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Doctor's Orders

July 23, 2004

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You might not think that there are many similarities between a high-tech careerist and a medical professional, but over the years I have noticed a few. The most striking one is the fact that we often ignore the advice of doctors and dentists, much like our clients ignore our own recommendations for improving their technology experiences. If you think it is frustrating to have your advice fall on deaf ears, imagine the plight of your doctor. There are ways, though, to help get your message heard, but it takes more than the usual supply of patience.


The best doctors do more than just tell you “lose weight, exercise and get more sleep.” The best ones go out of their way to give you examples of the consequences involved if you don’t follow their directions. They give you clear examples of these consequences beyond the typical “you will die sooner.” That is too vague to the average person. Good doctors give you information on the immediate effects of your behaviors. You should do the same with your clients.

One of my constant refrains to my clients is the call to backup their data. Most computer users, myself included, don’t back up nearly enough to protect themselves from losing some important data, should their computer crash. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, as the technology for data backup has been getting easier and easier every year. Still, it is a burden in time and energy for most people, despite the fact that they will suffer greatly should it ever happen.

Lately, I have been addressing the issue of data backups as an issue of “data insurance.” You insure your house, you insure your car, but you don’t insure the protection of the one item, your data, which would be difficult, if not impossible to rebuild if it were lost. Time spent copying your data, and even storing it off-site, is an investment in insuring that data’s survival. For my customers, I generate scenarios about what would happen if their bookkeeping files were destroyed or their customer database corrupted. I am not trying to scare them, but rather instill a clear picture of the possible ramifications that they might experience.

While I have focused on backup procedures here, this advice also applies to any other computer procedure whose constant upkeep benefits the user, from syncing their PDA devices to their computer, regularly cleaning out their email folders and more.

Being ignored

Despite your best efforts –and just like your doctor – some will always ignore your advice. This can be very frustrating, but you can’t let it prevent you from trying. The truth is, only a fraction of your clients will ever implement all the necessary practices you recommend. Everyone has a different life and different methods for using their computer.

You cannot force anyone to follow your recommendations. You have to gently push and prod your clients to follow them, but with the full knowledge that it might not happen. You will drive yourself mad if you take it personally. While it may seem an indictment of your skills or knowledge, being ignored is more a factor of your client’s lifestyle than the quality of your service.

The main reason you should continue trying to improve your client’s computer lives, though, is that some of them – maybe only a fraction, but some – will understand what you are trying to do and will find some way to integrate your suggestions into their lives. You are not working for the 90% who will never backup, but the 10% who will, with a little pushing and guidance from you.

Let it be

Over time you will discover which of your clients are the most responsive. This is where you should focus your attention. It does no good to preach backup procedures to someone who ignores you time and time again, although you should feel free to prod them on occasion. Find the clients who try to maintain their backups, even if they have trouble keeping them current, and give them more assistance along that path. Help those who show a willingness to help themselves. You and your clients will be better for the efforts.

Even though we know instinctively what is best for us health-wise, we often ignore our doctor’s orders. Your high-tech clients will often do the same with you. Your high-tech career demands, though, that you keep trying to help those around you, even if you are only reaching a minority. This insures that you reach those who value your opinion most, while still holding out hope for those who might not be as active in following your recommendations.

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