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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Best Tools for Documenting Systems Amongst Your Team

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Best Tools for Documenting Systems Amongst Your Team

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What is your favorite software or tool for documenting systems for your team and why?

1. Asana

Blake Miller

    Asana is great because it’s so versatile. Not only is it great for project management, but also you can use it to create checklist-oriented task lists. For instance, at Think Big Accelerator, we use an Asana organization with multiple projects that we share with new startups. It’s called the Playbook and meant to serve as a guide for entrepreneurs from idea to the first customer.
    Blake Miller, Think Big Partners

    2. Courseroute and Camtasia

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    allie siarto

      We’re a small team (five people), so we wanted to build out a really simple platform to record and share screencasts and documents around our company processes. We’ve recorded all of our major day-to-day processes using Camtasia screen recording, and we host the videos and documents on Courseroute, a simple training platform that we built. The beta version will be open to the public soon.
      Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

      3. Basecamp

      Fabian Kaempfer

        We like to keep everything in one place. We use Basecamp as our project management tool for almost everything we do. By using this, we are able to document systems in the appropriate project and refer to it by link if it’s associated with a certain task somewhere else. Having to switch and log into several platforms is a time-waster for us. We like to be efficient, and Basecamp is how we get it done.
        Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

        4. GitHub

        phil-chen

          Being a technology company with a small team, GitHub allows us both documentation of our systems as well as documentation of our code base in a way we are familiar with. The revision control aspect is very useful to see what has changed and when.
          Phil Chen, Givit

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          5. DocSTAR

          Andrew Schrage

            Use the software offered by DocSTAR. It offers cloud-based document management services and data capture, and it can improve overall business workflow.
            Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

             

            6. Evernote

            Thursday-Bram 2

              With the advent of Evernote for business, I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for documenting systems and sharing the information with my team. Even better, I can clip an article and turn it into a process to follow very quickly if we want to try something new.
              Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

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              7. Streak

              doreen-bloch

                Streak has been a great tool for our team to document a variety of workflows. The tool lives right within our email accounts (where we spend a great amount of time), which is very useful. Streak has many pipelines that can be built and then shared with select team members. Whether it’s sales, bug tracking or customer service processes, Streak maintains the workflows and encourages collaboration.
                Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                8. Flow

                Phil Dumontet

                  Flow is my favorite task management tool. It holds everyone on my team accountable to what they say they’re going to do and allows your task lists to be private or public. The private lists are key for information control; these let me collaborate on high-level, sensitive projects with the people I choose.
                  Phil Dumontet, DASHED

                  9. Lucidchart

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                  Robby Hill

                    Lucidchart is an HTML5 app accessible from all major platforms and has some team collaboration features as you’re documenting processes and building out very complex diagrams. We use it because some people are on Mac, iPad and Windows, and the service/app works across all of those devices, helping us convey a message with a nice looking graphical chart.
                    Robby Hill, HillSouth

                    10. Google Docs

                    Erin Blaskie

                      We use many project management tools including Basecamp, Evernote and Asana, but what we find works best for documenting systems is Google Docs. The reason? It’s simply the best at keeping one version of a document, and you can organize all the documents into helpful folders. Combine that with the commenting functionality, and you have a streamlined way to document processes and systems.
                      Erin Blaskie, Erin Blaskie Digital Strategist

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                      Published on January 7, 2021

                      How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

                      How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

                      Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

                      If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

                      Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

                      You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

                      When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

                      Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

                      In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

                      Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

                      3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

                      Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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                      1. Respect deadlines
                      2. Understand the work-flow plan
                      3. Build in time to mess up

                      1. Respect Deadlines

                      Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

                      One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

                      2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

                      Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

                      3. Build in Time to Mess Up

                      You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

                      Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

                      For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

                      Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

                      This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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                      Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

                      Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

                      Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

                      When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

                      12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

                      Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

                      1. Learn to Listen Well

                      You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

                      Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

                      2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

                      Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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                      3. Follow Rules

                      Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

                      4. Take Notes

                      Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

                      5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

                      When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

                      As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

                      6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

                      If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

                      7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

                      English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

                      8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

                      Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

                      9. Minimize Distractions

                      It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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                      If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

                      10. Take Breaks

                      It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

                      11. Make Time for Reflection

                      At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

                      12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

                      This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

                      Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

                      When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

                      More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

                      Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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