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Dealing with a Technical Emergency

Technical malfunctions can send those of us who are not mechanically inclined into a state of sheer panic. Computer problems such as the dreaded "blue screen" and software crashes seem to occur in the worst moments, when we are literally pressed for time.

Here you are, wrapping up a file and beginning to think about all the free time you will enjoy after hitting the "Send" button, when there is a sudden turn of events. Out of the blue, your software informs you that it has encountered a "validation error". Shortly before crashing and taking your project with it, the software issues a last gasping alert:

"hexadecimal value 0x1F is an invalid character. Line 1045, position 10134"

In an instant, "hexadecimal value 0x1F" (whatever on earth it is) has wiped out your well-laid plans to finalize your work and send it off to the client with time to spare. Other casualties include your lunchtime, your peace of mind, and any good intentions you had to get other things done. Relaxation has given way to palpitations and hyperventilation. Your first instinct may be to hit any button or key that still responds, but that won't do much good.

This situation may be a bit extreme, but there certainly are days when time is not on our side.
Here are few thoughts on recovering from a "time sink":

What is the best way to deal with a technical emergency when there is no time?

1. Don't panic

In a situation like the example above, wildly hitting keys or rebooting your computer without attempting to back up may do more harm than good. Instead, give yourself a few moments to think, and refrain from taking hasty actions that may compound the problem. Once you take a step back, you may realize for instance that you have another device to search for a solution. Taking the time to think about the situation in most cases is preferable to a blind response. It is also helpful to remember that you are probably not the first person to have encountered the specific problem at hand.

2. Communicate

Once you've determined that you have run into a significant delay, be sure to communicate clearly about it. Announcing that a project will be a few hours late generally will not be held against you. Explain the problem briefly without going into confusing details and state what you will do to follow through. Buy yourself enough time with clients or team members to effectively address the issue.

3. Revisit the situation later

When the situation has been resolved and your heart rate has returned to normal, it would be a mistake to simply chalk up the incident to "bad luck" or blame it on "poor computer chip manufacturing." Although some circumstances (such as lightning strikes, power outages or hexadecimal values) are not under anyone's control, it is a good idea to look for the underlying cause. How old is your equipment and software? ("What's wrong with Windows 2000? - I paid good money for it!") Do you have security measures (file back-up etc.) in place? Do you at least occasionally read about the tools and products you use for your work, so you know where to turn when you have questions? Would it be a good investment to take a class?

Adjusting to a sudden change of circumstances is never easy, but the good news is that you can learn to respond in deliberate ways to cut down on feelings of panic and loss of control. Once you've considered "the best use of your time," your response to a technical problem is likely to be more constructive.  

What has helped you in stressful situations?
I look forward to hear from you!

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