Remembering the basics

What do you call your documents? What is the first thing you do when you start writing? What is the last?

All these things that you do without thinking about, the basic automation that your brain easily handles, over and over again, these things are, to you, so basic as to be forgettable. You don’t tell anyone else to do them (they must know, right?) and you probably don’t remember where you learned how to do them.

You bulid your own mental checklist and that takes care of that.

Need to provide a PDF of a document for someone? No problem, generate it this way, name it in this manner to keep it sensible and consistent and put it THERE (as you know everyone has access to it that way). And so on and so forth. All these things locked away in your head.

That mental checklist is made up of many things, from coping other people, reading books, and learned from mistakes. Without it you’d be lost, and with it you retain value as you are the person who knows how to do those things.

But that also means you are the bottleneck, the only person who knows X and Y, and can help with Z.

Better to share that information, let others learn and improve it (and they will). It allows them to do more, and lets you do other things. More power to the team, and a better service to the rest of the company, further cementing the value you bring to your organisation.


  1. Doing exactly this in a new job in 2004 is what got me started on wikis. That job was also my first truly remote job – alone in one country with the team and management 9 time zones away. It made the need to document everything a no-brainer. Sure, we had other means of communication, but documenting steps and sharing ideas for good work habits, etc. was best done in some sort of written form like a wiki. I also had fun refreshing my childhood skills of drawing pictures for some procedures. The source file and a PDF version went on the wiki, too.

  2. When people do things repetitively from their persoanla mental checklists, some of the items on those lists get automated into a subconscious personal “autopilot”. As more items move from a consicous checklist to the subconscious autopilot, it becomes very difficult for them to consciously explain what they are doing or how they are doing it to another person.

    This is another reason that knowledge should be shared with the team, so everyone can share and evaluate it. The deeper it gets buried in the subconscious of busy individuals, the less likely it is to be shared to benefit everybody, if something happens to one of those key, knowledgeable, go-to- for-that-information persons

  3. Two recent jobs have been “cold starts” (no previous Tech Comms). It has amazed me how ignorant (or simplistic) the new organisation was. They just don’t know how to react to you, or have any idea of what you do or why you are there. We all have a lot of “embeded” knowledge, it would be good to share it.

  4. I am a remote employee, using Author-it over a VPN connection. It is extremely slow for just about everything except the actual keying in of data. Saves can take a ridiculous amount of time. Any way to mitiage this?

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