hard lesson learned. or, what to do to prevent Tumblr [or any other platform] from screwing up your hard work.

The moral of yesterday’s lesson: when you create a process for ensuring the safety and sanctity of your work, do not vary from said process.

Perhaps it’s a reminder we all need every so often, given how so much of our knowledge work is created and lives in the cloud these days. I just wish it weren’t such a painful reminder.

So yesterday I drafted a quite nifty little post for this blog. I think it was titled “lawyers should study copywriting.” (I was so frustrated when I realized the posted post contained only the title and one sentence that I deleted it yesterday.)

I’m working out of another office, in another state, this week. I was pressed for time when I wrote the post. I didn’t follow my typical process for making sure I had a back-up before posting the draft. 

I’ve gotten so used to writing directly in the Tumblr editing window that I created a process for saving a copy of the content in another platform to make sure that a random event (browser or network crash or Tumblr screw up, etc.) didn’t destroy my work. 

The back-up process: I view the draft post in “Preview on blog” mode within Tumblr and save to Evernote periodically. If Tumblr screws it up, I can simply pull it up in Evernote and copy/paste into a new Tumblr window. I’ve had to do this more times than I can count on all of my fingers so far.

Sadly, I failed to do it yesterday. The post was flowing, I was pushing myself to finish. And when I opened the draft to edit and hit “post,” the new post contained exactly a headline and one sentence. The other 700+ or so words I wrote? POOF. Gone.

So. From now on, no matter the circumstances, I shall not vary from my process. A somewhat excruciating reminder of the importance of a process, but one I will take to heart. Choosing to believe that such things aren’t unintentional in a karmic sense is often what keeps me from going over the edge.

So, if you’re working on important stuff that relies solely on the smooth functioning of one app or one platform or one machine, ask yourself these questions: How can I not rely solely on the ONE? How can I create another copy or another way to access, in case the ONE fails?

The time to create and use a process that backs up your important work is NOW, and not after tragedy strikes. 

And it bears highlighting that I’m focusing here specifically on work you may be doing that is ephemeral if the ONE fails. This isn’t solely an issue of backing up your Word files via a server/external HDD/online service. This is also about backing up the work you do on any platforms that “live” other than on the hard drive you’re backing up, e.g. Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and a plethora of others.

Spend a few minutes to create a thoughtful back up process. And then follow it. Each and every time.

And now I shall go follow my own advice.

meditate on this: buddhify 2

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I’ve been intending to write about buddhify 2 for a number of weeks. Today I came across this meditation on meditation by Russell Simmons and realized that today’s the day.

I’ve been meditating consistently for a while now. Crucial for both my profession and my personality. I’ve written about it before, even.

And since I happened upon it and think the thoughts are pretty spot-on, here’s what Simmons has to say about three benefits of meditation, all quite apropos for the legal profession:

1) Meditation improves focus. By relieving you of distraction. Crucial in this age of digital distraction and multi-tasking.

2) Meditation gets you past “success” and “failure.” Our profession is full of success (highs) and failure (lows). Meditation helps you maintain an even keel throughout all.

3) Meditation helps you be more creative. Simmons points to meditation as a vehicle for creativity, much as it is for focus. I tend to agree, since in the stillness of mind, there exists an atmosphere that can welcome creative thoughts. A busy mind may not notice them.

I have a meditation method of sorts but when I came across the buddhify 2 app I thought I would give it a whirl. My conclusion: it’s a great way for a non-meditator to get into the meditation groove, and it can also give a boost to an established meditation practice.

The app offers a series of guided meditations organized around 15 categories, with each category offering two to three meditations.

I’ve relied on the app’s guided meditations in some specific circumstances and found it incredibly helpful. The big one: I have no trouble falling asleep but often wake up in the middle of the night, mind racing. I keep my iPhone (with earbuds) on my bedside table, set to the “Can’t Sleep” series of meditations (Settle, Gentle, and Whack. Guess which one is my stand-by? Whack.). The calm, British voice of the guided meditation consistently does the trick. Sleep finds me.

I also like the “Feeling Stressed” series (Flip, Replace, Rain). Because I’m a lawyer. And I often feel stress.

Each meditation lasts in the five to 10 minute range. A very small time commitment for a big return on focus. And perhaps a renewed, healthier view on success and failure. And more focus and thus fuel for creativity. My conclusion: you’ve got nothing but a few minutes to lose, and much to gain.

buddhify 2 — 1.99 in the App Store.

squirrels support the creative process!

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Questions I’ve pondered often: does technology really support me, my goals, my practice, my creative efforts? Or does it distract me more than support me?

As in: “Look! A squirrel!” I feel that’s often my reaction when I learn of a new app or digital toy I must play with. I get distracted, run off (and away from my present work), and chase it.

The perspective offered in this article  by Greg Satell helped me identify the context for answering these queries. Or maybe not even asking them anymore.

The answer: technology (aka my “squirrel”) does support me, my goals, my creativity. When used to do so. What’s important to understand is how technology functions to support what and how you create, no matter how defined.

Because we all create. Even lawyers stuck in rather dull, uninspired practices create. May I suggest that leveraging technology to handle the dull and uninspiring minutiae may even open up the wellspring of creativity in your practice? Yep.

The Creative Process. Satell offers the following three steps as key to this process:

1. Forming intent. You have a purpose, a problem to solve, a goal to reach. This process of forming an intent to create is inherently human.

2. Searching the domain. As a student of your craft, you search your domain — your toolbox of techniques, approaches and philosophies — to create solutions, combinations, purpose.

3. Tangling hierarchies. When you synthesize across domains [discovering and/or creating connections among the seemingly unrelated], creation rises to the level of innovation.

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So where does technology fit in? A few spots, actually.

Eliminating barriers to creative excellence. Access to new knowledge and information contributes to our creative toolbox. As Satell observes, “The sum total of human knowledge is merely a few clicks away.” Searching this technologically flat Earth makes it much easier, and more likely, that we’ll discover just the connection(s) we seek to create (and perhaps even innovate).

This applies to everything we do, really, but isn’t it absolutely apropos to the practice of law? With so many rich (and mostly free) legal resources online , barriers to discovery in the legal realm are almost non-existent. Not to mention the sheer volume of information about pretty much anything else you may need to know, floating about on the internet, just waiting for you to find it.

Simulating failure. Great work is the result of producing a lot of work. Because a lot of it isn’t going to be great. But the more work you do, the greater the chance you’ll do the great work. Lower the cost of producing the work? It’s easier (and cheaper) to produce lots of it. Lots of it will fail. But the cost to do so can be minimized, if not nearly eliminated, by using the right technology. So we’re encouraged to increase output, thereby leading to a greater likelihood of achieving greater creative success.

I think most every human has a natural aversion to failure. Us lawyers? Especially so. We’re programed (if not hardwired) to be right. All of the time. Technology gives us some breathing room. Using the right software, for example, we can analyze, project, predict. With ease and speed. We can work out options, test them, experience virtual failure. Before we create the bestcourse of action for the client. Whew, isn’t that a relief?

Rise of the creative class. Satell posits that creativity is becoming a daily part of work life for all of us: “The man in the gray flannel suit has been replaced by the hipster with spiky hair and tattoos.” How so? Because technology is taking over the rote, the mundane, the stuff that can be turned into a tech-driven process precisely because it doesn’t rely on the inherently human act of creativity. So what’s left? The work that does.

Yes, even in the staid, traditional legal profession. (Though the tattoos likely will remain concealed under the gray flannel.) Why? Because technology is taking over a lot of the rote stuff for us, too. And freeing up our time and mental energy to focus on the really creative part of solving legal problems. By automating documents, processes, internal and external systems, your brain is involved less in that and more in the part that only a trained human brain can do.

The dangers? I like that technology frees my brain. I know I do better work because I have the tools (and information they provide) at my disposal. But I know that technology can give us a false sense of security and confidence, too. Automate too much, make everything a process, remove yourself from it, and the creative opportunities start to flatten out. You may end up being less creative then you were before technology stepped in to help.

And we aren’t entirely free of the squirrel effect. Every day, some new app comes along, offering to help you do something better, faster, easier. That new app may be great. Maybe you should take the time and mental energy to explore it. Or maybe you should ask if the problem it solves is one that you need to fix? If the answer is not really, then ignore the squirrel. Stick with the one you have. The right squirrels are what you seek, not the shiny new ones.