The Importance of Documentation
Documentation is one of the things that a lot of businesses often don’t do. It is a very important activity but it is not glamorous nor is it not a task that you would enjoy doing.
The main importance of documenting everything that happens in the business — whether that is opening the office, closing the office, or how do you operate a fax machine or the photocopy machine etc. — is that you can use less creative energy to do the things you need to do.
3 Main Benefits of Documentation
1) Use Less Energy
Studies have shown that we all have very limited energies. If we spend these limited resources on menial tasks, there won’t be enough to tackle the more important ones.
You see, lately, I’ve been working on documenting processes and procedures for three different companies.
Like I said, it’s not something you would love or enjoy doing, but it is essential.
In the last few weeks that I’ve been working on this, I’ve noticed the same task or process being done over and over; yet because there’s no written documentation about it, what happens is the task takes too long to accomplish.
For example a simple task such as printing a document. Now that might seem like a very straightforward task but if you use three different sizes of papers (A3, A4, Legal) and you only have one printer then definitely you the encounter some sort of issues eventually. Which settings would work for this this size, what paper is in the tray, etc.
Because there are no written guidelines for how to print, it usually takes another minute or two before you get to actually print that document (not to mention the potential errors like printing on the wrong paper, etc.)
In this scenario, you spend your limited energy thinking about stuff you shouldn’t be worrying about instead of the bigger and more important tasks.
Of course, this can be resolved easily by using just one size of paper, or setting up the default settings of the printer on every computer, etc. But that’s beside the point.
We all have limited energies. These should be spent on the more important tasks or problems at hand.
2) Accomplish Tasks Faster
People are creatures of habit. We tend to do the same thing over and over.
We all create routines for ourselves so that we finish things faster without thinking too much about it (see point 1 above).
For example, my going to bed routine is brushing my teeth, washing my hair and face, lie on my bed and play with my dogs for a couple of minutes (yes, they sleep with me). I then clear all social media notifications on my phone and watch some videos on my feed. Then, I turn off my phone and close my eyes. In a few minutes, I’m already asleep.
This routine is something that works for me. It might be different for you. I don’t “wait” until I’m sleepy before I do this. Rather, I rely on this routine to signal my body that I want to sleep. And most of the time, this works.
We all have these routines. It allows us to do a task faster. The reason for this is they become part of our subconscious that we don’t think about them anymore. It’s like driving. You don’t think of where to place your feet, what gear you should be in, etc. You just drive.
3) Plug and Play
In another startup, a lot of lists are used daily. From onboarding to processing to offboarding.
So, there is already a process and is documented.
The problem is that the lists have multiple versions and files. So even if you update one, and you happen to open the wrong file, you will have an outdated process. This happened because of turnover. People love making up their own systems, thinking it will be better than the old one.
While that may be true in some cases, creating duplicate copies without a “system” can cause more work in the future. But that’s another topic for another time.
And because there is not single source of the updated process, the company is having a hard time scaling.
Imagine this situation. Every new hire needs to be hand-held personally by the managers. And with a small team, hand-holding means taking away previous time that could have been spent on growth and other more important activities.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that constant communication between managers and their direct reports isn’t valuable. However, spending more time than necessary for tasks that could have been accomplished by just the direct report is not productive.
What About You
Ever wonder how Starbucks and McDonald’s can simply put up a store and everyone already knows what to do?
That is the power of a written documentation.
Do you have systems in place for the basic activities in your workplace? Our energies are limited. Don’t spend these valuable resources on the small tasks. Rather, write things down so you can follow them without thinking too much about it, or delegate it to other people. This way, you open up tie for yourself to work on tasks that only you can do.
Also published on Medium.