There’s No Subsitute For Pen And Paper

This past week, I was happily chugging away on my laptop, when suddenly, things went very wrong. The first sign of trouble was that one of my applications simply closed without warning or error. Next, upon trying to launch the program again, I was told that Windows couldn’t find the application in question. Not good…

Soon after, Launchy (an excellent program, by the way) completely tanked, and could not be restarted. Within around thirty seconds, icons on my desktop began spontaneously disappearing, until finally the entire Explorer desktop just vanished.

At this point I frantically tried to power off my computer, hoping that I can attach the drive later and recover some data. After successfully hard-powering my laptop, and placing it safely off to the side, I had a friend begin to download the latest SystemRescue CD.

But in the mean time, what was I to do? My job is highly computer centric, between e-mail and endless project planning details. But the productivity geek in me found it totally unacceptable to merely sit around while I was awaiting some technical resolution. So, what is one to do?

  1. Get Back To Your Lists
    I borrowed a friend’s computer long enough to access Remember The Milk (a nice benefit of using a cloud app for tracking your lists) and printed out my Next Action list. While I could have filtered for tasks with a context other than “@computer”, I chose not to, since many of those tasks may not actually require a computer (but were marked only as a preference).
  2. Cover Your Bases
    I also stayed on my borrowed computer long enough to set an out of office response. While I could have stood by the window and gotten good enough Blackberry reception to get e-mail, it would have been highly inefficient as a response device. Better to eliminate all unnecessary obstacles and stay focused.
  3. Take The Sure Things First
    I started out by taking care of anything that could be done on the phone or face-to-face. This way, I can leave later time clear for those tasks that truly required use of a computer.
  4. Pull Out The Old Moleskine
    While I prefer to use tools such as FreeMind for tasks involving planning or brainstorming, in this case I found the old pen and paper almost as useful. There’s something strangely rewarding in scribbling notes and free-drawing mind-maps; the physicality of it makes it really feel like you are accomplishing something. I just might have to do this more often, even with the computer around.

In the end, I had a highly productive morning; time was not wasted, projects moved forward, and decisions were made. Because of this, I was able to grant myself permission to spend most of the afternoon performing a haphazard recovery of my hard disk (thank you SystemRescue CD and Linux), without feeling guilty about neglecting my other duties.

So what’s your DR (that’s Disaster Recovery in IT lingo) plan? If you’re computer, iPhone, or other technological “necessity” went down today, how would you handle it? After reading this post, hopefully not by running wildly about your office, screaming at the poor Help Desk folks to hurry up. Trust me, they do things much faster when not poked and prodded too often. 🙂