4 tips for how to work without a computer for a week

There I was, at 4 p.m. last Monday afternoon, in the middle of typing an email. It was a normal day, fairly productive and I was getting ready to tie up some loose ends before I called it a day. Literally out of nowhere, my Macbook Pro’s screen went completely BLANK. My first reaction would be to naturally freak out, but I actually kept my cool. Maybe it lost charge and I hadn’t paid attention to it, or just something glitch-y happened. Either way, I would turn it back on and all would be fine.

Wrong. DEAD WRONG. Each time I tried to turn my machine back on, the screen had a weird pink tint to it and the progress bar that appears below the Apple icon would go to about 30% before the screen turned a light gray/blue and again, went BLANK. It did this for the next 30 attempts I made, too. My husband convinced me to let it sit for a while during dinner, cool down and charge back up. I did that. Still nothing. For the next three hours of the evening, I sat Googling every Mac troubleshooting forum that exists, trying to find answers. I knew there had to be a quick fix. There were people who shared YouTube videos and wrote articles about exactly what I was experiencing. I would try their efforts. Still, NOTHING. I was convinced that my 5-year-old laptop, as good as it had been, was finally dying or a very important part would need replaced that would be expensive. Mainly, I was concerned that I hadn’t backed up my design files for a few months (yes, I’m a guilty designer over here and know that is dumb) and I assumed that those would be lost, if and when the laptop even turned back on. Rather than wait for the Apple store to tell me what I basically already knew, just to send it off to get repaired, I skipped a step and went to my local Simply Mac shop in Louisville. The staff was great, told me that my laptop would be fine and that they would take care of things with Apple. After feeling a sense of relief and uncertainty as to when exactly I would get it back, my next thought was, how am I going to work this week? If a situation like this ever happens to you and you’re cut off from essentially your business lifeline for a few days, here are a few tips that helped me — and will hopefully help you, too:  

1) Keep your clients in the loop.

This was #1 for me — and my first thought. Even when I wasn’t sure what was wrong with my laptop and before I took it in to get repaired the next day, I immediately emailed any clients I was doing current work for, to let them know what was going on. Although it’s unfortunate, people understand that this technicality is out of your hands and hate that it’s happening to you as much as you do. I had some that said their projects could wait until my laptop was back in action and I had some who had projects that were time-sensitive and had deadlines of that week (but still understood and were great about everything!) These are the ones I knew I needed to take care of over the next few days, someway, somehow.

2) Stay up-to-date with your email and project list.

Although it’s not easy and everything is so much more of a tedious pain when you’re laptop-less, hopefully you still have your phone with email connected to it. Not only did I use it to email clients as mentioned above, but I also checked it and responded to messages regularly, like I would on my laptop. I needed the peace of mind to know that I wouldn’t fall too far behind or miss an email that fell in the cracks, if I could stay up on what was coming into my inbox. I made notes on my phone and on paper, kept reminders and starred any emails that I would respond to later. If you’re like me, still responding to emails was a sense of normalcy for me and allowed me to feel like I was still being somewhat productive and up-to-date. I also emailed clients updates when I had them, regarding my laptop repair situation.

3) Borrow a laptop and download a trial version of your necessary software.

This was my lifesaver! And OK, one of the only ways to still work without your normal computer is to find a temporary replacement.  Luckily, I was able to borrow my mother-in-law’s laptop and download a 7-day free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud software to it. Although it was a PC and hard for this Mac girl to navigate at first, it was still the best tool I could have at the moment and I was very thankful for it. Although I was in the middle of a mailing campaign with a client and didn’t have the original InDesign files to work from, I was able to pull PDFs from old emails and manipulate them enough in Illustrator or Acrobat to get by for a few days. I don’t want to ever have to do that again (designers would understand) — it was the absolute best I could do in the moment and my client was luckily so wonderful and understanding about it. You gotta do what you gotta do, right? If you’re able to, borrow someone’s laptop for at least a couple of days, so that you can still check email the normal way, write in Word docs, work from any web-based software that you have (for me, I could still access my Asana, FreshBooks and Squarespace platforms online) and in my case, still work within my design apps.

4) Backup your files as soon as you’re back on your laptop.

What was the first thing that I did when I got my precious Macbook Pro back? You bet — I backed EVERYTHING up to my external hard drive, just in case this happens again. Of course, this should be a no brainer for anyone in the digital field who works within lots of files, but still, we all fall behind sometimes and forget to do it. I saved all of the files that I had accumulated on the temporary laptop to a flash drive and also saved those to my laptop. Moments later, I was back to (my) normal. Hallelujah!

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