Don’t you hate it when you are in a hurry to meet a deadline and your technology fails you? It happens to everybody, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Next time it happens to you, these tactics can help you move forward faster. You don’t have to be a geek to do these things, you just have to be willing to try.
In the 30 years I’ve been working with technology, the specifics have changed in huge ways but the principles are still the same. It doesn’t matter is you are using a Windows PC, a Mac, an iPad, an Android device, or whatever, these tactics work.
1. When is the deadline and can it be moved?
Some deadlines can’t be moved but many can. When you have a technology failure, do yourself a favor and take the pressure off. Pick up the phone and call the person involved and explain to them that the document “may” be late because of what happened. This will allow you and those around you to work better.
2. Is there another way to get this done?
Let’s say your computer dies and you’ve got 30 minutes to make the last change to a document and get it filed with the court. Is the document saved on a network drive or your document management system (e.g. iManage or NetDocuments)? If so, go to another machine and use that to make your changes before trying to fix your machine. You get the idea. The important thing in that moment is not necessarily fixing your machine, but finding a way to get the document filed.
3. What worked the last time this happened?
If you have had this problem before, do what you did before to get it fixed. After the crisis has passed maybe you can ask deeper questions about how to prevent it from happening in the future.
4. Look for something hidden in the background.
How do you do that? It depends on the system, but I’ll give you one example.
In Windows, sometimes a dialog box is open and you can’t see it. You get that annoying sound when you try to do something or you just can’t seem to do anything. Try holding down the ALT key and tapping the TAB key and seeing if you can spot something.
For other systems, search for “task switcher + [insert system here]” in Google or your favorite search engine.
5. Restart at the lowest level and work your way up.
It’s the last thing most of us want to hear but the reality is that restarting fixes a lot of things. But don’t make the mistake of automatically thinking you have to restart everything. I was in a hotel in San Jose, CA trying to use an app on my phone to scan a receipt that just wasn’t working. I restarted the app and it worked great! If you don’t know how to kill or restart something, search how to “kill” or “restart” for your specific system.
As an example, let’s say you have a problem with a Microsoft Word document.
- Try to save the document (maybe using a different name) before you do anything else.
- Try the Undo feature. Click Undo on the Quick Access Toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+Z.
- Press the ESC key. This is useful in many scenarios.
- Exit Word and restart it. By the way, you may want to wait around 45 seconds or so before you restart it. Sometimes restarting an application immediately can cause problems. This is especially true with Microsoft Outlook.
- If you can’t exit Word, the next step is to kill it using the Task Manager. To bring up the Task Manager, press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC. On the Applications tab, you should see Word listed. Click it and then click the End Task button.
- Restart your computer.
- If you can’t restart your computer, hold down the power button until it turns off. For desktops, wait 30 seconds and turn the computer back on. For laptops also remove the battery, wait 30 seconds, put the battery back in, and turn everything back on.
6. Try your document on another computer.
This eliminates many potential issues.
7. Fall back to the last known good copy.
If you have a copy of a document that you know is good, start with that one and work your way forward.
8. Uninstall and reinstall.
If the problem is an application or an add-in, many times this does the trick. Again, if you don’t know how, search for “uninstall + [insert system here]” in Google or another search engine.
9. Call for backup.
Many years ago I worked with a guy I’ll call “Wade,” who was brilliant, but he felt he had to figure everything out himself. One time I watched him work for two days on a problem that could have been solved in an hour by calling a vendor. Don’t be Wade.
However, it may be quicker to fix the issue yourself rather than calling for help. Only you can decide when the best time to call for help is and who to call. Sometimes calling for help may even be your first step.
If you have the luxury of having a tech savvy assistant, co-worker, or a Help Desk, they may be able to get you back up to speed faster than you can by yourself.
In addition, there are two services that you may want to check out:
- For Word documents that have serious problems: Microsystems DocER.
- For occasional help with Windows, Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and iManage: Savvy Training Virtual Help Desk Support.
10. Don’t be “that guy.”
I know that technology can be frustrating and that the legal profession is a high stakes, high pressure world but you don’t want to be “that guy.” By “that guy,” I mean someone who spends a great deal of precious time and energy loudly criticizing the systems or the people that run them rather than focusing on solving the issue at hand.
Question: What is one additional tactic that has worked for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments.