Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Most of us understand the importance of owner’s manuals. They help us use a product without destroying it. The Web is filled with lots of how-to documentation, as well. You want to learn how to make a rabbit from a towel? It’s out there.
But far too often we overlook the importance of documentation for our daily lives.
If you were out ill, or for an extended vacation, would your co-workers be able to pick up your tasks? Without documentation, there is little chance of that. I work on a three person team right now, and 1/3 of our team is halfway across the world. I need to regenerate a file into a different format, but I can’t find the documentation on how she generated the file to begin with.
Documentation also has a use for reference materials. I learned this early on as a consultant, and it is still useful in my job. Recently I had someone from my previous team ask my why something had changed in the software. I was able to go back to my notes and tell them not only why, but who authorized the change and when.
Sometimes the documentation is for myself. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “I need to do X – the thing you did a year ago.” By having documentation I can quickly go back and find exactly what needs to be done.
If you were to have to go away for a week or so, would your household members still be able to function? Besides the emergency basics (how to turn off the fuses, where are the water and gas cutoffs, where is the spare key), do you have a list of the other things you take care of? For example, would my husband be able to give the cat his insulin if I weren’t there? Would I be able to make sure all the bills went through, or start the lawn mower?
Home documentation has come in handy on the two occasions when my husband was hospitalized and I have had to leave my daughter to the care of another adult. By having a list of things that need to be done, I can ensure her schedule isn’t too disrupted and that everything that needs to be done is complete.
Not all documentation is for other people, though. I find that I need documentation so that I don’t leave steps out. (This is why I do not bake from memory!) For things I do perhaps once or twice a year, I need guidance if the task isn’t straightforward.
How do I sync up the MP3s between my husband’s and my pcs, then get them onto two different MP3 players? How do I update addresses in my holiday card software? Where are all the places I have to rotate emergency supplies out of? How do I get the grill off the refrigerator, and more importantly, how do I get it back on?
By making sure that I leave information behind me, I can ensure that I don’t have to re-think things or recreate what I have done.
Photo by tvol