I know many people who have easily lost a week of their valuable time because of a technology glitch. If you are willing to invest time and money on technology to make you more productive, you need to make sure you don’t wipe out all of the productivity gains through an unexpected failure of your equipment.
The following list covers 10 things you can do to minimize the impact of of Murphy’s Law on your productivity:
- Expect things to go wrong. This seems simple, but most people are far too optimistic about technology. You need to assume that, at some point, your hard drive is going to crash, your cell phone will be stolen, your PDA will lose all of its information, etc. Now, maybe not all of those things will happen, but over the period of a few years, it is fairly certain that some device will malfunction.
- Back up Your Whole Computer. If you rely on your computer, you need to have a plan in place of exactly how you will deal with failure or theft. If someone was to steal your computer right now, how long would it take for you to be back up and productive again? I personally use a bootable backup solution that lets me bring my entire computer up on another machine if necessary. This means I can be up and running my latest backup within about 5 minutes.
- Keep a Standby Computer. This might seem too expensive, but my standby computer is an old red iMac that I bought on eBay for $175. It is slow, but I can have it up and running just like my laptop in about 5 minutes.
- Back up Your Documents. In addition to backing up your whole computer, you should have backups of your documents. I generally try to burn all of my important files to a DVD once a month, label them with the date and store them off site in a lock box or other safe place. This provides an option, if you accidentally delete a file and months later (after it has been removed from your full computer backup) find that you need it again.
- Back up Your Phone Address Book. Cell phones are becoming a very valuable database of information. Over the course of a year, a busy person can easily accumulate hundreds of names and numbers. Unless you plan ahead, that information can be lost with your phone. An easy solution is to sync your phone with your computer address book. Not only does this make sure you have a backup, but it makes it easy to enter new names and addresses from your computer keyboard which may be much faster than typing on the number pad.
- Write Down Your Phone Configuration. If you have an advanced phone, you may have had to do some configuration to get it up and running. For example, setting up a Blackberry phone can require quite a few steps to get right. If your phone is stolen or reset, do you know the steps to get it backup and running again. Keeping simple notes of how you configured your phone can save you hours of hassle later on.
- Keep Important Numbers. Right now, if your cell phone was stolen, would you know what number to call in order to have it switched off or located? Most of us rely on dialing 611 to get a hold of our wireless provider, but of course that only works when you have the phone. What if your laptop was stolen? would you be able to locate the serial number to give to the police? If your laptop required repair while you were traveling, would you have the number of the company to call about getting it repaired? A simple list of important numbers can save you a lot of time when something goes wrong. Here are some of the things you should be able to easily locate:
- Serial numbers for all your devices.
- Company numbers for all devices, including repair, warranty or service numbers.
- Passwords and login information for on-line services.
- Backup dial-up telephone numbers so you can get to the Internet if your cable modem or DSL line is down. These may come from your ISP, or your employer may have some dial-in modems for use during an outage.
- Back up Your PDA. Like a phone, your PDA probably can be synchronized with your computer. Make sure you know how to restore the data in case it gets reset and you need to reload the data.
- Install Anti-virus. Since I use a Mac, I don’t have much problem dealing with mal-ware on my computer. If you are using Windows, you need to make sure you spend the money on getting some good protection against virus and spy-ware.
- Keep Extra Power Adapters. Power adapters are one of the more common parts to fail on a laptop because they get so much use being bent and moved around. Keeping extra power adapters helps make sure you aren’t unable to get into your computer at an important time. I find it works well to have one power adapter at my desk where I do most of my work and the other in my bag. That way, I never leave without the adapter, and I don’t have to crawl under the desk every time I come back.
Most of these items are commons sense, but there are probably a few items that you might be overlooking currently. A small amount of preparation can prevent a huge loss of productivity in the future.
Originally published on October 8, 2006.