If Managers Want To Get Things Done, They Have To Write Them Down

The key to getting things done is a good documentation system
The key to getting things done is a good documentation system
Image Credit: eltpics

As managers we are being asked to do a lot of different things. We may come into work with a list of things that we want to get done during the day and when we leave at the end of the day we discover that we’ve spent our time doing a lot of other things and our list is untouched. People seem to have no problems dropping by our desks and asking us to do things for them. If we’re not careful, a lot of stuff is going to fall through the cracks. How can a manager use our manager skills to stay on top of everything that we’ve been asked to do?

It’s All About Writing It Down

As managers we can believe that we are so busy that we simply don’t have time to do anything else. This is where we would all be wrong. It turns out that especially when things seem to be getting out of hand for you, you need to take the time to make sure that your responsibilities don’t slip away from you. The best way to make sure that you don’t overlook anything that you need to accomplish is by taking the time to write it down – this really does not require any manager training. Indeed, it’s during those crazy times when you feel like you are underwater that it’s most essential to make sure important matters aren’t left in somebody’s inbox or, worse, some former team member’s brain.

So exactly what are we talking about here? It’s pretty simple — write it down. What you are going to want to do is to document your processes and protocols. The best way to go about doing this is by putting them on paper. The concept of documenting what you are currently doing has a long history. New companies and people who are starting up new projects know that the best way to generate the documentation that they will eventually need is to create it as they do their work.

You need to view writing things down as what it is — it’s good discipline, both for established managers and those of us who may be new to the position. For the newbies, it’s a way to inscribe your company’s structures and strictures, to substantiate the team that you want to create. When you are first starting out as a manager, taking the time to write things down is going to provide you with a reference that you’ll be able to come back to in order to get guidance years later on. For those established managers, good documentation fuels your team with fluid communication and prevents it from being dragged down by cloistered knowledge.

The Four Areas That Need The Most Documentation

As a manager we are called on to perform a number of different jobs. It turns out that each one of the jobs that we are asked to perform could benefit from us learning to write things down. One of the areas that can benefit the most is the area of product development. It’s amazing how rare it is that smart people scope out the who-when-why-how of a new product before they get started, given how much time and frustration just a few pages of planning can save. If we take the time to write down what we are planning on doing, how we are going about doing it, and what remains to be done we will have a much better chance of being successful.

A key part of every manager’s job is how we go about accomplishing things. The fancy name for this is process. Each company has its own methods; committing these to paper as style guides and how-to protocols helps keep your best practices in circulation. The only way that your team is going to be able to learn what they need to be doing for you is by you letting them know. Instead of requiring you to sit down with each member of your team and telling them the same thing, a much better way is to write it down and then pass it on.

Every team is dynamic. What this means for you as a manager is that one of the tasks that you’ll be doing over and over again is onboarding new team members. You’ve spent months searching for your new superstar team member. And now you’re gonna give him or her just a desk and a computer and expect her to figure it all out? Considering that this is a task that you’ll be doing over and over again, it sure seems to make sense to write down all of the information that you want to pass on to each of your new hires. Get it right once, and you’ll be able to reap the benefits for a long time to come.

Every manager has some form of customers that they are on the hook to support. What this means for you is that if you take the time to write things down, you can make this critical part of your job that much easier. Every business needs to have well-thought-out rules for how to communicate with customers. Documenting your answers as FAQs and internal support docs will keep your team consistent, efficient, and on message. What makes this even better is that as your team learns more about what your customers really want, you can refine what you have written down and the knowledge will be passed on to everyone.

What All Of This Means For You

Let’s face it: managers have a tough job. We are called on to perform a lot of different tasks in addition to all of the team building that we are responsible for. It sure seems as though the list of things that we’ve been asked to accomplish just seems to get longer and longer every day. Very quickly we can run into a problem where we are running the risk of forgetting or overlooking something that we’ve been asked to do. What we need is a way to make sure that we can remember all of our commitments.

The good news is that there is a simple solution to this problem. It turns out that if we take the time to write down the things that we’ve committed to doing, then we’ll have a much better chance to remember what we’ve promised to do. Writing things down is how new companies and people who are starting new projects keep track of all of the things that they need to be doing. No matter if you are a new manager or if you are an established manager, taking the time to write things down is a good way to make sure that you don’t forget to do important tasks. There are four types of manager tasks that can benefit the most when you take the time to write things down. Product development requires that we write down just exactly what we are trying to accomplish before we start it. Every company has processes and it’s a manager’s responsibility to write down how the processes that they are responsible for work. A key part of every manager’s job is onboarding new team members and if we take the time to write down everything that we need them to know, we’ll make sure that we don’t skip over anything. We all have customers and how our team interacts with them is critical. Taking the time to write down how we should treat them is a great way to make sure that everyone on your team does it the same way.

Sometimes being a manager can seem like it is an overwhelming task. We seem to get asked to do so many different things all at once. It can be challenging to remember everything that we’ve agreed to do and so we need some help to make it all happen. Simply by writing down the things that we are working on gives us a great way to stay on top of our responsibilities. The next time that you start to feel like you’ve been asked to do too much, whip out your pen and paper and write everything that you are working on down and you’ll be surprised at how much more manageable everything becomes!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should write everything down in the same place or should you have multiple notebooks?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I had to guess what kind of feedback you like to get, I’d be willing that just like the rest of us you like positive feedback about your manager skills the best. However, somewhat surprisingly it turns out that there is a type of manager who likes a different type of feedback. Negative feedback. Most of us dislike negative feedback and we go out of our way to avoid getting it or giving it out. We fear that if we give someone negative feedback it is going to cause dejection, anger, and may even end up making them cry. That’s why it’s so amazing that some managers actually seek out negative feedback.