How I avoided a PhD meltdown

In August-September I had a few really bad months. Somebody really close to me died, my dog died, my partner had a sports injury, and then I accidentally drowned my laptop. This was a really hard time for me, to top it off I was busy with teaching undergraduates for the first time and trying to plan for my fieldwork (see my post on The P in PhD should stand for Paperwork.)

Losing my computer could have been the last straw to make me throw in the towel completely. I learnt two things from losing my computer: 1) IT departments will sometimes quote you more than the cost of a new laptop to fix your laptop 2) making regular backups is extremely important.

If I had lost all of my PhD files I honestly do not know how I would have reacted. I think I probably would have cried for a week and then seriously contemplated quitting. But I was lucky.

I was lucky because I use OneDrive, provided by my university, to automatically backup all of my files. My EndNote library is not kept in this automatically syncing folder because I have read that cloud storage can cause corruption of your EndNote library. It is kept in a seperate folder, but I use my online EndNote account to sync all of my References in library. People who use a Mac should note that for about six months I wasn’t syncing my files properly, so make sure you are pressing the sync button NOT the ‘sync status’ button (seems obvious in hindsight, but keep it in mind). In fact, the only file I lost was some of my NVIVO file (read more: Nvivo for a literature review: How and why) because I also do not keep that in my cloud folder as I am unsure of the stability of the file in cloud storage. I lost this because I had been inconsistent with adding my backup files into my cloud folder.

So yes, I was very lucky that I didn’t lose everything and I now take even more precautions. I have a 1TB hard drive that I have set up ‘Time Machine’ on and I also sync my whole PhD folder to my student folder on the University drives (when I am on campus).

So consider this your timely reminder to make sure you have a system for backing up your files and that you use this system regularly.  I didn’t expect for everything bad to happen at once, but this is the way life works sometimes and you need to ensure that accidentally drowning your laptop won’t ruin you! The title of this blog post may be melodramatic but you really don’t know when, or how, you may lose all of your files and trust me, the timing definitely will not be perfect!


5 thoughts on “How I avoided a PhD meltdown

    1. Yes I think I am, for a while I was in a bit of a funk and I didn’t realise how bad it was until I came out of it. Sometimes it is a struggle but it is definitely getting better.

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