What is the best way to organize multiple offices
June 15, 2015 4:48 PM   Subscribe

I work in three offices on the average week: At my home office, and at two offices in two separate universities that are in two separate states. I have a laptop that goes with me everywhere and a dropbox account to keep files in as well as ample office supplies, but often feel a bit scattered with moving between so many separate offices. What can I do to stay organized, happy, and productive when I'm never working in the same place more than two days in a row?
posted by _cave to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Drop box for your files. And a rolling tool bag like this LINK
posted by Mac-Expert at 5:14 PM on June 15, 2015

I have three offices. I keep duplicates of as much as possible in each office to minimize what I have to carry around (and remember to pack). So, I have a water bottle and a coffee mug in each place. I have a laptop charger that lives in each place. I keep a drawer full of oops-I-forgot-my-lunch food (granola bars, instant oatmeal...) in each place. YMMV if you don't have your own desk at each place, and/or you are better at remembering to pack things every day than I am.
posted by pemberkins at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

I only keep organized between two office but here is my method:
  • like you, I coordinate my life with laptop and iPhone using Dropbox;
  • I keep a keep a standard set of common pens and tools used kept in my bag. Like the purseket I have those items, easily switched between all my bags
  • I keep the same set of textbooks between my offices, so there is no need for me to lug copies of course texts from one office to another. I also keep electronic versions of textbooks in my Dropbox that can be accessible from my devices. Other texts that reside in one office but not another is also listed in LibraryThing so no guessing that I have between offices.
  • Besides texts, I keep an office kit in each office composed of food items and good mugs.
  • Absolutely necessary stationary items like a complete set of my favorite pens, push point pencil, spare leads, eraser, complete set of dry erase markers, highlighters, etc. You get the idea, a VERY consistent set of stationary items from one office to the other.
  • Each office has all the electronic infrastructure that I need such as, laptop power cords, turbo trackballs, spare external hard drive and dongles of all sorts so I do not have to lug things in my bag.
Basically, I create replicas of my office. It forces me to be minimal. What I carry are those items that help tie and coordinate my data.
posted by jadepearl at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't trust Dropbox (long agonizing story) or most of the commercial storage places, so I email everything to one of my campus accounts. I use Followupthen.com to set up reminders to be emailed to me. (I am really comfortable with email, so tend to use that for as much as I can-- backups, calendar, etc.)

I've started routing all my email through my gmail account (they have a new "fetch mail" feature).

If you're going back and forth by car, you can get a cheap adapter for your cigarette lighter in your car-- can charge anything that charges by outlet or US that way. I got mine at Radio Shack for $50, then saw one at Walgreens for $10. That way you can charge while you drive.

I have a very light change of clothes that I keep at the bottom of my bookbag-- black nylon pants, a t-shirt, underwear, and socks. Nothing fancy, but acceptable for most colleges. I also have another set of my prescription meds and basic toiletries, just in case I have to stay overnight in one place or another.
I have an "inner purse" (just a light nylon bag) which I can switch out from one purse to another, keeping the wallet and eye drops and comb and everything else I always want in my purse.

I think the stress is the worst part, so a to-do list set up every evening and emailed to yourself might help with that. I'm always worried I've forgotten something, but that helps, as does packing up the night before and putting it all right by the door.

I'm always convinced I forgot to turn off the oven or locked the doors, and get agitated and want to go back and check. I've started saying out loud, "I locked the front door" or whatever as I do it. That helps. I actually just started (I'm really OCD about this!) saying it into the phone and sending it to my voice mail, so if I'm off 50 miles away at the one job, I can play the voicemail and feel reassured.
posted by pippin at 6:23 PM on June 15, 2015

Make your sensory experience of your workspaces as uniform as possible:
1) Arrange your things (laptop, lamp, papers, supplies, etc.) on your desks the same way in each location
2) If you're allowed to decorate your spaces, put up the same poster/photo/artwork at the same angle from where you sit
3) If you can listen to headphones, listen to the same kind of music while working
4) You can even bring smell into it by putting the same scented diffusers in each location (go mild, though, for your coworkers' sakes!)
5) And taste by drinking the same brand of tea, etc.

Our brains associate all this other sensory stuff with specific memories and modes of thinking so it will be easier for you to mentally slip into "work mode" if you have a consistent set of sensory triggers that tell you "I'm at work now."
posted by Jacqueline at 6:37 PM on June 15, 2015

How possible is it to duplicate at least the core (desk/chair/shelf) layout of your offices? Keep the same things in the same drawers, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2015

Develop an "I'm starting work" routine that is portable. Something like unpacking your bag, stretching and getting seated and reviewing and revising your todo list. Do this no matter where you work as a warmup. Maybe even mutter to yourself something like "OK. I'm ready, lets go!". The force yourself to work for at least 20 minutes with no break or distraction.

Eventually your routine will become like an ignition switch.
posted by srboisvert at 6:43 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Take only your laptop between offices for a week. Get whatever's missing for each office and leave it there.
posted by rhizome at 7:04 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also have 3 offices. My variation of the tips above:

1) keep more or less the same setup at each location -- external monitors, external keyboards, external disk for hourly snapshot backups, power adapters for the laptop, etc. I just unplug and go and plug everything back in at the destination

2) keep duplicates of books that I can't get in electronic form at each office location

3) carry an external bootable hard disk to which I mirror the complete contents of my laptop every night, because if you travel much, you will have a laptop failure at some point. An SSD in your laptop makes a disk failure less likely, but something else still can fail (e.g., video card). With an external mirror disk, you will have multiple options: booting from the drive if the internal laptop drive fails, or hooking up the drive to another computer, etc.

4) use cloud backups (CrashPlan for me) as a secondary backup scheme.

5) use electronic documents for everything else: managing projects and to-do's, keeping notes, everything -- that way almost everything is with me no matter where I am, which may be in an airport, a conference somewhere, one of the offices, etc.

6) always use the same carry-on bag no matter where I go, which I stock with a complete kit of cables and bits of other electronica (e.g, flash drive, usb charger, cable adapters), a power adapter for the laptop, paper notebook, pens, band-aids, gum, tissue paper, chapstick, emergency granola bar, etc. Bonus tip: for important cables like the charging cable for your phone, carry two, not just one.

The last one took a long time to assemble. For years, every time I traveled, I would discover something else I needed, or something I had didn't work as I thought and needed to be different, or whatever. After a while this settled into the minimal set I have now. No matter where I go, I never waste time searching for a cable or other thing I normally need.
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:25 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing the duplication idea, so you don't have to carry around anything much other than your laptop. But for the few extra things you might carry (your phone, headphones, one extra pen, whatever), a Grid-It organizer is useful. It's easier to look at, at a glance, and know you have everything.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:23 AM on June 16, 2015

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