Hopefully you haven’t noticed that PE has sorta been on autopilot for the last two weeks. I’ve been immersed in several projects, one of which just culminated in a trip to New York City to speak at an annual event that my professional organization, the Society of Actuaries, holds annually. That’s right; I’m an actuary by day. Bear with me.

I won’t bore you with the details of my day job or my recent presentation, which is mostly not relevant to PE. Instead, I thought you might be interested in the tools I used on my trip, or more importantly, how I used them.  Maybe it'll help you the next time you hit the road or hop through the clouds.

The iPad

This was the first time I’ve ever attended a conference and not printed anything. I didn’t even carry a pen with me. Not once was it a problem. It felt great walking around with only the iPad under my arm. No fumbling with piles of paper or bulky ring binders. Even better, I didn’t have to worry about getting my paper notes back home for future reference.

There were three iPad apps that I found particularly useful.

iThoughtsHD was my main note-taking app. Mind maps really are a perfect way to take notes when you have no clue where your notes are going but they all revolve around a central concept. In this case, I used a fairly simple mind map to keep up with things like session notes, people that I met, and other random thoughts-turned-text.

The iOS Calendar app made it easy to keep up with sessions and other important events.

I used GoodReader to keep my PDF handouts organized. GoodReader also came in handy while I was giving my presentation. While I usually avoid reading off of “cue cards,” there are certain things like panelist introductions that I want to make sure I get absolutely right. I created a few PDFs of my notes for quick reference in GoodReader. Worked great.

I probably sold a few iPads for Apple over the course of the week. Several people approached me and asked how I liked the iPad as a paper substitute. When I showed them how well GoodReader worked and its annotation abilities, I think they were sold.

The MacBook Pro

I love the portability and “instant-on-ness” of my iPad, but I still think my MacBook Pro is critical for any work involving lots of typing – or for working on things like presentations that are still pretty much “read only” on the iPad (as far as I’m concerned).

One of my favorite aspects of Mac OS is not how well it works but how well it sleeps. I can close the lid anytime and have confidence that my work will be right where I left it – ideal for traveling situations where you typically only get small bursts of time in front of your screen. The ten hour battery life is also huge while traveling.

The MiFi

I reviewed the Virgin Mobile MiFi earlier this year. I’m still a fan.

Virgin Mobile currently offers an unlimited data plan for only $40. Folks, if you travel at all, this is a no-brainer. The conference room Wi-Fi at my hotel was an absurd $100 per day. The Wi-Fi in the rooms was $15 per day.

For some reason in the US, the more expensive the hotel, the more á la carte and expensive the internet connectivity. For a one-time, contract-free cost of $40, you can avoid that whole racket and work on a secure network to boot.

iPad + MacBook Pro + MiFi + Dropbox = the everywhere tool set

Together, these four tools gave me everything I needed. I was able to work on the MacBook Pro, get online using the MiFi, and Dropbox was my file system in the sky.

Though my devices weren’t physically connected, they were seamlessly bound by Dropbox. I find it very empowering that I can choose any hardware I want on a whim and know that my data will just be there. Dropbox is truly magical, and I can't recommend it enough.

So what about you?

Tell me about how you get things done on the road or in the air.

Has the iPad changed your mobile workflows?