You can learn a lot about someone depending on what’s in their bag, or what they leave out.
A huge chunk of successful executives’ lives is spent travelling, in meetings, and trying to keep track of a massive list of priorities, so they have refined what they carry and how they work into an art.
LinkedIn asked 50+ of its influencers to name the “secret weapons” that they simply can’t work without.
Richard Branson would be lost without his personal assistant, Helen. Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein relies on pen and paper for big ideas and the satisfaction of physically ripping up discarded plans. And the Samsung vs. Apple battle rages all the way at the top, with devotees of both the Galaxy Note, iPad, and everything in between.
'I couldn't get through the workday without my assistant, Helen. While gadgets like smartphones and tablets certainly do have a huge positive impact upon my working life,
it is the people around me who really make the difference.
'Helen is my memory. She travels the world with me, is delightful to have around, and is
extremely adaptable and sociable wherever we find ourselves. With so much going on with my mind, having an extra memory is important. Before I ask her to do something, she can read my mind and know what it is I am thinking before I ask.'
'While I'm accustomed to frequent travel and moving at a fast pace, there are a few things I always try to carry and can't go without. These help me stay focused, tune out the noise and provide the flexibility I need whether I'm at home or on the road.'
Here are her essentials:
- Her phone, loaded with country music. 'favourites include George Strait, Brooks & Dunn and Shania Twain,' she writes.
- A swimsuit, so she can get in a morning swim regardless of her time zone.
- HP's latest laptop hybrid, the HP Envy which she uses to work on a plane, and to watch movies when she wants to decompress.
'I'm a morning person. It's when I function my best. I love going to sleep early. I love getting up before everyone else. It's when I work out, write and focus my brain on tasks at hand. I sometimes find myself sitting in a hotel bed not able to fall asleep late at night. More often than not, it's because I have a headache from exhaustion, dehydration or other abuses of my body while I'm on the road. Tylenol PM gets rid of any headaches while helping me fall asleep. It's the wonder drug. And it doesn't even require a prescription.'
Bloomberg's Betty Liu has 3 absolute essentials:
1. Golden sore throat drops with Menthol and Chinese White Olive. They sound exotic
but they taste like regular cough drops and have helped keep my voice fresh. For
someone who talks all day on-and-off-camera, these are essential. And also plenty of
hot water and honey.
2. Mobile phone for the obvious reasons -- email, calls, calendar, which is shared with my show team so they know where I am -- most of the time!
3. Shout Wipe and Go wipes for those coffee spills that always seem to happen five minutes to air or five minutes to on-stage. That sounds like a commercial for them but this product is absolutely a great invention.'
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark gets about 80 per cent of his work done using his Samsung Galaxy Note.
'Maybe 80 per cent of my work can be done with a good, large smartphone. I'm using a Samsung Galaxy Note II, which gets the job done. It helps that I can use alternate on-screen keyboards, making typing much easier. What really helps are keyboards where you can swipe across the keyboard to type, like Swype and SwiftKey.'
'... This kind of phone is really a handheld computer/communicator, and that will be an increasing reality as its software evolves. Maybe in a few years a good phone will be the only system we have, automatically connecting wirelessly to larger screens and keyboards.'
'Like my standup desk, the weight vest is something I do to maintain fitness. It's easy for busy professionals (including me) to say they can't make enough time for exercise -- but wearing the weight vest has been a simple way to passively incorporate some extra challenge in my day. And it does get heavy!'
'... But the best part of using the weight vest? Hands down -- it makes my son lighter, a good thing given how much he likes being carried (and how much I like carrying him).'
'I learned early in my career that if I wanted to do this job I needed a develop a thick skin. Teflon-like, really. Because everyone has an opinion ... on my hair, my clothes, the comments I make, the stories I cover, you name it, they have something to say about it.
'Bottom-line: As a woman on TV, you have to be willing to deal with a lot of nonsense. The only way to handle it is to know exactly who you are -- and remember, the noise really is just silly.'
'I spend my days at IDEO talking and working with people across all our various open-space buildings (we don't have any hallways or closed offices). I do have a small desk which I rarely use. But because everyone is encouraged to plop down there when it's empty, sometimes I find it occupied!
'Here's everything populating my organizational gardening shed:
- A really comfortable backpack.
- My laptop, the ultimate mobile communication hub.
- Headphones, perfect for that impromptu Skype chat.
- The obligatory iPhone.
- Power supplies, because who ever wants to be low, slow, and out of juice?
- Pens for leaving notes.
- Fresh whiteboard markers.
- My favourite magazine, because to be inspiring you need to be inspired, and 15 minutes spent perusing my passion is as refreshing as a nap.
'In my world, all of the above are tools for organizational gardening. You see, I'm not really a manager. Instead, I'm a creative cultivator. By making it possible to function away from my desk, the things I carry help me play my role. With them on my back, it's easy to walk around to see firsthand what's going on, communicate with people all over the world, and work wherever the most vibrant information is at hand.'
'I decided to write about one colour, which is represented in many of the things I carry each day, as well as my shoes -- all 19 pairs of them. I always wear orange shoes, and I usually carry an orange backpack, wallet, phone cover, business cards, pen, and any other orange items I can get my hands on.
'...While our company logo is a great excuse to wear and carry orange, the truth is, I love the colour for how it makes me feel as a leader and how it affects others. I believe orange stands out in a positive way, and makes people feel positive, energetic and full of hope.'
'Really, my smartphone is my everything. All my contacts. My schedule. Important notes. My email. My access to social media sites. My browser to the broader web, where I can check on anything.
'Usually, I carry two different phones, an iPhone 5 on AT&T and a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon. Staying connected is so important that I have backup across two different carriers. But despite different carriers, and different mobile operating systems, my most-used apps remain the same.'
Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih carries a business card that reminds her to 'slow down' and 'take a deep breath.'
'Each and every day is a hustle. From 6 a.m. conference calls to meeting after meeting in the afternoon to the dreaded red-eye, I often lose track of how fast I'm burning through my day. My husband, family, and friends constantly remind me to slow down.
'But they can't be everywhere, so that's why it's essential that I always carry around one of my own business cards with this message written on the back: 'SLOW DOWN/TAKE A DEEP BREATH.' It's truly incredible how easily we can forget the most important things, like drinking a glass of water or taking a breath. With this business card on me at all times, I'm always reminded at the most crucial times to take a moment, reflect, and then carry on rejuvenated and refreshed.'
'Life has become infinitely more complicated by the explosion of devices and platforms. We're all sucked in by these distractions -- eh, tools -- but when it's your job to try to make sense of what that technology means for the news business, you have to be all in. It's a 24/7 cacophony of chaos, which has to be sorted through and understood. So when I get asked about what items I couldn't live without, I now flip it around and simply answer: almost nothing.
'When I travel, which is now two or three times a week, the goal is to carry nothing with me -- or as close to nothing as possible. No laptops, just an iPad; no printouts, no books, they're all on my Kindle. It used to be that when I packed clothes for a work trip, I'd keep asking myself, 'Well, what if I want to wear this? Or this?' and now it's a shift outfit in one, maybe two, colours. (The number of pairs of shoes however, will always be a struggle.) My purse has an iPhone, a comb, wallet, lipstick, and a pen-- if I'm lucky. I don't wear much jewelry; I've even ditched the watch.'
'The thing I always carry with me -- usually in my left front pocket -- is a little snub-nosed two-gigabyte thumb drive. I picked it up at a conference a couple of years ago -- I can't remember where. And the printing on it has eroded so it's impossible to see which organisation had stored its p.r. pitch on it.
'... So why schlep around a little piece of plastic and metal that can only contain a bunch of documents and no video? Why pull it out at airports, put it in the same place at my desk every night, and endure the paranoia of feeling like it is lost a few times a week?
'This isn't where I store personal files, or photos, or videos. No, the drive is almost
exclusively for long-term projects, the kind that are difficult to get to in a day consumed
by tweeting, posting on social media, writing short columns, editing other people's work,
sitting in meetings, and thinking deep thoughts.'
'Like thousands of others who are trapped on the trains for an hour or two a day, I spent much of my time with my smart phone in one hand and my iPad or computer propped on my lap. I'd then fill my time toggling between email, social media, the latest news, and whatever document had the most pressing deadline.
'One day it hit me: Extending workday stresses throughout my commute (I still do a slice of it) was probably doing more to raise my blood pressure than my productivity or
'That's when I decided to start packing a non-volatile, random-access, analogue device
whose origins hark back to 2400 BC. It's called a book.'
'Just as you would never check your iPhone in your luggage, I never check my bathing suit (and cap). I swim every day, so I can't risk losing my luggage and ending up in some exotic location wondering whether it's OK to swim in my underwear.
'It's in the pool that I make decisions about whether to make a trip or an investment, or consider the results of past decisions. I swim without goggles and mostly with my eyes closed so that I can avoid distraction (and so I hate circle swimming). Generally, I swim first thing in the morning. Since I was 18, I have missed about one day a year on average.'
'Every so often, I sit down write out a list of things I don't know and need to understand. This is easily the most important part of my toolkit. Why? Because the list forces me to get out of my own bubble and take a critical look at what's going on around me. It's a bit like the old saying, if you don't admit you have a problem, you'll never find a solution.
'A list like this can also help you get out of your ego. Thanks to social networks, we live in a world filled with positive feedback. Everyone is constantly liking things we post, telling us we're brilliant, and making us feel good. A list of what you don't know is a great antidote to this. It reminds you that Einstein was brilliant, you're not, and there are important things you need to work on.
Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, checks his smartphone around 100 times a day and uses it for just about everything.
'When a technology transcends its features and functionality to form a relationship with
its user, it has reached the Holy Grail to unlock the jackpot of product development and
marketing. I admit it. I have become habituated, if not addicted to my 'mobile' and all of
'In fact, how many times have I left home and tapped my butt for my wallet
and my chest pocket for my phone? I've never gone back for my wallet but I have for
this 'mobile' appendage.'
'How I feel about eating at work changed after I had children. When my two-year-old bursts into tears, he earnestly believes his only problem is a lost Lego. It's hard not to laugh when I tell him 'You're just hungry.'
'I'm no different. It would probably be a kindness to my colleagues if I could suck on a pacifier at gruelling meetings. As we review charts of soaring and sagging revenues, or realise we've made a tactical blunder, I reach for a Jolly Rancher, a tactic I learned
from a friend who keeps Twizzlers in his coat pocket for his partner's cranky moments. Research shows that Israeli judges' likelihood to grant parole declined from 65 per cent after a meal to nearly zero per cent before the next one.'
Even though he's a 'hardcore technologist,' Asana Co-founder Justin Rosenstein says pen and paper is the best possible thing for big ideas.
'Computers are great when information is highly structured, but for brainstorming and early designs, nothing beats writing on paper. And I say that as a hardcore technologist who tracks every tiny detail of my life electronically.
'I don't even use a notebook, just free sheets of paper. They're spread messily across my desk, so I can mix and match them. This helps reinforce that the ideas are ephemeral, so I don't get attached to them and can iterate quickly.
'Physically ripping up pages with the discarded ideas is satisfying. Sometimes I'll throw away a dozen before one starts to feel right. Sometimes I'll lose designs, but this keeps ideas feeling like fresh opportunities, rather than rigid plans that I must follow through on. It's just so much faster to iterate on sketches you can draw in 30 seconds than on complex prose or carefully-drawn images.'
Venture capitalist Chris Fralic never leaves home without his iPad Mini with Logitech keyboard cover.
'I start with the iPad Mini. It's the perfect size to take anywhere, and it runs everything I need, especially Omnifocus (it's like Evernote but especially good for GTD.) Then I found this killer keyboard -- the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad mini -- it's small, light and sturdy, with a magnetic hinge.'
'And when it's closed it provides a lot of protection and looks great - and these two alone are a powerful combination.'
Ben Mangan, CEO of EARN, keeps a photo of the Great Wall of China in his wallet to remind him of essential core values.
'I carry a wallet sized copy of this picture of the Great Wall of China that I took when I visited that wonder of the world in 2006. While I am a fan of grand works, and architecture, I carry this image in my wallet because it is a powerful visual symbol of the four core values that drive my nonprofit organisation EARN ... dignity, prosperity, innovation, and scale.
'A picture is worth a thousand words -- and instead of explaining in great detail why this one image stands as a proxy for these four values, I'll be brief and let you do some interpretation on your own.'
'Pebble may never sell as many watches as Apple has iPads (more than 100 million in three years). But it is easily the most important item I've added to my go bag since the iPad. And it has quickly become the item I use more than any other.
'As I noted in my Reuters review, Pebble doesn't do much -- and that's a good thing. What it does is extremely powerful: It relays messages received on my iPhone to my wrist, alerting me with a gentle vibration nobody else is aware of.
'As a watch it's pretty nifty too. Because it syncs time with your phone you have what amounts to an atomic watch. Unlike your smartphone, Pebble's vibrating alarm wakes only you.'
Tech investor Christopher M. Schroeder keeps a photo of Ellis Island with him to remind him of his roots.
'So I carry also with me something distinctly analogue: a small photograph of Ellis Island around the turn of the century. It reminds not only of where I am from, but how sheer luck has played an enormous part of my life. And it is humbling. Despite my last name, I am the grandson of Italian immigrants.'
'The key to making travel work for you is having an efficient (and portable) system for staying organised. For me that's an analogue Levenger organiser and a digital iPad mini--an ironic, yet completely harmonious pair.
'I used to be purely a spiral notebook girl, scribbling down notes and to-do lists
throughout the day. But carting around a large messy notebook was not the best way
to travel light or stay organised. I'd always end up ripping out a page, and inevitably it
would be gone forever.'
'I've tried bound notebooks and journals but I hate re-reading my notes. I've tried using my phone, but it comes with too much baggage and too many distractions.
'A sheet of blank unbound paper allows me to be constantly editing (i.e. throwing away) the thoughts that aren't important or won't keep their meaning over time. Once I've got the idea down, I distill, reduce, and focus by reading it again and throwing it away. It's liberating to know that the really important stuff will stick.'
'Working with Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Rudy Tanzi, we have created a light and sound mind machine called the Dream Weaver which safely and automatically puts the user into a meditative, relaxed, dream, sleep, creative, or altered state of consciousness. The device is controlled by digital programs I have designed and narrated, with music. When the program ends, you are back to 'normal' except with a smile, a sweet memory, and you are more relaxed. Rudy, I, and many of our friends (some daily meditators and others who never have meditated) now use the device regularly.'
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