3 Simple Steps to Start Documenting Your Processes

By August 1, 2014Systems & How-Tos

Originally published on July 11, 2013

First, I want to acknowledge that creating an SOP (Standard Operating & Procedures) guide is not the most exciting thing in the world, which is exactly why many businesses don’t have one (or only have part of one). It isn’t my ideal way to spend a day either, but it definitely needs to be done.

It’s like exercise – at first it’s not fun. You have to drag yourself out of bed early to make it to the gym when you really don’t want to. But you do it anyway because you know the payoff is worth it. Although you may never love working out, you get to the point at which it becomes part of your day and it’s no longer such a drag.

Documenting your processes to create your SOP guide are part of a healthy workout for your business. So here are 3 simple steps to get you on your way:

  1. Decide who needs to document the process. Whoever is doing the work is the best person to document the process. If you have been doing most of the work yourself to date, then it’s you. If you have a VA (or two) who has been doing the work, get them to help (and yes, you pay them for this time). This requires a measure of discipline on both sides – you need to demand that they do it as part of their role, and they need to set aside the time to actually do it.
  2. When should you start? Now! The best way to create your SOP guide is “as you go.” You and/or your team can start documenting things as they come up. Don’t try to do it all at once and make it a big project. That’s too stressful and it’s not necessary. Aim for each person to complete at least a few each week.
  3. Decide on the best format. Your SOP guide needs to live online in a place that is accessible to everyone on the team so it’s easy to update. We use the “wiki” feature in Central Desktop to manage our SOP guide. It can be written, audio, video, or a combination thereof. If you do choose audio or video, I do recommend having someone create a written checklist for easy referral (vs. always having to rewatch the video).

If you start today, in a few short weeks you will be well on your way to having an effective SOP guide in place and living happily in your virtual office for all to see.

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  • Tina! I saw your presentation at Bizapalooza and LOVED it! I presented just before you. Actionplanr.com is perfect for documentation. You can create step-by-step action plans with it and it is so simple to use. Check it out and give it a test drive. Love your energy. I have never met anyone who talks so enthusiastically about systems as you. Keep up the awesome work!

  • krista

    Thank you for sharing this. I like the official-ness of how having a “SOP guide” sounds…since I’m the only one in my biz, I guess #1 is ME! 🙂

  • Tina, thanks for laying this out. I have some documentation in place for my clients – but only the most common tasks, I want to get everything done now. The next step for me is to have a system for my systems! I think I’m going to try out Google Sites and create a Wiki for each client.

  • pamivey

    And I forgot to add…
    Every time I see another one of your terrific videos, I get a pang of guilt. I SHOULD be doing these regularly too. Cut it out girlfriend! (j/k)

  • pamivey

    Two comments for you:

    1) AWESOME TIPS Tina! Creating processes and ultimately your SOP is definitely a scary, overwhelming, DRY, and confusing task for many and your ideas for how to just go ahead and get started are super helpful; and…

    2) Your makeup looks awesome in the vid. I know, I know, that was totally GIRLY. But a) I AM a girl; and b) Sometimes we just need to hear that kinda thing! =:)

    My FAVE: When you pass along a task or activity to a VA or OBM, ask them to document as they go along. If you get them to do this as they go for everything they do in your biz, you’ll have your processes documented totally PAINLESSLY to you… most will be done by your support team.

    • tinaforsyth

      I agree – anytime someone else does the work and you don’t have to anymore, that is a very dreamy thing. 🙂 Thanks re: the compliment, always great to hear (hehe) So when is your next video coming then? 😉

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