Recently a coworker ran into an issue that took several hours and a lot of stress to sort out. I ran into the same issue two or three years ago and vaguely remembered the five minute fix he needed to resolve his issue. However, because I never documented the process to perform this task, my explanation to him was a little fuzzy and he didn’t understand what I was trying to tell him.
While my communication in this situation wasn’t the best. I believe the root cause was the fact that I only “kind of sort of” remembered what I was talking about. It’s hard to clearly express what you don’t clearly understand. Had I done a better job of documenting the correct procedure I could have saved my coworker a lot of stress and time.
Issues in development and SEO
This is something I see often in both web development and search engine optimization (SEO). The truly day to day tasks become so repetitive to us that we can usually get away with doing them from memory, at least until we need to train a new person. The odd ball one off requests don’t need to be documented because they only ever occur once. But in the middle there are tasks that we do often enough to THINK we know what we are doing, but infrequent enough that there is always something we forget.
For me these tend to be tasks that I do quarterly. Infrequent enough that I tend to forget exactly what I am doing and end up getting stuck, or doing them in correctly and having to repeat. But frequent enough that 30-60 minutes wasted trying to remember what I did last time, adds up and ends up hurting my productivity.
I have started stepping back and looking at each of my tasks as a manager who needs to train a new person on how to do them. Even if they are tasks that I ALWAYS do, I try to look at them in this light. Then I create a step by step list of how to complete the task. Sometimes this is written in Google Docs, sometimes I add some screenshots, other times (and I’m trying to move more this way) I use Loom or some other video service to record the whole process.
When manager John does a good job of documenting, then the John that is doing boring low level tasks has a much easier time and is able to get back to the more “important” things quicker.
This documentation becomes even more important when we are trying to train a new person.