Go Paperless as a Digital Nomad

April 3, 2015

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

digital nomadI remember as a kid watching my dad pull out these huge green notepads with horizontal and vertical lines running the length of the paper. These pads were enormous – probably 3 feet by 2 feet rectangles.   He would open up this pad on his huge drafting table and write words along the top and the side. And in the small boxes created by the grid of lines, he would write in numbers. For a small boy of 6-7 years old, it appeared there were millions of these lines.

If you are a business person of my dad’s generation, you know what I’m talking about – spreadsheets.

My dad managed his accounting and other data of a medium-sized construction company using paper spreadsheets and required updating, in pencil, daily. It was an enormous task.

He also adhered to a strict schedule. He was dressed in his slacks and blazer and sitting at his desk by 7:30am Monday – Friday. And come hell or high water, he would sit there until 5:30 every day. He had a secretary and administrative assistant among other office staff and a very old school phone system that required an entire room just for the equipment.

Small meetings were held on the land line phone as no cell phones readily existed in those days. Important meetings were done face-to-face. Every office needed a boardroom.

My dad was an early adopter of technology having the first facsimile machine I had ever heard of and the first home computer of any of my friends. But tradition still required huge green spreadsheet pads, rigid office schedule and boardrooms.

Fast forward to 2015. What a different world we live in today.

Technology has had dramatic effects on our daily lives – both good and bad. For sure if you have kids you are starting to devise laptop, tablet and phone usage rules in order to ensure you actually see your childrens’ faces from time to time.

But if you are taking advantage of technology, it can change the way you conduct business and thus change the way you live your life.

Today there is no need to sit at a desk from 8-5 to produce a real 3 hours worth of work, just for the sake of warming an office chair.

With virtual phone systems like Grasshopper, Evoice and RingCentral there is no reason to be chained to your desk when you can receive calls while sitting on your back deck having a leisurely morning coffee with your teenage daughter.

With the multitude of cloud webinar and conference call services available, you can conduct those face-to-face meetings from the comfort of your home office.

Your Android or Iphone is a virtual powerhouse if you learn to use this tool to its potential. I remember the days when I needed to own a printer and scanner (or combo) in order to print out documents, physically sign them, scan them back and email (or fax for you old schoolers out there) it back to your recipient.

Nowadays I use Android app – CamScanner – to scan my documents and save them to my laptop. On my laptop I then use the full version of NitroPDF to digitally sign the document, save the file and email it to my recipient.

As a digital nomad, this is a huge leap forward in technology that allows me to break the chains of office servitude and live my life on my terms. I can now conduct business that once could only be done with office equipment, or a trip to Kinko’s, all with my laptop and smart phone.

My dad’s secretary used to keep a huge calendar on her desk to track his appointments. She would advise him every morning when he arrived at 7:30am sharp what we had on his agenda for the day. This required the full time salary of the secretary, office space, and a huge paper calendar susceptible to coffee spills and dropped cigarette ashes.

Today, my calendar is managed using Google calendar and TimeTrade. My virtual assistant – who works from home or wherever she feels like – has access to my Google calendar and the ability to add or edit calendar events from her laptop or tablet.

The calendar app on my phone is immediately updated as well as the calendar on my laptop giving me real time access to my schedule whether I am sitting on the beach in Anguilla, a cafe in Budapest, or my living room couch.

My father communicated with his office staff in daily meetings and lunch breaks and field employees on his landline phone all during working hours.

Our company is essentially virtual aside from the trust company and offshore corporate services staff. Otherwise we communicate in real time, nearly for free, using smart phone apps like Whatsapp and Skype.

If necessary, we all have mobile smart phones allowing us to connect very cheaply from across the globe. At any one moment our team can be located in Europe, South America, Central America, Caribbean, or in the US. We can react quickly to client needs and much of it is due to the advancement of technology.

And this technology has also allowed us, and you, to change the way we live our lives. No longer are any of us chained to the desk for 40 hours per week. Certainly there are times we work 40 hours and much more, but we work as demanded by our clients, not as demanded by a dead corporate culture that existed for my dad’s generation.

On occasion I hear people tell me that becoming a digital nomad sounds nice, but it wouldn’t work in their line of work. In some cases, you may be right. But I encourage you to think outside the box and break those mental frames you have put around yourself and consider creative options.

I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago in Scottsdale, Arizona speaking to a group of 75 successful entrepreneurs from around the globe.

Most of these entrepreneurs ran some type of online business that allowed them the freedom to live and work from anywhere in the world.

There were several people in the room running Amazon stores using their fulfillment services and thus didn’t ever touch a product. They simply sourced the product from the contract manufacturer, had it shipped to the Amazon warehouse and it was delivered direct to the client’s door. All managed from a laptop and smart phone.

There were others running very cool digital product business in the health and fitness and the personal development space. All done virtually.

However there was one that caught my attention. I’ve known this guy for a while but haven’t seen him in about 5 years. I remember when he started on his journey to become a digital nomad. His passion was exploring the world with his new wife and seeing new places every 2-3 months. He built his work environment around the lifestyle he wanted.

His profession – industrial engineer. This is a profession that is hundreds – one could even say thousands – of years old. There is probably no other profession in this world with more old school systems and processes set in stone.

But my friend bucked the trend. Several years ago he went to his boss at the firm he worked for and made a proposal. I don’t know the details, but basically he asked his boss to fire him, then re-hire him as a contract engineer.

His boss was clearly reluctant, but knew he could either just end the contract at any time, or my friend would come back to the office. The deal was he would work from anywhere and do his project work from his laptop in a place of his choosing. He would adhere to strict deadlines, but the job would be performance based, not based on hours glued to a cubicle chair.

Fast forward a few years and now my friend is tremendously successful with a few contract engineers working for him – also virtual – and several clients sending him projects every month.

None of this would be possible 30, 20 or even 10 years ago – or at least it would be significantly harder and cost prohibitive. Not to mention the burden on lifestyle having to find workarounds for so many of his daily tasks.

Life is meant to be lived. Your work is meant to be enjoyable and rewarding, not burdensome. There has never been a better time in the history of mankind to break those office chains and become a digital nomad.

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