As 2020 draws to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2021 (finally). I’m here to share with you the most important thing you can do right now to get 2021 off to a good start.
Back-up your work!
I know people mention this a lot but… I know you haven’t done it. And if you have, you did it once then forgot to do it again. Back-ups are a little like sunscreen. You can’t just put it on once, you have to reapply, believe me, I know.
My terrible ability at remembering to apply sunscreen aside, follow the simple instructions in this post to set-up your foolproof, back-up system for 2021.
I’ve always been great at thinking up the worst case scenario. When we’re talking about back-ups, that’s actually very helpful. Okay, worst case scenario right now with zero back-up systems, your hard-drive dies or it’s stolen (please, if you’re writing by hand… switch to digital, your hands will thank you). In this case, there is likely nothing you can do to recover your precious manuscript. That sucks.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to do something about that. This is where your first back-up system comes in (yes, there will be multiple).
Step 1—Main Back-up
For me, the only choice for my first (main) back-up system is a cloud save. If you’re not familiar with how this works. Usually when you save your project, it is saved directly to your computer. If you switch computers, you’ll need to transfer it to a new one via some other method. If that computer breaks, your project is gone. With a cloud save, your project is saved to a server that you can access anywhere so long as you have the email address and password you used to sign up. If your computer is stolen, broken, etc, it will take no time at all to get your project back. Yay!
I use the computer for my editing business and my writing business so making sure I don’t lose any work is key. I use OneDrive because it comes with plenty of storage as part of my Microsoft 365 subscription. By downloading the app to my computer, I am able to have a OneDrive folder in My Documents (works with Apple, Windows, IOS, Android, etc) where I can save everything and access it easily when I switch between different devices. It means my project autosaves as soon as I type something. I can also go back to a previous version of the project if for instance I leave my computer unlocked and a cat decides to use my keyboard for a nap. The basic version of OneDrive is completely free. If you’re looking for alternatives, check out Dropbox or Google Drive.
This is my first back-up method. It autosaves all the time, even in the event of a power outage it’s very unlikely I’ll lose any work (though occasionally our internet is a little patchy and the connection will drop without me noticing). If you’re writing in Google Docs, your document is already doing this. If you don’t have cloud saving set up, take a moment now to research your options and install one of them onto all devices you use for writing.
Step 2—Secondary Back-up
Because I’m so good at catastrophizing, I’m not convinced my OneDrive cloud back-up will work at all times. What if someone hacks my account? What if it hasn’t been syncing properly and I haven’t noticed? That’s where your secondary back-up option comes in. There are plenty of options and frequencies you may choose here. You could use an external harddrive or flash drive. You could use email. You could simply create a copy of the document to your harddrive. I prefer the external harddrive option, but a flash drive is very inexpensive (for most writers 16GB of storage is plenty for your manuscript and a few cover images). Spending $8 on one is more than worth it to avoid the misery of rewriting your manuscript.
I get it, it’s time consuming to remember to do this. To copy your manuscript across to a flash drive or whatever other method you’re using. That’s where the next step comes in. Get a flash drive. That’s the first part of this step. The second, decide how often you’re comfortable with doing this back-up (how much work are you willing to lose). I have my manual back-ups set for once a week on my work in progress, then once a month for a more comprehensive back-up.
How do I remember to do it? That’s where the final part of this step comes in. Set an alarm on your phone. Right now. If you’re going with once per week, set an alarm for a time you’re likely to be near your computer. Pick a day of the week. I tend to go with Friday because I don’t work on the weekends. My alarm is set for 4:45 P.M., fifteen minutes before I stop working. For my monthly back-up, I have an alarm set for 4:30 P.M. on the last Friday of the month.
Step 3—Tertiary Back-up
This always occurs on the last Friday of the month. Continuing with my catasrophizing. What would happen if my OneDrive failed to autosave, in the same week my flash drive went through the washing machine? This would be supremely unlucky. However, I like to make sure there’s a third option, just in case. This is where my tertiary back-up comes in.
Once a month, when I’m doing a manual back-up of everything, I also send my most recent manuscript in an email to myself, just in case. If you need to make a separate alarm, do that now. If not, know that as a final back-up you can send your project via email when you’re doing your monthly manual back-up
Make Good Choices
All of the things above will help to prevent you losing your work, but it’s ultimately up to you to engage in good work practises to begin with. Before leaving your computer, check that it’s saved. Even OneDrive is not foolproof. Take that extra moment to check your work is saved.
For anyone who wants the quick and dirty list of steps to get your back-up system underway, here it is.
- Step 1A—Choose a cloud back-up system (OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, etc).
- Step1B—Install chosen cloud back-up onto all devices you use for your writing.
- Step1C—Transfer your current projects onto the cloud back-up
- Step 2A—Get a flash drive, external harddrive or similar (at least 16GB)
- Step 2B—Create an initial back-up of your projects using this drive
- Step2C—Create a series of alarms using your phone to remind you to back-up your work manually. You’ll need a once a week recurring alarm at a time you’re near your computer, as well as an alarm for the last Friday of the month (or last day of the month). The final Friday of every month in 2021 is listed below.
- Step 3—Set an additional reminder for sometime in the last two weeks of 2021 to remind you to create a schedule for 2022.
- Step 4—Follow the schedule!