Your pockets are your first line of defense against having an unproductive day. They’re where you carry your most useful tools. With your wallet, keys, and phone always within arm’s reach, you’re ready to take on the day.
Most days, anyway. Eighty percent, sure. Maybe even ninety percent.
Then there are days where you need something more. Something too big or too awkward to fit in your pockets. Something small, but not needed frequently enough to carry it in your pockets. Something you’ll want to have nearby if you need it, without having to think too much about it.
This is where your bag comes in.
Men have been carrying bags for years, from the Scottish sporran, to military field bags, to the modern messenger bags slung ubiquitously over the shoulder of New York couriers. Sometimes it was to carry stuff that wouldn’t fit into pockets, sometimes they were to replace pockets entirely.
Most guys today carry a bag because they’re transporting a laptop. You’re less likely to drop it, ding it, or scuff it. It’s more ergonomic. It’s more discrete. It’s the obvious choice. Since you’re carrying a bag, why stop at packing just your laptop?
- USB power adapter and cables. Your phone should be able to make it through most days without needing to recharge. Not all days are created equal. If you’re in a low-signal area or using apps that use the screen, CPU, or radios heavily, you might find yourself caught short. Carry a small USB adapter and the cable(s) you need to recharge your devices so you don’t have to wait until you get home.
- USB portable power pack. USB power packs are small, increasingly inexpensive, and can recharge your phone several times over. Slip one into your bag, and you’ll be able to recharge your phone on the go.
- Extended wallet. You’ve reduced your wallet to the essentials. Even after digitizing everything you can, there will still be some cards that you want to carry. Your library card, transit card, and some gift cards will be more useful if they’re nearby.
- Regularly- but not frequently-used keys. Don’t keep keys that you don’t use daily in your pocket. Keep a key ring in your bag with the keys that you only use weekly, but are still part of your regular routine. I have several smaller key rings (each with one or two keys on it) that are clipped to a carabiner for easy retrieval.
- A pen. If your bag has a pen loop, put a pen in it. If it has several, change it up! Carry a ballpoint pen with blue or black in, a red pen, and a highlighter.
- A notebook. Carry a 3×5 notebook with you, one that you don’t mind tearing pages out of. In this age of phone calls, texts, tweets, posts, pokes, snaps, instant messages, and email, you’re still going to need to leave good old-fashioned notes for people. Spiral-bound notebooks are perfect, as long as you don’t mind the spiral getting crushed.
- A folder. If at all possible, you should scan paper on the go and be done with it. Every now and then, you’re going to need to carry some important papers that you don’t want to get crushed in your bag. A sturdy pocket folder, like you probably had in high school, will help protect documents being transported and keep them good as new.
- EpiPens and inhalers. This is something I hope you carry with you and never need to use. If you have an attack, you don’t want to have left help at home. More than your productivity is on the line here.
- Something fun. Productivity isn’t about all work and no play! I carry a hacky sack. If I have a few minutes to kill someplace, it’s great exercise (cardio, flexibility, agility, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination). Plus, it’s fun when total strangers join in.
Another category if items to carry with you is your hero tools. What would you need to have on you to save the day? This might be your day or someone else’s that you save.
Take a look at your day and the tools you use to get through it. Pay attention to the things that are missing. What did you have to start working on because you didn’t have the right tool at hand? Is this something you could add to your bag so you don’t get caught short next time?