Lately, I have been going through my filing cabinet and old boxes in storage. Inside are old paper documents from years ago; notes, pictures, diagrams, charts, etc. Some of these documents have dates in the header or footer or on the back, while others have no hint of a date. The challenging part is trying to place a document that has no date in the proper timeline with others that do. Unfortunately, in the past, recording the date a document was created or updated wasn’t high on my list of documentation activities.  I do have to say that over time I have developed some better documentation habits.

Good documentation habits:

  • Record the date the article was created
  • Record the purpose of the document (what was the problem you were trying to answer)
  • Record who was involved with your document (name, email, phone)
  • Record the date the article was modified
  • Record action items (what were the next steps for this document)
  • Use filenames that include the date as part of the title
  • I use a date format of YYMMDD for example 091004
  • If you’re sharing this document, you can always use YYYYMMDD or 20091004
  • Using this method helps you quickly figure out the earliest and latest versions of a specific file
  • Listing the files alphabetically will by default show them in chronological order or reverse chronological order.
  • When viewing the list, the year changes the least, then month, then day
  • When printing, add a header or footer that prints out the print date and/or filename_date
  • Group like documents together
  • Fasten them together with paper clips or staples or 3 ring binders.

Develop good documentation habits now and you’ll avoid wasted time in the future trying to figure out what a document is about and why it was created in the first place.  An added benefit is that you’ll have a paper trail that will help you track an idea’s development over its lifetime.