following my own advice

estimated 6 min read

At first I wondered how to write today’s post. I planned to write on the contrast of “old penny to new penny”. For much of my life, anything that has a deadline (written projects, proposals, knitting), basically I’ve done everything except being born* under intense deadline and while procrastinating as much as I can. My husband does not quite understand procrastination. We’re both currently in school (part time) going for more alphabet soup to attach to our names. He often completes his assignments early so he can work on every and anything else. Last year, my first year in the program, I had considerable writing obligations but still left the bulk of the major projects to the last minute. In the spring term I ended up with very late nights (almost all nighters) and I’m too old for it. The recovery time was substantial, I didn’t enjoy it and the projects suffered as a result. I’ve been determined this term not to do that.

For the most part I have succeeded. One instructor asked for the weekly written assignments to be electronically submitted by noon the day of class or by paper in class (six hours later). I submitted every single assignment electronically by the deadline. Most were submitted by 11pm the evening before. The presentations for the final projects in this course began last week and continue on the last class this Tuesday evening. I actually volunteered to go first. My preparations for the presentation were a little procrastinated but I volunteered in order to complete as much work as I could so I could have some feedback and additional time to work on the paper for this course and the other one I’m taking.

I have spent much of Saturday evening finalizing the edits to the paper. It is due Tuesday. Thus, I have the bulk of it written and edited several days in advance. There is a second component to it which does need additional work, but the key pieces are in place. Early. This is strange.

Let me jump a bit to clarify the next bit of the story.

I haven’t written much here about what I do to pay the bills. I am a teacher by genetics, a geek and computer scientist by undergraduate major; a writer, musician, and cognitive scientist by fantasy (one of them is coming true). Attached to one hat I wear is a fancy title which in essence means that I need to be the expert and boss in every and anything dealing with technology. It is a field that has grown exponentially in the past five years, especially for the specific industry in which I work. I also have a very small “technology consulting company” which is still figuring out exactly what it (and I) want to do when we grow up, right now we’re focusing on teaching. Across various gigs I have done my fair share (over a decade’s worth at this point) of tech support.

What is one of the largest most important mantras to follow? (It’s also one I wrote about in this project!)

Backup. Backup. Backup. (aka Save. Save. Save.)

I recall hitting save and even closing Word (to write the file completely to disk) [it’s an evil program, but I needed to do things only it can do] several times during the evening.

As I pressed save in preperation to send my final edits to this draft to my editor (my wonderful husband), the program crashed.

Words which I do not wish to memorialise were uttered. I started at disbelieve at the crash screen. I was pissed, to say the least.

I stood, walked across the room and somewhat calmly asked my husband to copy any autosave files he could because I was going to go cry for a while.

He looked at me as if I were successfully speaking Czech and continued his coding (for fun, he’s going for an MBA. You can find some of his projects at his site).

I went into the bedroom and laid face-down on the bed stretching and wanting to both scream and cry. I have recently taken out books and DVDs on Pilates. I need to work on my strength and flexibility. After counting to 10 I went into the kitchen to do what most people would do in this situation, though possibly with a different substance.

Last night it saved several lives, of people and computers.

life saver

I poured myself a shot of Slivovitz. We’re not large drinkers in this house so my options were pretty limited (having used the last of the wine for havdalah). I probably would’ve poured a shot of pure wheat-gluten at that point, I did contemplate drinking from the bottle. I did some additional stretches at the counter, counted to 42 (the answer to everything), walked back to my desk and sat back down.

I copied (twice) all the auto-backup files Word created in the past 24 hours. I opened the one with the latest modification time and realized that 100% of my contextual changes were there, I was missing only a few formatting changes. I fixed those, saved it, and created about thirty backups.

This is not the first time I have lost a paper for me by not following simple mantras and common sense. This is one of the smallest papers I’ve lost and with the most potential recovery time. The worst was during undergrad. I was using a version control system and I blew away my master directory at 3am one morning. This, by contrast, was not a long document, about 4200 words, but I had made significant edits. Additionally, I believe this paper is laying the groundwork for my final masters thesis and my own business model. So it’s important. to loose those changes was the kick I both needed and dreaded. I expect some of you will begin to hear more of it in drips and drabs as I need advice and testing on parts of it. Right now it’s an ugly swatch and needs more refinement until I show anyone.

Ok. It’s December, how was your November? Did you do nanowrimo? I have a confession to make. I didn’t tell you the truth. I really did do it. I was scared I’d fail if I told anyone in advance. I didn’t. I came no where close to failing (I finished on Thursday, and yes there are trillions of backups). I think that this year I actually have a plot of sorts. I’m not sure how readable and interesting the plot is and no, you can’t see it now, but suffice it to say it involves journals, women, space [travel, new planets], and the environment.

I think overall I had a productive November. Few of my projects are disastrously far behind, among other things I launched a successful project for a client, I wrote over 50,000 words, and I didn’t loose much sleep for any of this.

* I was born about 3 months early, I guess since I didn’t procrastinate THAT I’ve spent the rest of my life catching up on the procrastination. ;)

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One Reply to “following my own advice”

  1. Good for you. I know learning to finish things early is tough. Eventually you will may get to the point where you do things so early that you forget that you have done them, and then panic that you haven’t. *grin*

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