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Write down everything

To be more specific, write down everything important. Early in my corporate career, I asked an experienced designer what had helped him make the transition from a small agency to a big company. He suggested that I should keep a permanent track of what’s happening for myself. Projects change and people come and go so it’s hard to keep everything in memory.

I took his advice to heart. I’ve started a journal for each project I’ve worked on and have been doing it since. Even though there is a small overhead to writing them, there are two huge benefits:

1. No ambiguity

I’m really happy that we’re doing A.”
“Ermm … I thought we’re doing B. Isn’t that what we decided at the beginning of the year?”
“I’m pretty sure it was A. I’ve talked with Claire and Lucas about it.”
“But A is completely at odds with our goal. Are you sure it’s not B? Claire left the company in the meantime and Lucas is on a parental leave, so it’s going to be hard to check what you had discussed.”

This will happen. However, I want it to happen once a year, not every week. Recording decisions, reasons, and thoughts makes it easy to recall them later. To save time, I often copy email snippets or meeting notes. In the spirit of open collaboration, all my project journals are open to everyone. I can point people to specific sections, and they can review and comment.

2. Clear thoughts

When I can’t copy summaries, I have to write them myself. The act of writing forces me to think through the decision or activity once again, and it serves as an additional check.

What about project management tools?

I’ve seen project management tools work well in smaller companies. However, as the number of teams and diverse projects increases, the lowest common denominator for cross-team communication quickly becomes the holy trinity: emails, issue trackers, and documents. Additional hurdles to finding a common tool everyone uses are “not invented here syndrome” and security concerns.

If everyone in your team and all your collaborators use one tool to track progress and communicate, you’re in a good place. If not, make your own notes. You’ll thank yourself later.

This article is a part of my “lessons from the corporate world” series. If you’re curious, take a look at the intro on how it started and the list of all articles.

Don’t miss this one:
Choose teams over projects

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