2020 has been one hell of a year. For most of us, our lives and especially our routines have been turned upside down. For many of us, we are struggling with too much news, too many snacks, too much drinking, and too many distractions. For those less fortunate, the virus has left them unemployed, isolated, and scared.
Through the challenge of grappling with limited choices, lives stuck at home, remote work, loved ones we can’t see (or loved ones that we now see too much of), and loss of wealth, we are all experiencing some form of soul searching.
It is not a secret that times of crisis like wars or economic collapses bring out the best in creativity and innovation. There has been an out-pour of articles on this subject throughout the pandemic. While it is sad to look out at the world today, most of us know that those of us who rise to the Corona Challenge, we will come out this event more resourceful, more compassionate, more thankful, and more successful on the other side.
I am not a self-help expert. I am an expert in documentation. But I can say that this new – now-week-long – age of social distancing brings unprecedented opportunity and impetus to use the power of documentation to improve our work, our careers, our home life, and our lives overall.
Below, I have given my top tips for using the power of documentation best practices in this novel age of social distancing. It is my sincere hope that these will help you to proverbially make Corona lemonade out of the lemons it has given you – and that I will see you (and my friends, family, and co-workers) again on the other side of this!
1) Use your To Do List as your weapon.
The last week has upset our work lives, our family lives, our physical activity, our access to products we take for granted, our social lives, and our mental health. This is going to be a tough month.
Your gym is closed, and you might be working in your dining room right now with your kids running around the house. Your phone is probably beeping right now from another piece of bad news.
There has never been a more important time to write down your daily goals. EVER. Even if you consider yourself a successful person and you have never in your life made to lists, I don’t care – make one now!
Your to do list is a weapon against the tsunami of distractions attacking you and your only way of taking some control back from this crazy situation we are living in.
Use documentation to force discernment and realistic expectations for your day. Lying to yourself that you will get more done than you could possibly handle will not help your mental state in this time of challenge. Use documentation to check yourself into reality.
- Do 30 push-ups
- Clean the kitchen floor
- Answer emails
- Review ABC memo
- Meditate for 10 minutes
- Call (insert list of friends/family) who are alone, unemployed, in isolation, etc.
Use your To Do list to:
- Play Defense: Stabilize your mental health by creating routine and providing a sense of accomplishment.
- Play Offence: Take on more tasks while others stagnate through this period and come out ahead of the game.
2) This is a great time to dust off your documentation projects.
When it comes to remote work, there is a lot written on its positive and negative aspects and a barrage of commentary on the subject coming out in the last week. While I have done a lot of remote work over the years, there are many things that I don’t think that it is ideal for – brainstorming sessions, all-day training, figuring out certain technical issues, connecting with new people, most types of sales calls, communicating new ideas, and almost all spontaneous or creative work in general – to name just a few.
But one thing that that remote work is great for is – documentation. Why is that?
- Documentation, by its nature, is meant to be standalone. Documentation is designed support someone with doing their job or explaining a concept without someone else helping them. That is why documentation can be very much tested in this remote world. It is meant to serve this exact scenario that we are living in – when you can’t run down the hall to talk to your coworkers.
- Documentation projects demand individual based tasks. While documentation projects in general do need coordination with many people, the tasks themselves are typically done one person at time.
While work must go on in this remote world, work priorities and activities may need some shifting. This is a great time to dust of those neglected documentation projects and take them off the shelf. Most companies – if not all the clients I have ever worked with – have important-but-not-urgent documentation projects that they haven’t gotten to that are costing them lost clarity, cost savings, effective use of resources, and revenues in the long run.
Looking for ideas for some great documentation projects in the age of social distancing?
- Review and update your existing process documentation that you have been pushing off
- Improve your training materials that have been sitting on a shelf
- Organize your sales, proposal and marketing materials or verbiage
- Organize your folder structure and documents in these folders or else within a system
- Do an inventory of your documents (choosing specific categories) and refresh yourself on what you have, what you should be leveraging more of, and what needs improving
- Review, refine and improve the metadata to find your documents or supporting information
3) Reevaluate your meeting practices.
The age of social distancing is forcing us to reevaluate our meeting practices – and this is a good thing.
Chose Smaller Focused Meetings. If your company typically invites twenty people to meetings when only two people are really needed to have a conversation, it will become even more obvious that these meetings aren’t working. While our technologies are great these days for supporting effective meetings, I personally find that the most effective meeting type in our remote world is one-on-one. The one-on-one phone call is the foundation of what the phone was made for, after all! Wherever you can, shift away from large group meetings and focus more on shorter one-on-one calls.
Get Disciplined about your meeting plan and meeting notes. If you do need to have a larger group meeting, you need to be more disciplined than you were in the face-to-face world. Circulate an agenda or simple presentation (but don’t stress about making it flashy) before the meeting. Take great meeting notes and circulate them as quickly as possible after the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page. When you can’t see the expressions on people’s faces or whether they were paying attention, it is even more important to get notes circulated after the meeting to get everyone on the same page.
Get great at your tools. Now is a time to re-imagine your work environment and the tools you use. By force, many of us (myself included) developed a number of new IT skills in the last week alone. Experiment with as many great tools that you can use for hosting great meetings. There is a ton being said on this topic and I could go on (so please read more on the subject)…but this is the time for looking at your tools.
4) Focus on production, not posturing.
The remote world does not care about what you wear to the office, how you grandstand in meetings, or throw your weight around the office. You cannot “fake it” in the remote world; remote work is a great equalizer.
For many of you who love to crank work out and hate office chit chat, remote work will be your time to shine. For you professional meeting-goers, you are up for a rude wake-up call.
On top of the fact that the Coronavirus is forcing us at home, it is also devastating or economy and many businesses. If you are one of the luckier ones to be working right now, do not take this for granted. Work hard. Produce. Show as much value as you humanly can. Find ways to be creative to tackle challenges including saving your company costs, changing to remote formats and looking for new revenue streams.
Our remote world could have huge ramifications on the way we view our employees and contractors and consultants beyond this age of social distancing. Instead of our traditional view of hours for pay, it is time compensate our resources based on their production, not posturing. (And by the way, documentation is a great way to show your boss that you can produce even if she can’t see you.)
5) Use Personal Documentation to Improve your Mood, Energy and Emotions and Habits.
I call documentation about your mood, energy, emotions and your diet and exercise “personal documentation”. This is documentation that you use to improve yourself.
In today’s stressful world, a very simple technique to improve your well-being is to maintain a log (which could be informal—even thrown away each day) of your mood, energy, emotions, diet and exercise. I personally use a very basic template, but you could scribble it in a notebook or journal or else on a piece of loose-leaf – or my tech-savvy friends can choose from a myriad of apps too.
This is a method employed by many therapists, psychiatrists, trainers, coaches, and others whose job it is to help you help yourself. Even if the world is falling apart around you, the act of tracking what you are doing, eating, and feeling makes you evaluate why you may not be feeling so great in the first place. Maybe it’s too much news causing lack of sleep or stress-eating Girl Guide cookies. Perhaps you find that your mood tends to drop after looking at your stock portfolio, reading certain news, or talking to a certain people.
I am not saying to tune out the reality of the situation. But a bit of strategic tuning out is good for us. Whatever may be irking you, tracking the what and the why can help you to make better decisions to do something about it. Without documenting, you might never make these valuable connections and think about how to make the most out of difficult times.
6) Soul Search through documentation.
While the impact of Coronavirus is devastating; soul searching is a good thing. In our normal world (which we now much miss), we have so many choices of what to do, there is never any time for any soul searching. A change in our routine is good for us in this way.
I realize that most of us will not be novelists. Most of us – myself included – will also never be successful in maintaining a journal. But most of us through some form or another find writing to be soul searching. It could be on large loose-leaf paper. It could be stream of conscious writing. You could write a book for your kids. You could write a blog. You could draw with your kids’ markers all over your desk. You could write a long email or an old-fashioned letter. You could post stick notes or large papers on your wall. Whatever.
What are you more appreciative of? What will you do differently after this is over? What will life look like after the virus? What have you taken for granted?
There is life after the virus. There is life too during the virus, although it is a different one. Use these documentation techniques as simple, cheap tools to take you through these difficult times.
If your team is looking for any help in navigating documentation challenges in this time of crisis, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to connecting for a conversation. Stay connected in this virtual world!