The Anatomy of a Procedure [Infographic]

Jan 10, 2024 | Administrative Professionals, Procedures

Procedures can help any office run more efficiently. Not only do they allow your team members to cover for you during planned or unplanned absences, but they also demonstrate the value you bring to your organization, help save time and effort, and become part of the legacy you leave behind.

Although most administrative professionals understand that they should have a procedures binder, many still don’t have one. This is often because the process seems overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! These seven tips will help you to create an easy-to-understand set of procedures in no time!

7 Tips for Well-Written Procedures

1. A handwritten procedure is still a documented procedure.

Many think procedures have to be typed and perfectly formatted to qualify as a procedure. This is not true. The goal of a procedure is for it to get someone through the task or process. As long as the procedure accomplishes this goal, it doesn’t matter whether it’s handwritten or typed.

Remember, you can always go back and make it look nice later. Getting the procedure down on paper, no matter how you do it, is more important than the aesthetic.

2. Use a template for consistency.

Procedures work best when they’re structured and consistent, and using a template to capture them can help immensely, especially if you don’t have the time to type them right away. You can download one of our complimentary templates here.

Once you have your template, print out several blank copies, punch three holes in each page, and keep them in a file folder within reach of your workspace. That way, you can easily grab a form and create a procedure any time you think of a new one.

Even if it’s short and simple, every procedure goes on its own sheet of paper. This will give you some structure to get started. Be sure to include the procedure name, category, etc.

Always add your name and the date to any procedure you create. This helps everyone keep track of when the procedure was last updated and by whom. Then, if anyone has questions about the procedure, they’ll know exactly who to go to.

You may be the primary person using these procedures right now, but there will likely be others using them at some point, so it’s important to be as thorough as possible.

3. Think commands, not sentences.

You want to be specific without being excessively wordy. This is not a graded English paper; it’s a procedures binder. People are more likely to read bulleted commands than complete sentences, especially if they are in a hurry.

4. Use bullets or numbered lists as much as possible.

Number the steps that need to be completed in a specific order. Use bulleted lists for non-order specific instructions. This helps the reader find the most important details more quickly when they read through the procedure.

5. Go through each task or process step by step.

As you create your procedure, think about each step you take to complete it. Write the steps down much like you would an outline. Then go back and fill in the details or background information where appropriate.

Be sure to include the name and number of who to contact if there are questions. You know who to contact when you have a question, but someone else may not. It’s important for you to tell the person who’s filling in for you who else is a good resource if you haven’t included enough detail in your procedures.

6. Use images or screenshots where helpful.

To make your procedures even more effective, create a graphic or visual to accompany the printed or written instructions. This can be a huge help for visual learners and provide confirmation and assurance that they’re on the right track as they go through your procedure.

7. Test your procedures.

The best way to know if your procedures will work is to have someone else test them. Ask them to identify items that don’t make sense, and list any questions they have about the procedures. It may be helpful to watch them as they go through the procedure step by step. This will help you gain clarity, identify information gaps, and create a procedure that anyone can follow!

Examples of Effective Procedures

Would you like a sneak peek into the All Things Admin procedures binder? Here are some examples of procedures we use:

Creating effective procedures isn’t complicated, especially once you get into the habit of documenting each task as you’re performing it. Remember, you don’t have to create your entire procedures binder at once! To avoid overwhelm, focus on just five procedures per week. For most admins that’s only one procedure a day!

Before you know it, you’ll have a comprehensive procedures binder that will serve as a valuable resource to you, your executive, and your team for years to come.

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© 2024 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures, and Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio.

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