What adds extra time while you’re doing it but saves you even more time when you need it? For me, it’s documenting and organizing. Like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, I dabble in a variety of things. Often, I encounter topics that I have to research. Sometimes I undertake an unusually complex task with multiple steps that I need to figure out. Even though I often tell myself, “I’ll never need to know (or do) this again”, I document it. Even if it’s just the link to the website where I found the solution, I document it. Sometimes, I actually wonder if I should be keeping track of how much time I spend documenting and tracking things. – And then, comes the time when I need that documentation.
Most (if not all) of you can probably relate to that moment when you’re working on a project and you don’t get the result you’re expecting. It will be work as usual and then the next thing you know, something that was previously working no longer works. Or maybe you have a client on the phone and they’ve asked a simple question (that you can’t quite remember the answer to).
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just reach over, and either click on a file on your computer (or grab a file from your desk) and get the answer? How impressed would that client be if you came up with the answer in seconds? How relieved would you be if you could access a document (or spreadsheet or piece of paper) that told you everything you need to know? How great would it be if you had to recreate a process that you’ve done before (maybe months or years ago) and had taken the time to document it while you did it the first time? How much time would that save you?
I may be a “documentation junkie” but I tend to document everything. My main tool is an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been maintaining for years. Usually, I make a quick entry of what I’ve done and the main category it falls under. If it’s a lengthy procedure or process, it gets its own document (plus an entry in my spreadsheet). If it’s really complicated and I deem it worthy, I print it and file it too. If it’s related to a specific client, that’s where it gets filed. If it’s related to a specific software program, it gets its own folder. You get the idea.
You won’t believe how many times I’ve impressed myself or a client (or my husband who is totally baffled by my thinking process) by finding a solution to a problem in seconds, simply by referencing my spreadsheet and then finding the appropriate documentation (sometimes right there in the spreadsheet – other times, in a file).
So why am I a documentation junkie?
- I can quickly find an answer when something that broke before breaks again without have to research it all over again.
- It may have taken me a minute or an hour to create the original documentation but it ends up saving me even more time.
- It helps me keep my sanity.
What is your organizational style? How do you find something when you need it? Can you usually find the answer in seconds/minutes? Do you carry this organization over into your personal life? I confess that I don’t. When you open a closet or cabinet at my house, you’d better be prepared to catch something or jump out of the way. Maybe I spend so much time organizing my work-life that I rebel when it comes to my personal life.