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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Boom! Crash! "Honey, where's the user manual?"

"I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up."

~Erma Bombeck

If you've been reading along, you know I feel strongly about offering no-tech, low-tech and high-tech options as often as possible. For example, sometimes the best option for dealing with paper is to file it, but other times, the option is to scan it or to eliminate it altogether by using a computerized alternative (like online billpay). Select what works best for you.

But I'm also a belt-and-suspenders kind of gal, believing in having all bases covered. This is a good thing, because last week, my new computer blew up. And then Paper Doll blew up.

I love my (newish) iMac. It's sleek, easy to use and pretty to look at. Software updates are practically automatic, requiring only the click of a button. And though I've not yet upgraded to Mac OS X Leopard, whose Time Machine allows one to automatically back up EVERYTHING and search all old records (and not merely the most recent), I do a good job of backing up. And yes, even Paper Doll has been known to keep printed copies of special documents as emergency backups…"just in case".

But last week, a confluence of events made me realize (and led me to remind you) that sometimes, all the organization in the world only helps you cope with catastrophes more easily; it doesn't help prevent them.

In my case, on Saturday night, I was playing a video podcast of an old joke over the phone, for my hip-but-computerless mom. Just as it got to the punchline, my computer unceremoniously turned off, and would not, under any circumstances, turn back on. For the next few days, I had a very expensive doorstop.

Luckily, prior to that night, I did everything right.  I had a manila folder in my file system (under the Household section, in the Electronics sub-section) for the new iMac.  In the folder, I had the required documentation that would be required:
  • Apple's troubleshooting instructions in the mini-manual included with the computer
  • Apple's Technical Support phone number
  • My iMac's registration number
  • My AppleCare registration number
[AppleCare is a special kind of extended warranty. While I generally don't advise purchasing extended warranties, they are very helpful in terms of computer ownership.]

After many hours on the phone with tech support, it was determined that I and all my computer-nerd friends were probably right – the culprit was likely the power supply (and possibly, but less likely, the logic board.  All agreed my data was safe. (Note: Paper Doll is not a computer expert and moreover, I am not YOUR computer expert. If you are not a certified computer technician, get an expert's advice and don't try poking around in the electrical innards of your PC. Electrocution is bad for your hair and voided warranties are bad for your sanity.)

While I would have been willing to drive the computer two hours to the nearest Apple Store, AppleCare delivered a field technician to my door (alas, a few days later due to the darned New Year's holiday). Having the essential papers with all the reference information handy (instead of buried in my dead-to-the-world computer) was a big help, but I had some other advantages that helped me (barely) keep my sanity in the intervening time:

While I use my computer's Outlook Express Task List as a back-up, I generally keep my running to-do list in my daily planner.

As noted last week, I keep my client schedule and personal appointments in my paper planner, too. (Even if you're bound and determined to live by your Blackberry or MS Outlook, printing one week's schedules and To-Dos at a time couldn't hurt.)

I keep a low-tech, old-fashioned address book with phone numbers in case my computer or cell phone decides to rebel. Instead of maintaining a pile of loose business cards and scribbled napkins, once a week while listening to one of two snooty game shows on NPR, I record the important contacts in the computer, and also in a business card file.

I have a file folder for computer alternatives (to my own) with the telephone numbers and hours of operation of local public libraries, Kinko's and Internet café's. That way, my copious back-ups on flash drives can actually be put to use on other computers. (And, of course, I have an up-to-date library card.)

What about you?

Does your paper filing system support you in case of a computer emergency, or are your computer references buried under the bed (or worse, were they tossed out with the wrapping paper)?

Do you have the manual(s) and emergency information for your computer handy, filed with your household files or near your computer?

If both your computer and Internet connection are working, you can use online resources like:

Tech Support Forum
The Help Site
Computer Training Manual
Tech 24

and you can contact the "geek" resources in www.OnlineOrganizing.com's Useful Link Directory

If the computer is dead, do you have the resources to research your computer's technical support team? Take a moment to be sure you have the technical support phone toll-free number; for example:


Do you have a home for your yellow page (business) directory so that you can always find it when necessary (and when Googling isn't an option)?

If your computer crashed, could you access your online bill pay, credit card companies and utility services? Do you have the URLs (and requisite user names and passwords) and/or phone numbers, in case your city is paralyzed by a weather-related situation that prevents you from getting to alternative computers?

Computers are wonderful, and Paper Doll is an admitted geek. But I'm also a pragmatist, and there may well be days when all your efforts to coddle your computer, vanquish viruses and back-up your baby won't be enough. Please make sure your offline (i.e., paper) life supports you when your computer can't.

And spring for the technical support package. You'll sleep better.

posted on: 1/8/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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