Being in the middle of writing my thesis, I can tell you I have learned a few things along the way in this seemingly-never-ending academic career of mine. Today I will share two tips that I believe can benefit every person, not just students. These might seem like no-brainers when you read them, but sometimes a nice little reminder can be good.
1. When you are working electronically, back up your files. You've heard this before, right? Well, do you do it? I hear of people losing important files all the time. They knew better. But they didn't back them up. The two most common excuses? I was too busy and I didn't think it would happen to me. Well, stop being too busy to insure something of such great value to you (seriously, backing up files requires you to click, click, click, then wait for the transfer to finish...you have enough time for a click, click, click?) and stop thinking nothing bad will ever happen to your computer because something eventually happens to every computer, and that's just the way the world works (yes, even yours, you Mac users who are reading).
It is always a good rule to back up your files, but becomes especially important when you are working on a Big Project with a Specific Deadline. Normally, I back up all of my photographs and important documents once a month on two separate hard drives--as a photographer in the digital age (though I still often use film) I really cannot afford to take chances with my work! One of these hard drives never leaves my desk area at home, and the other can travel with me to places like school, the library, etc. I leave photographs that haven't been backed up yet on my camera's memory cards--I never delete photographs from my memory cards the moment I load them onto my computer.
I also try to leave back-ups at my parents' house when I visit (I forgot this last time, oops!). This can be done on a DVD (non-archival CDs and DVDs don't last forever though, be warned) or a flash drive, or another external hard drive if you have a lot of important stuff. You couldleave this spare copy at any trusted friend's home. This is important in case of fire, theft, etc. In the worst case scenario,--may it never happen--I simply would not want to lose all of my data, which includes all of my college and grad school papers, all of my image files since 2005, and more.
A third option for back-up is storing your files on the internet. You can now upload files to "the cloud" through various hosts. I haven't taken advantage of this yet but I would really like to for my most valuable files. You can also e-mail things to yourself! I do this all the time as a temporary way of backing up my files. My thesis in progress? You can bet I'm e-mailing it to myself every day when I finish writing! Why? If my computer crashes for any reason, I don't want to start over! I'm only fifteen days away from meeting with my committee and I don't want to have to pull out any excuses. Be prepared for anything.
Adorable kitty bookmark was a Christmas present from my friend Sara! From Ten Thousand Villages.2. When you read, hear, watch, or in any other way encounter something that interests you, make a note! I have a lot of information to pull from for my thesis, and that's because in my everyday life, I take good notes. I make bookmarks when I find something online, I write in my sketchbook when a professor or colleague mentions something I should look up, and I scribble notes in the margins of books I own and on my bookmarks in library books. When you find something that is really intriguing to you, you'll have the tendency to think you will remember it much later without any physical reminders. Well, I'm here to tell you if you don't know already, that this time next week you will be thinking to yourself, What was that really important thing I read last week? Ugh, it was so interesting! At least, that's what happens to me when I forget to make a note of something! I don't use every note I make, but I am very, very grateful for the ones I do end up using. Even if you aren't in the middle of writing a thesis paper, if you write other things, consider yourself a creative type, or just want to enrich your life, I promise taking notes will benefit you.
I hope these two tips are helpful to some of you! Now, if you haven't backed up your computer in over a year, go do it right now!! What are you waiting for?