Working as a freelancer means that I have the freedom to either work from home, cafés, library or coworking spaces depending on my needs and mood. One of the biggest issue I face as a digital nomad is weight: I love to work from different places and to change desk almost everyday, but carrying my whole work supplies with me is one of the biggest drawback of my freelancer life.
It’s a common issue for freelancers, but if you’re a student or need to carry your computer and notes everyday, you probably know what it’s like to have your whole work life with you all the time.
The struggle to find a balance between having the right tools on hand to stay organized and minimise the weight of my bag once it’s filled is real. After 6 months of being a digital nomad and multiple trials, I give you a tour of what I carry in my bag on a daily basis along with some tips and tricks to stay organized and efficient with a minimal backpack, including a new tool I already love : the Minbok notebook.
What’s inside my backpack on a daily basis: my laptop and Minbok discbound notebook.
Super light freelancer backpack
My job is mainly to write and to create content for websites and social media, using my graphic design skills. So I spend most of my days on my laptop to organize my projects and get my work done. I also always carry my Minbok notebook with me for ideas and meeting notes.
As a digital nomad, I (theoretically) don’t need much more to keep track of my projects and get my work done: as long as I have a (good) computer and Internet access, I can work from pretty much everywhere.
My laptop holds all my work files, along with the apps I use to stay organized for work, including Trello and spreadsheets. Even though I love paper to plan things, I have to admit that going digital for project management as made my planning system even more effective, and reduced the items I need to have with me on a daily basis.
The project management dashboard I use these days
It took me forever to pick the laptop that is now the cornerstone of my work life as a digital nomad.
I tried to find the right balance between ergonomics and weight: I finally chose a 15″ HP computer. The other thing that I’ve pay attention to before buying it is the autonomy of the battery. As it lasts for half a day when I’m doing writing work, I can easily go to a café for a few hours to work without having to take the charger with me. A weight gain my back thanks me for!
There are some days I don’t really need my bullet journal. If I have a lot of meetings or calls or just need to focus on one main task, I tend to rely on my digital helpers and my Minbok notebook to keep my schedule under control and stay on track.
From all the notebook I’ve been using, the A5 Minbok discbound notebook (available for pre-sale on Kickstarter) is definitely the one that matches the best my needs as a freelancer. I mainly use it for meeting notes, and it follows me everywhere I go. It entered my planning a few weeks ago and it’s been a game changer since then.
I’ll try to give it justice and give you a full review, starting with it’s gorgeous hard cover.
I picked the blue one, but I honestly love all the 4 colors available: they’re deep, classical yet bright and gives the notebook professional & classy look I find perfect for work use.
The cover is hard and can flips around, it also allows me to write on the go. I’d already had tried a very similar feature with the Filofax notebook, but the cover of the Minbok notebook is far more rigid and makes the experience of writing on the go much more easier.
An elastic string holds the cover closed, which I highly appreciate: I usually stash my notebooks in my bag along with everything else and despite that, the pages are always clean as if new.
Now let’s talk about the inside.
As the cover is hiding the disc binding, it’s almost impossible to guess what’s inside until you open it. And that’s actually what I like the most about the Minbok notebook: the balance between form and function is perfect in my opinion.
The half circle binding works as any other discbound system: I can move pages around as well as mix paper (dot, squared and blank). This means that I carry only one notebook for multiple purposes: I mainly use it for meeting notes, but also to sketch ideas or make random lists. It lays flat and the binding doesn’t interfere with the hand, making it ideal for both writing and sketching purposes.
Minbok also comes with a weekly planner option, lined page and a thicker paper for its sketch edition
I use the graph paper for meeting notes, following some effective note taking tricks I learned with experience. Once I’m finished with taking notes or sketching, I can move the page and organize all my projects notes thanks to the 2 dividers that come with the notebook. I also use the back pocket to keep loose leaves and business cards I collect.
The notebook can hold up to 100 pages, which is perfect to keep it light and functional. The only drawback is that I’ll soon need to have a second notebook to store my old notes. My greatest hope is that Minbok will work in the near future on an archival version of the notebook to make it easier to manage old notes and keep them organized.
The disc binding makes the Minbok system super versatile. It has become in several weeks a real asset to keep my work organized. Having all my projects notes in one notebook really reduced the number of books I have to take with me everyday (and the weight of my backpack).
It’s not much but that’s basically all I need to stay on tracks most of the days.
I love that the Minbok notebook features a back pocket to store spare paper and my ruler.
What about my bullet journal?
My bullet journal is my best ally to create a balance between my work and personal lifes, and to keep them organized. I carry it with me almost every time I’m not at home, but it also happens that I leave it on my desk while I work elsewhere.
What’s in it
My journal holds basically my whole life: I use it for both work and personal tasks and appointments, and it helps me manage my everyday tasks lists.
I used to have a Medium Leuchtturm (A5) as my bullet journal, but downsized to a B6 handcrafted notebook as we changed year. Even when I was using a Leuchtturm, it was a softcover one (half the number of pages of a regular Medium Leuchtturm) to reduce the weight of my bullet journal in my backpack.
I love the B6 size that perfectly fits my digital nomad lifestyle. It’s small enough to fit in all my bags (either backpacks and handbags), and large enough to offer a wide writing space. The only thing I kind of regret is that it features 250 pages and I honestly could have managed with half that amount of pages, and gain some weight here as well.
I use my bullet journal to create monthly, weekly and daily task lists.
What if I don’t have it with me?
When my backpack is stuffed with my computer, the Minbok notebook and various items I need to work on some projects (books, printed papers…), I tend to leave my bullet journal on my desk when I’m heading to some café to work. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not using my daily log: I jot down my tasks and appointments, take a pic with my phone and I’m off for the day! No need to take my bulky bullet journal with me.
I then update my bullet journal in the evening to cross off the finished tasks. This little trick is perfect when I desperately need to stay on tracks but also have a lot to carry with me.
Since I started using the Minbok notebook, I tend to rely a lot more on it. I’m still opening my bullet journal several times in a day, but when I decide to work outside my studio, it happens that I leave it on my desk. That’s especially true if my backpack is already stuffed with my computer, its charger, and books.
Other little things that make a difference
Working from different places everyday offers a lot of freedom, but it can be a bit hard to feel comfortable in some places: cowork spaces can be noisy, cold and not very welcoming at first. So on top of the things I bring with me to get my work done and even though I try to keep the weight of my backpack to a minimum, I also carry some extra small things that doesn’t really help me to get organized but make a huge difference anyway.
Mini survival kit to stay focused anywhere.
Smartphone power wire
I love my Samsung phone, and use it quite a lot for work and personal but one of the drawbacks of using it intensely is that the battery doesn’t last more than half a day. So I need to carry my charger with me everytime I leave home for more than a few hours. To reduce the weight of the charger, I usually only take the power wire with me, and plug my phone to my computer to reload the battery as needed. It’s not a big weight gain, but trust me, every gram counts!
They’re my best allies when I’m working in shared spaces: cafes and coworking spaces can be very noisy and listening to music helps me create a bubble to keep me focus on my work.
I drink tea all day, summer or winter. It keeps me warm (I’m the kind of people who is cold even if it’s 20°C outside). Having some of my favourites teabags with me makes me feel a bit at home wherever I’m working from.
I think I found a balance between the overall weight I carry and the help all these tools give me to stay on tracks. Each one of them has been chosen will care and they definitely contribute to make my work life as a digital nomad easier and happier.
I now use a small Herschel backpack to carry all this but my laptop doesn’t fit perfectly and I seriously lack space. My next move will certainly be to start looking for the perfect backpack to host my perfect freelancer survival kit!
– A5 Minbok discbound notebook, available for pre-sale on Kickstarter
– HP Elite computer
– Handmade B6 bullet journal and leather cover