In this episode, Drew talks in-depth about the tools that made productive work possible during a 7-month long trip across the globe with his family.
EXCLUSIVE RESOURCE: Prefer to read rather than listen? Click here to download the text transcribe from this episode.
- 19 Online tools that made it possible to work and travel for 7 months
- Productivity tips and hacks for combining work with travel
Links / Resources
- Download my list of Top Nerd Travel Tools
- Worldwide101 (Mention Drew sent you and get 20% off your first month)
- Sovereign man
Prefer to read rather than listen to the podcast episode? No problem, you can request the text transcribe and I will send it to you as a PDF.
Drew:Hey everybody. Drew Sanocki here with the Nerd Marketing podcast. This is an early morning podcast. I’m recording this at 4:30am because I am on the West Coast and I’m still on East Coast time. Got up this morning at the nice time of 3:00 a.m. I don’t even have my kids here with me to get me up, so what else would I want to do at zero dark thirty but bust out a podcast?
I’m here working on a big deal, and more on that in an upcoming podcast episode. Today, I know I promised everybody my top tools, my top travel tools. These are apps and tools and gadgets and cool things that I really appreciated when I spent seven months on the road with my family going to Europe over the last year. We’re about to go to Asia. We’re thinking of a trip to Asia again for another six or seven months. These things are going to be in my travel bag or on my laptop or on my phone. They really help run my business remotely. I think I mentioned in the last episode that one of the visions I have is running an iPad business or being an iPad leader. What that just means is I want to be able to run everything off the iPad. I don’t want to do it on my computer.
Initially I laughed when I saw these kind of senior private equity guys show up at board meetings just with their iPads, but now I get it. There’s nothing better than getting on an airplane with just your iPad and a small bag of your clothes and just kind of sitting down, preferably in first class or business class, you take out the iPad, do a little bit of work, watch a couple videos, watch some Seinfeld and that’s it. I don’t want to be hunched over a laptop the rest of my life so iPad leadership is kind of what I’m going for and that really has helped inform some of these tools.
I started out to do a list of about 12. I think I ended up with a list of, I don’t know, I want to say 30 or so. Too many to go into in this podcast, so what I’m going to do is highlight some of my favorites on the podcast and then you can go to the show notes and download a PDF that has the whole 30, many of which you probably know about, but I think what I tried to do here is be a little bit different from the standard Tim Ferris bio life hacking stuff and just talk about what a typical dad might appreciate on a trip or a typical parent.
So, without further ado, SaneBox. Let me start with SaneBox, which I’ve talked about before. It’s an app to help you manage email. The primary benefit is fewer interruptions, right? It’s like reduced information that you have to process on a daily basis. This holds true if you’re traveling, it holds true if you are going into your office every day, but there’s a lot of evidence that shows that the more information you’ve got to process, your willpower goes down, you just kind of get beaten down and stressed out.
The beauty of SaneBox is you can configure it, or when configured the proper way, you can open your inbox at any time and all you see is the most important stuff and it’s typically, in my case, I’ve got the thing so dialed that it’s like three or four emails that I need to respond to at any one time. If I open it at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 p.m., middle of the night, it’s just the most important things. At a later time I can batch everything else. This is where I throw in the joke about emails from my mom, right? Goes into Sane Later, which is the folder that I process once a week, once every other week. And, you know, initially I was scared that that approach of just like handling a couple emails a day and batching everything else would somehow detract from my effectiveness or get people pissed off and it’s just not the case. You can batch your email once a week and the world, typically, will not notice unless, of course, it’s the people at your business, the people who need a response to something from you if you’re the CEO or the founder and in that case they just go into the in box. I really like the filtering, I love the ability to batch.
They’ve got a couple other functions there you can just very quickly unsubscribe to something without dealing with clicking through the email and go into a site where you’ve got to reenter your email and unsubscribe. They’ve got a folder called Sane News, so all my news goes in there. It kind of becomes like an Instapaper sort of read later folder for me where I just kind of, when I’ve got some time on an airplane or when my kids are asleep I just kind of catch up on news.
If you want to really level up your SaneBox, it’s got the ability to delegate access to an assistant. So, in my case, Audrey, from Worldwide 101. I get her in there and then she can start chipping away at all my later emails. She takes it to the next level, so she goes into my batch folder and she’ll just say, “Look. These guys over here want meetings. I’m going to treat them one way. These people,” maybe it’s like podcast requests, “these people over here, I don’t know what they want from Drew. Maybe Drew needs to take a look at those.” But whatever. She goes into that folder and she and I have worked on certain SOPs or standard operating procedures where she triages and she knows that people who want to have a meeting with me she can schedule that meeting. She knows when I want the meetings. She knows, in the case of when we were traveling, she knows when we’re going to be near a wifi or when we’re going to be at a hotel and I could also batch my meetings, batch my calls. So, man, SaneBox plus an assistant or a virtual assistant is just really going to level up. It’s probably my number one tip in general for personal productivity because in box is such a bear that takes you down if you don’t get control of it.
Let’s move on. Multiple passports. I’m going to go a little bit James Bond here. I have a second passport. I am a U.S. citizen. I’m also the citizen of another country. How did that happen? I don’t … I speak very crappy French, so if you know me, I’m obviously not anything other than an American. I think … I started looking at this after I sold my company. One of the first things that happens when you sell a company is you immediately get very defensive and you start thinking like, “I just got this big bulk payment and I don’t want to lose that.” You become a little bit more risk averse. You start thinking about things like taxation. You start thinking about things like what happens if the financial system goes to hell in a hand basket? What do I do with my assets? How do I live in an environment? Because this is very common outside the U.S. Look at Venezuela, look at countries where there are runs on the bank and just all sorts of … Or the federal government kind of repatriates 401(k)s.
I can geek out on this stuff, but at the end of the day it’s just about managing risk, and so one of the things I started looking into was foreign citizenship. The rationale would be that if I’ve got two passports or two citizenships, at any time I could pick up my family and move to another country and could do it as a citizen. I could punch out of … I talked about punching out of various systems in the last episode, but I could punch out of the citizenship system. I could also just live legally in a foreign country forever.
So that was the idea. I started looking into it and really there are a number of ways to get foreign passports. If you’ve got enough financial resources you can basically buy your own foreign passport in a number of countries, usually in the Caribbean. That’s not the route I went. I went a different route, which is a little easier and cheaper, which is you figure out your family history and your lineage and certain countries, mine was in Europe, certain countries allow for you to claim citizenship if you effectively can track your lineage back to that country and show that, in my case, my great grandparents came to the U.S. and had their kids before they were naturalized as American citizens and so technically the European citizenship passed down all the way through to me.
It was a pain in the ass to be honest with you, to get the second passport. It took maybe two years of me working with a consultant and submitting various paperwork and translating these into the native tongue and submitting stuff to government agencies to get evidence of naturalization and birth and death certificates. But at the end of the day, that FedEx envelope shows up and I open it up and I’ve got a passport from another country. I then had my kids get their foreign passports. My wife is now in the process of getting hers and so we, as a unit, can travel as Europeans. I won’t say the country, but we can roll into the E.U., any E.U. country, take out the foreign passports and, I don’t know, if any of you have gone to Europe you know there are usually two lines to get into a country, one for E.U. citizens and one for everybody else, and the everybody else line is the longest line you’ve ever seen.
The small, minor, immediate benefit is that you can breeze through security but there’s a lot of other things that go on behind the scenes that you have the ability now to stay there indefinitely, own assets in a foreign country, live in a foreign country, you don’t need a visa, own real estate there, I could go on and on. There’s … I began my search on this site called Sovereign Man. I’ll put a link in the show notes to the page that kind of got me started. If you can do this, great travel benefit.
Next travel hack or tool would be the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. No, this is not a ploy for me to get a bunch of affiliate links to Chase Sapphire. I really didn’t care about point systems. I thought it was such a pain in the ass. I thought my buddies who were really into hacking points were just spending a lot of time, useless time that you could spend on a number of other things and, boy, was I wrong. Part of it was that I’m married to a travel editor, so she, as part of her job, is just up on every point system and has probably had me in 10 or more credit cards over the past couple of years just hacking this.
The primary benefit is miles points. Who cares about those? Well, just the ability to fly cross, from the U.S. to Europe business class or first class in a nice Lufthansa jet, I can’t describe how awesome that is. For me, I can never sleep on a plane. I can’t sleep on a plane and my brother told me the big reason is because your body likes to have your feet elevated or something about blood flow, but he’s totally right. You go first or business class you can lay down, you can sleep.
Yes, I had a two year old and a four year old in first class and it was probably the biggest douche bag thing I ever did because you see everybody getting on the plane and they’re like, “Oh, this asshole puts his kids in first class.” I’m like, “Well, I did it through miles.” I should have made a sign that I did it through miles. That was worth it because if you’ve got small kids it’s insane traveling with kids on a plane and they just go nuts and you’re talking about six or seven hours on a plane. We’re going to go to Asia. That’s a nine hour flight. I’m going to flying in business or first class for that reason, just to get those guys on an iPad, get them on the movies and then I don’t have to deal with my family or my children for nine hours, which is always the end goal. I mean, that’s always the end goal.
So, Chase Sapphire Reserve I’ve found is the best when you are really into travel. You get three times points for travel, so you book a plane, you book a hotel, you get three times the points. Some of the better benefits for me, it costs about four or five hundred bucks to get the card, but you get a credit towards global entry or TSA pre. Man, is that worth it. You go to any U.S. airport now you can register for TSA pre. You can go in the speedier line. That’s one. You travel internationally, you come back to the U.S., you know what a major pain in the ass it is to get back into this country if you’re an American citizen. Maybe this is just JFK in New York City, but the line goes through three terminals. And that’s Americans coming back to the U.S. It’s an embarrassment. It’s a national embarrassment, but at the very least, global entry lets you cut that line and go through quicker.
You also get membership to lounges. Before I had kids, I never would have appreciated the beauty of an airport lounge. I thought it was unnecessary. I mean, you get free wifi indoors, outdoors, but it’s the food, it’s the ability to park the kids and you to have a drink or something and chill out. The priority pass lounge network is available in most airports around the world, so I love that. No foreign exchange fees, there’s just a lot of benefits to this card. I would go with Chase Sapphire Reserve and the second one that I use for the rest of my business is Chase, Inc. Both of those are just awesome cards for accruing points. The hack, the ultimate hack, everybody listening to this probably runs their own business. The hack is you’ve got to run your Facebook ads through these things, or your paid ads, because that’s the way you get miles really quickly. Make sure you’re accruing them on a card and really just great benefit there.
What else do I have here? I talked about Audrey before, my assistant. She works with a group called Worldwide101 and this is probably the number one thing I would do if I were making over 100k a year. If you’re taking that out of your business every year, you need a personal assistant. There are a number of ways to go with this. Ari Meisel over at Less Doing was the guy who kind of got me started down the road of personal assistants. There are basically two different types. One is dedicated. That means you have one person who is assigned to you. The other is, I don’t know if you want to call distributed, but that means it’s a team and there are benefits of both.
The distributed one, I played around with one called Fancy Hands, fancyhands.com. I still have a membership there. That is a team of VAs, or virtual assistants, all over the world that respond to your requests. The beauty of that is I could give them something during this podcast and they would be done with it by the end of the podcast. Now, I can’t give then anything. I don’t know where they get these people, but they’re not, I don’t want to say they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, but they’re just like a Google search plus. So basically find me a restaurant near my hotel or get all this data into a spreadsheet and, boom, they’re going to crank on it and crank on it quickly. That’s the dispersed team or the team approach.
The dedicated is, in my case, Audrey. You have one assistant assigned to you and he or she gets to know you. They get to know your preferences, they get to know your schedule and you can just go deeper with that assistant. In my case, give them bank accounts, give them access to everything in my business. They get to know my family. They know my wife is gluten-free. They know when everybody’s birthdays are. They can proactively then come to you and suggest gifts or ways to help out. That’s a dedicated. I’m actually using both now and I really like this ability to use both and make the Fancy Hands app available to Audrey so everything, in my case, pipes through Audrey. Audrey then can manage most of the contractors for my business. She can manage Fancy Hands. There’s a more premium version of Fancy Hands called Leverage, which Ari at Less Doing came up with. That’s also an excellent solution.
But, yeah, get a virtual assistant and the primary benefit is just really going to free you up. It’s going to free up your time. It’s going to allow you to do things like, well, here’s a couple things that I talk about. From traveling, and also from running a business, blowing up my schedule. I know that all the SAS guys are into Calendly or Book With Me or all these various online booking systems. They think it’s so cool, like send me a link to schedule with you. I get that. I’ve tried them, but my schedule’s just way too fluid. Okay, three situations. Number one, I might be traveling and we decide to leave two or three days early because this island sucks or something, and I’ve got to blow up my schedule. Calendly or the online scheduling apps don’t allow you to blow up your schedule with one Slack message. In my case I can email Audrey and say, “Blow up Thursday.” She just knows to go in and just reschedule the whole thing, reschedule them for other days. So that’s probably the first reason I love her.
The second reason why I’d want to blow up my schedule is I’m working and you just get too many meetings or something and you need to blow up a day. The third is, in my case, emotional energy. After certain days I might just be spent. I might just be having a great time with my family and I just can’t deal. I can’t deal with meetings tomorrow, and just the ability to move them all with one bulk message is pretty empowering. You can control your schedule. I would highly recommend doing it through a virtual assistant. If you get to the level you can have a full time one, in my case, Worldwide101 is great. It’s a great compromise between Fancy Hands and having a full-time one. They’ve got various programs where you can buy hours, but, yeah, can’t recommend that enough.
Another app that I use all the time to manage my VA is Loom. Loom is a screen sharing app or just a very quick video recording app. I’ve found that the best way to work with Audrey is through developing standard operating procedures. It’s really the best way to work with anyone. I have her build out a standard operating procedure for everything she does, whether it’s processing my email, getting a podcast together, getting a flight reservation. She knows my preferences, she knows how to do it, she knows all my mileage programs. That all goes in the SOP.
The critical thing you need to do is have that person manage and update the SOP so you don’t have to do it. You do it, you’re going to get overwhelmed by all the work you need to do, but have them manage that SOP. What that allows is, number one, consistent service, consistent expectations, just the same thing happening every time.
Number two, constant improvement. As you update those SOPs, they become more advanced and really you become more and more effective over time. I would say number three, it’s really scalability. In the event that Audrey decided to leave Worldwide101 or whatever, I want to integrate more assistants into my business, then she can just hand that SOP on to somebody else. There’s been numerous examples where she’s gone on vacation herself and someone else has stepped right into her shoes and hasn’t missed a beat. Think of like Upwork and Odesk and the amount of time you put in to finding somebody to do SEO or to update blog posts or to do something like that. And then you train them and they punch out or they flake, and then you’ve got to go train somebody else.
This is why you use SOPs. I just use Evernote for mine. You can use Google Docs, but Loom is a great way, getting back to Loom, where I started this, is a great way to kind of get the message across and, in my case, screen shares. Say I’m booking a flight on JetBlue. I’ll pop open a screen share, a Loom screen share, and I’ll just talk to Audrey. I’ll say, “Look. Here’s what I want. Here’s the flights, here’s where I enter my TSA pre. Here are my seat preferences.” I fire that video off to her and she just creates an SOP from it. I do that all the time. I do it in WordPress, I do it in Slack. I just do it in every app that I use to kind of train people how I want things done. It’s just a hell of a lot quicker than typing it out into an email. So, Loom. Check it out.
Let’s see. Let’s conclude with more of a fun one here. This is not an app, but it’s more of a piece of hardware. I love my Perch laptop stand. I am in my mid forties. I’m starting to get hunched. My head is starting to come out of the front of my chest instead of off the top, which is not ideal. I am really trying to make a point of standing up while I work and just having good posture in general. I’ve got a Mac Air, so it’s very small, and if it’s on a desktop I’ve got to hunch over to look at this thing. The Perch laptop stand kind of kicks it up to head height. The benefit is I feel a lot better using it for any period of time, number one, and number two, it’s light. It’s made of lightweight plastic. I could fold that thing up and throw it in my travel bag. I use that thing everywhere. I crank it out, brought an external keyboard with me and it was just a really nice kind of convenient portable laptop setup.
So, there are some tools. Again, this is just the top of the iceberg of things I found to be useful. If you want to give a skim to the 30 or so that I really couldn’t live without, just go to the podcast notes and we’ll put a PDF in there with all the links and stuff.
Hope you enjoyed it. It’s sort of a departure from the Nerd Marketing stuff, but hey, I found this stuff useful in running my business. Hope you guys do, too. I’ll talk to you next time. Thanks.