Three Ways To Document Tasks and Processes In Your Business
Productivity hacks from a professional administrator.
Simple ways to capture your processes without adding another thing to your to-do list.
By Accelerate Member Korryn Haines, Techie Tinkerer and Admin Ninja
Running a small business has you wearing many hats, doing many different things, and all-in-all juggling multiple tasks at any given time. You start out as a solo operator, things pick up and then you realise that you need help with hands on deck and you look to bring on support. But then you have that flicker of “I’m too busy to teach someone else how to do the things I need help with” and then you ditch the idea of getting help, and just keep barrelling on through your to-dos day in day out and not getting any reprieve.
As a career administrator and now administration consultant supporting a number of clients all in differing industries at one time - I see you, and I want to give you a way out of letting that little story stop you from gaining support in your business.
As a support person, I’ll be honest, I’ve always been one of those people who can take the ball and run with it in many situations (hence why I was working as a temp for a long while before I realised I could have my own business and cut out the middleman). But the one thing that I have done for many of my previous employers and clients is creating an “Admin Bible” for them. A one-stop shop, documenting their tasks and processes in their businesses while I have been supporting them - which have then been handed over to employees / staff / contractors after me and they’ve been able to continue on where I left off. (And I know they’ve been utilised because I’ve had emails and phone calls from both the client and the people who took over from me months and years down the line telling me how much they appreciated what I created for them).
And I’ve not created some big behemoth software or structure or process or system on top of doing my role with them, it has always been done alongside my work as I have been undertaking tasks for them. So I want to share with you my three key ways I’ve done it so that you, as a business owner, can do it for yourself, because do you know what the wins are when you do?
- Consistency and clarity around what tasks you do in your business.
- Clarity around the processes that are required for those tasks in your business.
- Allows you to be able to identify tasks that maybe can be streamlined or dropped.
- Helps you to create a position description and deliverables for the support you want to bring in.
- Gives you an “instruction manual” for the person you bring into your business.
- Gives you somewhere to refer to when you go to do tasks that you don’t do very often and need to refresh your memory on how it is done.
- Gives you a bigger picture for growing your business further and identifying areas that you can engage further support.
- And bonus - once you bring on the support, hand over the ongoing management of your process manuals to them.
So here are my three ways of creating this go-to guide (and like I said, it’s very simple - and some may say, low-tech).
1. Create a Master Manual / Guide in Word Document or Google Doc Format
This is how I started (I literally did this for my first job out of high school). I was learning so much that I started collating everything together in a Word document that was saved on the company network just so that I could refer back to things as I was learning. I had the document split into sections (because I was an Admin Trainee for a real estate agency) Sales, Rentals, Body Corporate, REIQ, Logins, Contacts. Then as I was doing tasks throughout the days I was typing into the document as I came across things that were important. Recording the steps in the process for a new listing, what items were needed, where could I find the documents I needed for the new listing. Braindump of everything. Of course when I became well versed in it I didn’t need to refer to it but it was there and if for some reason I was not there, my colleagues and managers knew where it was and they were able to refer to it. I was in that role for almost 4 years and I literally had printed my admin bible, collated it into the sections in a ring binder and used it as my training manual for my handover to the next person and they continued to use it for years afterwards.
Technology has changed of course so everything is digitised and on the cloud but the same principle applies - have a single document in your Google Drive / Dropbox / OneDrive called your Master Administration and Process Manual - and on the daily, just take a few minutes to braindump tasks and processes as you’re doing them under specific sections relevant to your business. My favourite categories are Operations / Marketing / Sales / Delivery as a framework (as I now do this for businesses in wide and varied industries) as a starting point.
Doing this you are also able to capture still image captures of screens in software and add them to the document so that you’re able to give a visual on what is happening. But technology has advanced more to allow you to do the next option too.
2. Record Video Step-By-Step Guides as you do them
If you’re not a writer / typer then this is a good place to start - simply switch on your screen capture on your computer and record yourself running through the steps when you are doing your work on a specific task. You can record your voice while working on the screen so you’re able to give specific instructions on what you’re doing and why and give some context. I find this is also great for people who learn visually and it makes the process smoother in learning. Personally, I use Zoom (yep, you can just do screen recordings of a meeting with yourself and screen sharing), but there’s oodles of options out there such as Loom, Movavi Screen Recorder, Camtasia, just to name a few.
You can also embed these videos as links into your Master Manual document too so it adds a dimension to your manual documentation too.
3. Record Audio Notes
Third and final option, is if you’re on the run (or you prefer to explain as you’re doing things and it doesn’t require a computer / software screen share), whip out your phone and voice record yourself. Then, if you’re collating together the Master Manual I mentioned, you can use software like Otter.ai to transcribe your audio notes into written format. Or, if you’re ok with it staying as audio, just like the video, you can add a link to the audio file in your document so that you can listen back when needed.
As an added note, if you’re not keen on creating the document mentioned in the first suggestion, and only want to do videos or audio, then that’s completely fine too - just keep all of the files saved together in a folder on your file management system and call the folder Administration and Processes or something like that. I have done this many times for clients because they aren’t keen on reading a “manual” but love having the how-to videos on things I’ve set up for them to play alongside while they go through the process. And because I’ve created the videos as I am doing the tasks for them, they also get the warts and all versions if something doesn’t work correctly at the time and I’m able to explain to them in the same breath how to fix it if that happens. It's a win win!
So there you have it - three ways to document your tasks and processes for your small business - and honestly, you record items as you’re doing them and have it collated in one central place, before you know it you will have a fantastic library of instructions for you to be able to get a support person up to speed in your business. Of course this doesn’t completely replace the need to give them a guiding hand or answering questions but it is a fantastic place to start.
About the author
Korryn Haines is a self-confessed techie tinkerer and admin ninja. Her business Encore Admin Consulting helps solopreneurs and business owners structure, streamline and self-manage their administration and tech needs. She helps business owners match their abilities and personalities to admin needs, through one to one attention, that’s warm, generous, packed with knowledge and a dash of humour too.
You can get in touch with Korryn via our Member Directory!