Every administrative professional needs a procedures manual.
Procedures are documented processes that explain exactly how to complete a task. They help you provide consistent customer service, make it easier for you to delegate tasks, and showcase the value you bring to your executive and organization.
When I talk about procedures, most people think of a physical binder sitting on a desk or bookshelf. And you should absolutely have one of those. It’s easy to grab your binder, look up a procedure or refer to a checklist, and get on with your day.
But from a disaster preparedness standpoint, only having a physical binder is risky. What happens if there’s a fire? Or a pipe bursts and floods your office? Or a storm makes the roads impassable and you have to work from home?
Enter digital procedures. Digital procedures contain the same information as your print binder; they’re just in digital form and stored in the cloud so they’re accessible from anywhere.
OneNote for Digital Procedures
I like using OneNote for my digital procedures. I can set it up to mirror my print procedures binder, so I don’t waste any time hunting for something. You can create custom, color-coded tabs for the different sections of your digital notebook, it’s fully searchable, and it’s simple to update if a procedure needs to be adjusted. Better yet, it can time and date stamp the update so you always know when and who made the last edit to the procedure.
The easiest way to add procedures to your OneNote notebook is to scan them in straight from your print procedures binder. You can quickly insert the contents of a PDF or image file onto a page of your OneNote notebook. Alternatively, you can link the procedure from where it lives on your network drive to your OneNote notebook or copy and paste the procedure straight into the notebook.
I prefer to use a cloud-based storage location that also backs up to my local hard drive so I can access the notebooks regardless of whether I’m connected to the internet. I have used Dropbox successfully for years, but many other cloud storage options exist. So consult with your IT department on the best option before you decide on a digital storage location.
Network Drives for Digital Procedures
If OneNote is not the best solution for your team, you can still organize your digital procedures in a way that mirrors your physical binder by setting up folders and sub-folders on a network drive or SharePoint site.
Here is an example to illustrate this:
When I worked corporately, I typically had a single folder for the contents of my administrative procedures binder. Within that folder were a series of sub-folders that were identical to the tabbed dividers in my physical binder. Within those sub-folders were the individual forms, templates, checklists, and procedures that corresponded to that section.
When you save your documents like this, I strongly recommend a naming convention that keeps your documents organized for quick reference. Here is an example:
And I’ve used these naming conventions to keep my forms, templates, checklists, procedures, and other documents organized in my digital files:
- ENV – JPI Return Address (ENV for Envelopes)
- LBL – Avery 6 Per Page Shipping (LBL for Labels)
- LTR – JPI Letterhead (LTR for Letter Templates)
- SIGN – Tradeshow Tabletops (SIGN for Signage Docs)
- TEMPLATE – Annual Planning Calendar
- PROCEDURE – State Sales Tax Processing
- FORM – Meeting & Site Visit Planning
You Need Procedures in Print and Digital Formats
Digital procedures don’t take the place of print procedures. It’s important that you have both. And I know this from personal experience!
I was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa during the 2008 floods, working out of an eight-story building in the heart of downtown. The water on the first floor was 10 feet deep, and it was weeks before anyone could re-enter their offices. The first thing I grabbed when we got the call to evacuate was my procedures binder – and it’s a good thing because even though I had my digital procedures up to date, power and internet were intermittent for almost two weeks. My colleague didn’t grab her print procedures, and when she was finally allowed back into her office, she had to don a full hazmat suit to retrieve her binder! You never know what life is going to throw at you, which is why you can’t rely on print or digital procedures alone. To cover all of your bases, you need both!
If you are just starting to document your administrative procedures, start by creating them in the format – print or digital – that is the most natural for your work style. Once you have that version, then you can convert it to the alternative format so you have it in print and digital formats for ongoing use.
© 2022 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, 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, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.