Lessons from using a bullet journal: track as well as set goals

By Ellis

I’m experimenting with using a bullet journal this year, and it’s resulting in some useful ideas for managing and planning technical authoring work.

Setting and achieving targets at the start of the year can be difficult. You may end up needing to spend time on immediate, more pressing tasks, and your list of targets can end up feeling like a statement of the things you have failed to achieve.

One of the ways that people use bullet journals is to keep a track of their performance in a month. This is an example of a habits tracker by Kara Benz:

It works like Key Performance Indicators – you set the measures you want to track, and you record each time you carry out those activities.

By reviewing and reflecting each day or each week, on the things you have done, it helps you spot the items that are being neglected. It also seems to prompt you to do those tasks, like trimming a sail or moving a tiller.

It also encourages continuous growth, rather than proficiency. If you focus only on a target, there is the danger that you stop once you have met your goal. Focusing on achievements is also more positive, from a mental perspective.

You don’t, of course, need a bullet journal to make a tracking journal. You could use any notebook, a Word document, Excel spreadsheet etc.

If you use this method already, do share your experiences below.

What is technical communication, actually?

As a technical communicator, sometimes it can be hard to explain to others what it is you do. In the olden days, it was simpler: you could say you wrote manuals. Then, in more recent times, you could say you wrote online Help and manuals.

Today, there can be uncertainty of what is and isn’t technical communication. It can be unclear if certain deliverables should be created by a technical communicator or by someone else. For example, if content moves from a Help page to an onboarding screen, is it still technical communication? If the text moves into the interface, should the technical communicator create it? Are walkthrough videos a function of training or technical communication?
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Draftback – could it reveal how Technical Authors actually write?

James Somers is releasing an add-on for Google Docs, Draftback, that enables you to play back and analyse the creation of any Google Doc you have permission to edit.

It means you can see how a writer created the document, the sections they spent time rewriting and rearranging, the elements that were pasted into the document from elsewhere, and so on.

From an organisation’s perspective, the graphs Draftback that produces potentially could be used to show when and where the writer spent most of their time:

Timeline of activity

I could see this illustrating the impact of last minute changes to a product, review comments and other external factors. Potentially, it could also highlight areas where a writer might need assistance or training.

What do you think?

Managing information when you are a project services company

Last week, we completed the third phase of our IT systems migration. With each phase, we’re gaining insights into how information can be best managed inside a company selling and delivering project-based services.

There are a number of basic IT systems needed to run a project-based business, such as ourselves:

  • Prospect database. This is essentially for sending out mailshots and any freebies offered on a website.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This is for following up new enquiries, past customers and carrying out other sales-related activities. This involves keeping a record of past conversations and next steps.
  • Project management. This involves keeping a record of conversations, repositories for files and contracts, time spent on a project, and other project-related activities.
  • Accounting. This involves invoicing and payments.

In numerous companies where I’ve worked there’s been a problem in finding the ideal solution. A single system that does everything may force you to work in a particular way of working, and these systems can be expensive for smaller organisations. Having separate systems can lead to information not being shared across the systems. For example, many of the project teams I’ve worked with have found CRM systems, such as Salesforce.com, too complex. They simply don’t use them often enough.

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The lost Steve Jobs interview – on successful products

Last night, we watched Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview on Netflix. It’s a lengthly (70 minute) interview from 1995, in which Steve Jobs discussed his recipe for a successful business. The interview was made 19 years ago when Steve Jobs was still running NeXT Computers, and just six months before he rejoined Apple.

Here are some highlights.
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Assessing the potential savings from single sourcing

One of the main benefits from single sourcing is the ability to reuse existing content. Different departments can avoid duplicating work, which means they can save time and money.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to quantify these savings before you move to an authoring or content management system that enables you to single source. Analysing all the existing documents in a business can be overwhelming, which means often organisations only quantify the savings after the single sourcing content management system has been implemented.

There are a few software applications that can help you analyse your existing content and determine how much duplication exists. You get a sense of how much time and effort was wasted in the past, which is a pretty good indication of how much waste you’d avoid in the future.

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Critical risk factors in content strategy

Via Twitter, we came across a blog post by Nick Milton on The four management territories for Knowledge Management. His post contained a diagram where he used the Boston Square to describe four management territories, and their impact on Knowledge Management.

We wondered how this diagram would look if it related to content strategy. We came up with a diagram that describes the critical risk factors in content strategy – the aspects you will need to ensure you get right within the management culture that exists inside your organisation:

criticalriskfactors

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