Good Paperwork

Just because work is digital now doesn’t mean there’s no paperwork.

In fact, there’s probably more than ever: email, instant messaging, project management, databases, shared drives — the list goes on and on and on.

Organizing your workflow in and across platforms is a task in itself, and a bigger one than I’m going to delve into here.

[Here’s “GTD (Getting Things Done) in 15 Minutes,” visualized, if you’re curious. HT to Khe Hy of RadReads for this.]

Rather, I’m here to argue for diligent digital-paperwork hygiene in general — and to propose a few basic principles for starters:

  • Develop, maintain, and enforce a good document titling protocol. [Bare minimum: have one for yourself. Lead by example.]
  • Craft effective subject lines.
  • Ditto body text. (It can be shorter. Where?)
  • No agenda, no meeting.
  • No minutes/actions, don’t expect follow-up or follow-through. (Don’t repeat the meeting itself, either.)
  • Know who and what you’re writing for.

Surely you can think of others. When in doubt, turn being peeved into better practice. Show, then tell if necessary.

But whatever you’re working on, in whatever workflow you use, be sure to see to the basics of good process. People rarely need more bits and bytes. What they need is something they can really sink their teeth into.

[Note: This isn’t a call for more bureaucracy. Nobody needs that. It’s ultimately about effectiveness — which might mean shipping fast, but might also mean having the empathy, creativity, and professionalism to make life easier on the people you work with (and your future self) in the way you write, share, meet, decide, and — yes — act.]