May 25 2012

Write a Manual


Carlos Portocarrero

This is Day 8 of the 39 Days to a Better Job series, where we review actionable tips to make you better at your job.

Writing a manual

Think of all the tasks you have to accomplish throughout the day. Some are quick and easy, while others are longer and more involved.

And when it’s time to start, do you ever stop for a second to regroup and make sure you’re going in the right order?That you remember all the steps?

When I left my job in publishing four years ago, I gave two weeks notice like everyone else. But I also wanted to make sure whoever was hired in my place could contribute as soon as possible. I wanted to make life easy on my boss and my coworkers because I liked them and because I’m so goodhearted.

So I started writing down every single task that came with my job, along with detailed instructions about how to do each one.

All the little tips and tricks I had picked up over the years went into this “manual.”

That awesome checklist I made during my Google 20% time? You better believe that was in there.

By the time my two weeks were up, I realized that this manual summed up my entire job, along with every task that came with it.

And I wished I had it while I was working because it was very clear and organized. I realized that having that manual around would’ve made my days a little smoother and less chaotic.

Imagine you have a manual that has 30 checklists in it. And every time you have to get something done, you just bring up the checklist, put it next to you, and make sure you go through each step.

This does a few things:

  • It lets you focus on the quality of each task so you’re not thinking in the back of your head, “Am I forgetting something? What do I do next?”
  • You avoid distractions. Instead of hunting through emails or documents for answers to whatever questions you have, the checklist has it all. You’ve basically created a nice, simple flow:

Task is assigned -> Follow checklist instructions

If you don’t believe in the power of lists, you’re missing out.

It may seem tedious to do this and some of you might be frightened that a manual like this can make you expendable, but don’t worry about that. You don’t have to share it. You don’t have to show it off.

Just do what’s in the manual and keep it to yourself.

Image by quacktaculous