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Trial by Fire Productivity – The Unexpected

Trial by Fire Productivity – The Unexpected
Hard Disk

    This post is part of the Trial By Fire Productivity series.

    True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.” ~ Tom Robbins

    This wasn’t the entry I expected to post this week.

    Last week the death rattle of my hard drive whirred loudly, and the drive crashed. It happens. I suppose it could have been much worse.

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    But it taught me a few things – first being that any productivity system must have contingencies in place and be “prepared to be disrupted.” This is a lesson I learned several years ago when I lost a good amount of important data, because I wasn’t prepared. So fortunately this time, I was.

    The Backup Plan

    Though I’m not really a pessimist, I sometimes expect the worse. Last week, I was glad that I did. I had all my data backed up in 2 places. I also had my profiles for Thunderbird and Firefox, along with some other tools, backed up as well. That, along with my Web-based tools, allowed me to simply move to a backup machine, and pick up where I left off. All within a few minutes.

    Using the free SyncBack utility, I keep all my computers backed up on a server, and 2 external drives. Sometimes I think it’s overkill, but when I heard the familiar click-and-whirr of a dying drive, I didn’t get that sick feeling. I didn’t panic. I had everything backed up.

    Almost everything…

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    The Recovery

    My last backup ran the night before, and the crash happened the next evening. So I had the day’s email and work on the dying drive.

    I grabbed my Ultimate Boot CD and used it to recover my mail files, copying them to a flash drive. Then, when that stopped working, I used an old trick that worked before. I stuck the drive in the freezer.

    Now, this is sometimes considered to be a tech myth, but it’s the second time it’s worked for me. A drive that won’t mount, and is not recognized, suddenly has 15 minutes or so of its life back. I’m not recommending it, for obvious reasons. It will most likely void your warranty, and may screw up the rest of your machine. I’m just saying, though possibly stupid, it worked for me.

    I loaded a Knoppix Live CD to view the drive and move the remaining files over.

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    The New Drive

    Out of frustration comes opportunity – and a larger hard drive.

    I looked at it as a chance to configure the drive to operate better for my workflow. I partitioned the drive for dual boot – Ubuntu and WinXP. This time, I did something I’d wanted to do for a while. I created a shared place for my Linux home folder and all my shared info and profiles. This allows me to use the same mail folder and settings for Thunderbird, and the same profile, extensions, and bookmarks for Firefox.

    Using the Ext2 Installable File System program I can access the Ext3 formatted drive from Windows, and have one repository for both partitions.

    Though the episode was a hassle, I ended up with a more efficient way to work.

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    The Verdict: I highly recommend not having your hard drive crash. Of course, that’s not something you can control. So the best alternative is to have a good backup and recovery plan. Then follow it.

    Alternatives: There are as many ways to plan backup and recovery as there are ways of working. The important thing is to find something that works for you and is relatively effortless. This will ensure that it gets done regularly and becomes a habit.

    Other Entries in this Series

    Tony D. Clark is an entrepreneur, writer, and artist who spends a lot of time talking others into profiting from what they know, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest provides inspiration, tips, and advice for the home-based entrepreneur and those aspiring to be one – all served up with humor and cartoons.

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    Tony D. Clark

    Tony is the blog owner of "Success from the Nest". He aspires to help people do meaningful work and reach their dreams.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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