Two weeks ago I started a collaborative google map so thesis writers could share their favourite places to work. I’m happy to report that this has been a roaring success with over 100 cafes marked on it – and more being added everyday. Thank you to everyone who contributed. I’m happy to know that if I ever find myself in China or Africa, I know where to get wireless access and a table to work on. Since last week Kylie Budge talked about managing herself between multiple places of work, I thought I might continue the theme of mobile scholarship.

People often ask how I manage to get so much done when clearly I don’t spend exactly 40 hours a week in my office. Happily for me (or sadly, depending on how you look at it) the barriers between work life and home life are fuzzy. I like to write and research, you know – for fun, so I carry an office in my handbag which allows me to work just about anywhere, anytime. I’m sure many of you have a similar system, so I thought I would share mine by way of encouraging you to write in and tell us yours:

1. Computer

If you are just writing on the move your computer doesn’t actually have to be that powerful. For the last couple of years I used a Dell mini 9 inch Netbook that fitted neatly in my handbag. While it was no pocket rocket, the Netbook it did the job; I could plug it into any projector and the battery enabled up to 3 hours of typing.

However, this meant I had three computers and managing the data was a bit annoying. When my Dell Netbook sadly died I replaced it with a Mac book Air 11 inch, which is the same weight but more powerful. This enabled me to replace my desktop PC, which brings me down from 3 computers to two.

2. Apps

Working mobile is much easier with cloud applications: software delivered over the internet. There are a growing number of services and many of them are extremely useful for academics. Some people use Zotero to manage their bibliography, but I use Mendeley because it’s a bit like itunes and twitter rolled into one; I can make and share bibliographies as well as see my library from any machine with an internet connection. A recent find to complement Mendeley is A.nnotate which enables you to mark up PDFs and share them with others.

Similarly I use Evernote as a public online ‘scrap book’ to keep track of websites I find as well as notes from seminars and conferences. I use Prezi or Slideshare to do my presentations so I can always present, even if I can’t easily plug in my laptop. There are many cloud apps out there – I am always interested to hear about new ones!

3. Smart phone

Without my Android phone I would not be able to run my handbag office. Most of these apps listed above are available on my phone as well as on my computer. One of the reasons I bought this phone rather than an iphone was, at the time, it was the only one that could act as a ‘wireless hot spot‘. This means I can turn it on in my pocket, direct my computer to look for it and have an internet connection. Wherever I have phone reception I can work in nerdy, cord free bliss: train, tram, bus or cafe.

4. Kindle

Although I am conflicted about the death of bookstores, I love my Kindle. The other morning it wouldn’t wake up for some reason and I swear I felt like my dog had died (luckily Mr Thesis Whisperer managed to reboot it). The ability to keep 100 or so academic books in my hand bag is kind of amazing – whenever I pull it out I have a little “Here I am, living in the future!” moment.

I also have the Kindle app on my computer and my phone so that I can read my books from any open internet connection – it even remembers which page I was up to. However I prefer to read from the actual device when writing. Call me old fashioned, but there’s something about having the information on a separate screen which I find conducive to thinking.

5. Analogue peripherals

I still keep a notebook. I just like the feel of using a pencil on paper and it doesn’t need time to reboot. My friends know I am a Moleskine addict and kindly give me notebooks for my birthday. I like them because the paper is nice, you can get unlined pages and the little pocket in the back is handy to hold scrappy bits and pieces. Recently @scottmayson taught me how to ‘synch’ my notebook with Evernote: I take a picture of the notebook page, then tag and upload it. This is a brilliant way to keep track of notes and details that might otherwise get buried within a journal once it is full and sitting on a shelf somewhere.

So that’s my hand bag office – what’s in yours?

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