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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 July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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