my arms because I don’t want to strain the straps, but that’s a small price to pay.) My office in a bag system can work in any larger type purse because of one glorious secret: the perfection of pouches.

Alexandra Haughton Mobile Office

I've written about this before, but I have pouches for everything. Everything has a pouch home—and if you win the giveaway, you’ll be getting a few pouches to start you off right! (Protip: I don’t use matching pouches because I want to be able to know immediately what is in which pouch and not have to unzip a million to find the cord I need because they’re all the same size and style.) And, this way, I can move mobile offices quite easily.

If I know I’m going to be running other errands, or meeting someone for lunch, I don’t want to have my big Macbook dragging me down; so I know I need to grab a certain set of pouches and my iPad mini.

The grab and go office in a bag only works, however, if you practice excellent file management. (We’ll get to that in a second.)

Standard disclaimer: the office in a bag perfect pouch system might not work for you. You have different stuff and different desires and some things I think I must have you might lose your mind over because how stupid is Lexi for lugging XYZ around?! You know. Different strokes and all that.

An ode to the perfection of pouches:

Cord Pouch (big patchwork): except for my big laptop charger, I have duplicates of everything. So this is also my go-to travel pouch that I never have to repack or freak out once I get to my destination because I don’t have XYZ because XYZ live in this pouch always and never live anywhere other than this pouch.

  • Macbook charger
  • Apple charger plus old school iphone/ipad cord and new iphone/ipad cord
  • USB wall charger
  • USB cord(s) that recharge portable battery charger, kindle, and wifi hotspot
  • Wifi Hotspot

Pen Pouch (small patchwork): I’m a pen hussy. I know I don’t neeeeeeeeeeeeeeed all of the pens I have in my pen pouch, but I want to have them with me. So. If one random and indifferent BIC ballpoint is all you need, I’m not sure I can be your friend but let’s just carry on with the next pouch.

Backup Pen Pouch (Kate Spade bookish zippy): BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.

External Hard Drive Pouch (medium monogrammed gold glitter): Hard drive and cords.

Backing up your work is the most important thing you can do. Back up early and often. Back up to the cloud. Back up to your computer. Back up your computer. And back up on an external hard drive. (Could this gadget live in the Cord Pouch? Probably. But I don’t want it to because on the days I work on my iPad mini, I don’t need this, so why carry it around?)

Purse Pouch: my purse pouch is a stylish clutch. Right now, it’s a champagne-y gold-y one, but it also rotates depending on my mood and season. It’s what I grab on my way out the door if I have zero plans to work. And since there’s a finite space in a wee clutch, I can’t fill it with a bunch of crap, so I’m forced to keep it clean. Evil genius.

  • Card wallet that houses my ID, emergency cash, and a few assorted membership cards (I can grab this is I’m mall walking)
  • Cash/cards
  • Random change (that I transfer into my coin pouch that lives buried in my car because change is HEAVY)
  • Cell
  • Lippies (you might want to have a makeup pouch, I’m not a makeup girl, so keeping a few lip glosses in my purse pouch works for me)
  • Everything else

Notebook(s) for current WIP (sometimes, these live in their own pouch, but that’s a little excessive)

iPad mini and/or laptop

And that’s it. That’s my mobile office.

Now let’s talk about file management. File management is time management because whether you’re working at home or on the go, if you can’t find what you need, you’re wasting time you could be sipping iced tea on the patio at sunset.

Brass tacks: here’s the tip that changed my life...

On your main computer’s desktop, make a folder titled WIP. (Or you can eschew the abbreviation and write Work(s) In Progress or some other clever little name.) No, that’s not the tip that changed my life, but it was a start.

Here’s the genius behind that magic folder: put ONLY the Word files of active works in progress (sorry folks, not dealing with Scrivener here because of the way I go back and forth between my Macbook Pro and my iPad Mini) and that way, you can EASILY find those documents in Dropbox or whatever cloud storage system(s) you use. None of that “oh, holy crap, did I save as v.3.5 last time or am I on v.4.2????”* That way you can back those babies up multiple times a day and access the most recent file from multiple devices. That way you’re not scrolling through a jillion file folders trying to find your latest draft.

*clearly I’m not a person who loves to look back at all the versions of my first draft. I do have a Draft Junk File I keep things I cut so I can retrieve them if necessary.

So my writing day looks a little something like this: Working from Macbook. ⌘S my Word doc obsessively as I draft. Close down Word for the day. ⌘C WIP folder // ⌘V WIP folder into Dropbox folder on my desktop. Shut it all down, move on. Hours later, open my iPad mini and Dropbox app. Et voila. There it is. Start working. Rinse. Repeat.

Now here’s where it gets not as awesome: I’m paranoid and get nervous about saving to my iPad mini because I like my desktop on my Macbook to be COMMAND AND CONTROL. So I email myself the draft I’ve been working on... just in case (with date and time noted in subject line) AND save it to a folder in Dropbox called Xfer (or transfer).

 Note I'm not saving to that WIP folder in Dropbox. Because paranoia.

Once I’m back on my Macbook, the first thing I do is open the most recent draft in the Xfer, work on it, and save as to my WIP folder. (If I’m working on my mini the next time, I just open what’s in the Xfer folder because I know that is the latest.)

I don’t know. You might want to throw your hands up in the air right now. Or you might want to throw me a ticker tape parade. Or you might still have questions. If you do, email, and maybe I’ll make one of those video thingies. But this works for me, and maybe some part of it will work for you.

My desktop is always clean(ish). If I do one thing well, it’s maintain a tidy digital workspace. On my desktop, I have five file folders (okay, I have six because lately I’ve had, um, need of the “Henry Cavill gifs” folder. For reasons.): Dropbox, WIP, The Write Stuff, miscellany, and WTF I CANNOT. If you’re really nosy and want to know everything, just email and I’ll show you my subfolders.

  • Dropbox: syncs to my author DB and works with aforementioned…
  • WIP: only the latest versions of works in progress live here and everything else writerly lives in…
  • The Write Stuff: subfolders for pennames, purchased stock images, font files and licenses, MSS, website collateral, pub stuff, etc., and subfolders within those sub folders.
  • miscellany: life stuff with various subfolders. Absolutely nothing writerly lives here. All pills and bills.
  • WTF I CANNOT: yes, it’s in all caps, and yes, it’s just what it says. I make it a rule that I cannot close down my laptop without having a clean workspace. It’s a gift to my future self and oh my gravy I wish I could make this work in my Real Life Housekeeping. Everything I just cannot deal with goes in this folder. At the end of the week, or when I need to do something that makes me feel responsible and capable, I go through and put these UFO files in their proper file folders. Back up my computer. And all is right with the world again.

Exhibit A: After working on the #GetItTogetherHop graphics for the giveaway, my desktop looked like this. SCREAM FACE

desktop before and after.jpg

Now it looks like this. HEART EYES 

If you are with me after all of that, you deserve a prize. Here’s what I’m giving away as part of the Get It Together Blog Hop rafflecopter.

Click here to enter to win a bunch of fab AF prizes* from a bunch of fab AF writers.  

As pictured above, I'm giving away: a gold pen pouch (with my signature FLAIR PENS), profane post-it notes, a unicorn zippy pouch to get you started on your pouch perfection journey, and the cutest ban.do file folders on the face of the earth. 

2_BTSFW15_filefolders_heyhey_grande.jpg

No. Seriously, y'all. THE CUTEST FOLDERS EVER. Look what's printed on the inside!!!!!!

 

*CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED.