If your notion of the perfect workplace is lounging with your laptop on a sandy beach, or listening to the splashing of a nearby stream from a porch in the mountains, you need to plan and set up your systems differently than if you’re always working from within the same four walls.
In order to work from anywhere, it’s important to find ways to keep your files, notes, schedules, and everything else in a form you can access from wherever you happen to be.
If you have a permanent office space, you can fill it with paper files. But if your workspace is less permanent, how do you keep everything you need and do your work?
Easy. You structure it to be digital, not paper based, and mostly in the cloud.
If what you need is in the cloud, you can retrieve it wherever you are, and still access it even if your device is broken or stolen.
The solutions and tools you choose should also be platform agnostic. What does that mean?
When I started my portable business, I used a PC. Later, I switched to Mac. Throw in mobile devices, which come with Windows, iOS, and Chrome operating systems, and you’ve got a lot of variables.
“Platform agnostic” means you can access them, either through a browser or an app, no matter what device and operating system you use.
I like to save current and recent files on my hard drive, but I back them up to the cloud. Cloud storage is easy to find. Each of the services here lets you share your files with people you select, and each of them has a desktop program and apps so you can use them with your PC, Mac, iOS or Android device.
If you have a personal Gmail, YouTube or other Google account, you get up to 15 GB of free storage shared among Gmail, Drive, and Google Photos. If you need more than that, you can upgrade to Google One where prices start at $1.99/month for 100GB, or $19.99 for an annual plan. There’s also a 200GB plan for $$2.99/month or $29.99 annually, and a 2T plan for $9.99/month or $99.99 annually.
If you’re using Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) for business, you get up to 30GB of free storage among Gmail, Drive, and Google Photos. You can increase your storage, starting at 100GB for $1.99/month or $19.99 annually, up to 30T.
This is Microsoft’s version of cloud storage, specifically aimed at users of the MS Office Suite of programs like Word, Excel, etc. Their basic plan offers only 5 GB of free storage, but you can pay for upgrades starting at 100GB, for $1.99/month, or 1T for $6.99/month or $69.99/year. (There’s no annual payment plan for the 100GB storage.)
iDrive is Apple’s cloud storage option. Like Google’s and Microsoft’s, you can use it with any device. They also offer a free 5GB option, but their most impressive deal is the 5T personal storage option for $79.50/year (on sale right now for $59.62).
Calendars and Schedules
The easiest cloud calendar I’ve found is Google‘s. You can create multiple calendars — personal, work, travel, whatever you need — and view them separately or together. It’s part of your Google account.
Staying on Track
These project management tools and note-taking apps are cloud-based and sync across platforms. The basic tools are all free, and you’ll find apps for all your devices.
Trello looks so simple it’s easy to underestimate just how much it can do. I discovered it a couple months ago, and I’ve been using it for all my work-related tasks, as well as for generating ideas, keeping track of links and content I want to share, and lots more.
Here’s more information about Trello
There are people who swear you can build an entire business using Evernote. I’ve been using it for years, and there are some features I adore.
That said, I’ve found it more useful for organizing personal things like travel, than for business. But different tools resonate with different users, and Evernote might be it for you.
What I like best about Evernote is its “clipper” — a little browser app that saves an entire web page or email on Evernote for you.
The free plan is limited to only two devices, which is an issue for me. Paid plans start at $7.99/month, and rather than giving you a total storage amount, they count monthly uploads. The free plan gives you up to 60MB in monthly uploads, and the lowest-tier paid plan gives you 10 GB — a very substantial difference.
Similar to Evernote in some ways, OneNote from Microsoft offers a robust free plan. it’s organized more like a traditional loose-leaf binder and is very intuitive to use.
Milanote is a planning tool built with professional creatives in mind.
At its most basic, it’s a note-taking app, but where something like Evernote or OneNote is designed to be read, Milanote is designed to be seen. It’s like a digital bullet journal for note taking, mind mapping, and project planning.
Do you have a favorite cloud-based productivity tool? What is it and why do you like it?
This article was revised and updated on October 7, 2021.
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