Life Requires Standard Operating Procedures

Oct 29, 2020 | Procedures

When my mom slipped on the ice several winters ago, I quickly realized that procedures aren’t just for the office.

My mom managed the household finances, insurance, and medical matters, so my dad and I had to quickly get up to speed on how to take care of things while she was recovering. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple years later, our documentation got even more detailed when we learned how little time we had left with her.

Procedures make sense at the office for dozens of reasons, but they are just as important at home.

If you have children, you leave emergency contact information or instructions for your kids’ babysitters. Those are procedures. If you have pets, you have care instructions for your pet sitter or family members. Those are procedures. If you’ve ever had a pipe freeze, an appliance break, or an unexpected home repair, who you called and how you got it fixed is a procedure you can use for future reference.

When my husband and I travel, we have checklists for packing that include the list of things we do before we leave (e.g. stop the mail, send travel itineraries to family members, water the plants, change voicemail greetings, etc.), things we check as we are walking out the door (turn down the heat, make sure we have our photo I.D.s and keys, etc.), and things we do when we get home (e.g. pick up the mail, drop off dry cleaning, check voicemail, etc.). After years of travel, we’ve figured out it’s simpler to create a complete checklist that guides our preparations than it is to have unneeded panic attacks at the airport and beyond. Our travel procedures make our trip planning and execution more relaxed and enjoyable from start to finish!

Procedures and systems, which are comprised of related procedures that work together to help you get big jobs done, are crucial in every aspect of your life. Whether it’s a smooth-running office or an efficiently functioning home, there’s an established system at the heart of both. Documenting the procedures that create those systems helps others help you when you need it!

I recommend you approach creating a household procedures binder the same way you would an office procedures binder.

1) Assemble the right tools for the job. You can purchase pre-printed planners to help you get started, but I recommend a three-ring binder with tabbed sections that you can add notes or documentation to as you think of things.

I recently ordered this Peace of Mind Planner to help me think about and organize all of life’s important details. It’s a book for capturing vital details about legal matters, health, financial affairs, etc. It’s a fantastic tool for helping me think through all of the things I need to provide to my loved ones in case of an emergency or life altering event. A tool like this may help you get started, too.

2) Track your activities and create your contact lists. Are there regular routines or schedules you need to document for yourself, family members, or even pets? Is there special medical or dietary information you need to document for those in your household? Is there regular maintenance required for your home, vehicles, or property? Is there financial information you need to regularly review? Do you have contact lists for immediate family, extended family, doctors/dentists, schools/teachers, electricians/plumbers/maintenance, neighbors, close friends, and business associates? What’s your WiFi password?

3) Pick your top five procedures and create them. To avoid overwhelm, never work on more than five procedures at a time. If getting off to a quick start is motivating, pick the five fastest ones you can create and do them. If there are critical matters that keep you up at night, pick the five most crucial procedures and start there. The important thing is to get started. Keep it manageable. And make daily progress – even if you only work on one item each day!

4) Brainstorm additional information to include. The obvious things will come to mind in step two, but there may be other things you are completely overlooking. Are there seasonal or annual things you need to document? Are there memberships, subscriptions, or other financial obligations you should record? Do some online research to see what else may be helpful to reference.

5) Organize it for ongoing use. The topics and quantity of information you assemble will help you determine how to divide it into sections of your binder. You may have sections for schedules, contact lists, medical information, home/property, financial, insurance, online accounts, etc. If any section gets too large, you can always break it into more specific topics so it’s easy to find what you need when you need it.

Due to the confidential nature of the contents of this binder, I encourage you to keep it in a secure place once you develop it. It’s also important to make sure your loved ones know where to find it in case of an emergency.

2020 has certainly reinforced that anything can happen. Documenting your home and family procedures can help you manage the unexpected – whatever the future may bring. Investing a few minutes each day to add to this valuable resource will provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.


Need Help Getting Started With Procedures? We Have 5 Resources For You!


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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. 

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