This article is part two of two in the series What You Can Learn from a Broken Computer.
Last time I explained that my computer broke and that I was upset, but still took comfort in the fact that I had everything backed up. This time, I’d like to talk about how I managed my downtime between computers.
For a little while this week, I didn’t have any computer to use at work, and there wouldn’t be a loaner ready for me for a few hours (a fact I didn’t discover until I was actually at work). Luckily, I’d brought my iPad, which is a great device for what it does; I soon found that as great as it is, it has even greater limitations (we’ll get to those later).
Having little access to the things you do on a daily basis forces you to look at things from a different perspective. I discovered after just a few minutes that reliance on technology can force your perspective in a certain direction, or at least limit it. As soon as technology was taken from me, I realized that I relied on it for more than just simple tasks; I needed it to do my thinking for me.
Rather than using my brain to solve my problems, I had spent way more time searching for solutions online until I found one that seemed suitable, or instead of writing an article about something I knew personally, it was often easier to find an article about a subject I found a website and put a new spin on it. This method required a lot less thinking than writing something on my own, and it seemed that my brain had gone soft as it walked around on digital crutches.
The time I spent without my computer was different. I suddenly had to manage my downtime effectively and determine how I could complete tasks with the limited resources I had. Losing technology is a great exercise in problem solving since you no longer have such a large web of safety to catch you if you can’t quite solve a problem on your own.
Having temporarily limited resources is also a fascinating way to look at disaster planning. It’s likely that regardless of your best efforts to plan for anything and everything, certain things still might not work in an emergency and you’ll be forced to either continue with fewer resources or suffer from the downtime.
But where will you be when you’ve become so reliant on daily conveniences that you forget how to innovate?
For me, innovation simply meant doing my day to day tasks, but differently. I broke out a pad, a pen, a few books, and some whale-oil candles and started partying like it was 1799 just to hand-write some blog posts (Ok, I’ll admit I cheated a little with my iPad). But for someone in the IT industry, it might mean setting up temporary networks or utilizing mobile technologies to keep operations running like some of our partners did in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It takes hard work and innovation to keep things on track.
Keeping your problem-solving skills sharp is an important part of planning because when disaster strikes, you’re not just testing a plan, you’re testing yourself and your ability to think and act quickly. While I may not have suffered a major disaster, the fact still stands that I didn’t give up despite my limited resources, and I weathered the (tiny) storm while remaining, in many ways, more productive than an average day.
I was able to remember that technology needs us, even if at times our attachment leaves us feeling like we’re dependent. Setting technology aside helped me rearrange my understanding of how a task should be performed and opened up new thoughts and ideas I never would’ve had if I had spent my day glued to the monitor. There’s a whole world of new perspectives outside of the computer screen and it’s easy to forget that sometimes. We all really ought to do more of our thinking on our own.