The other day, I re-learned a lesson that I knew, but have chosen to disregard in many areas of my business.  The lesson is:

If you read instructions and learn to do things efficiently, you will save time and effort in the long-run.

I know that men get an especially bad rap for never reading instructions, but I will be woman enough to admit that sometimes I skip them too.

Other sayings that say the same thing include “Look before you leap” or “Measure twice, cut once” – I sometimes leap and cut my way to a more complicated day!

I figure out the basics and then charge ahead – often to the detriment of my work flow and time.  How many times have I said, “I’m self-taught on Photoshop.  I’m sure there is so much more I could be doing with it, but I’m too busy to take the time to take a class, watch tutorials, learn new things…”  That applies to many other programs on my computer as well.

If you read my blog regularly you will realize what a fan I am of Daylite – a contact management software system for the Mac.  And how many times have I lavished great praise on Matthew Bookspan, a Daylite partner who I hired to talk me through the setup.  He asked questions, learned what I wanted the software to do and helped me get it ready to roll.  Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this post if I had a Matthew for every software program… but alas, I don’t.

One of my goals for 2010 is to start documenting what I do in my business and creating systems.  As of December 2009, everything that was done was stored in my brain.  What would happen if something happened to me?  What happens if I *gasp* want to go on vacation and not check email – truly leaving someone else in charge for a bit?  Without anything in writing, that would be impossible.

The first thing I decided to document was the Ask Call procedures.  Everything I do, all the systems I use, to do the free monthly calls.  Shouldn’t be too bad, right?  You would be amazed how much goes into it – 57 pages of documentation and I’m not sure every last bit is there.

When I started, I decided to split the information up into a group of Word Documents – I had 6, each on a different category.  The websites, the audios, etc.  But then it became a mess to find anything – the process was long and the page numbers kept repeating and trying to do a table of contents was … well… not an easy task.

So I slowed down and learned how to set up my Word document so it would create and update the Table of Contents for me.  By spending 30 minutes googling I found a great article about how to easily accomplish what I wanted (Microsoft Word 2008 Generating a Table of Contents), thought through my document, set up my headings that would be pulled for the TOC and got down to business.  I then had to copy and paste from the 6 different documents to create one master Ask Call plan, but it was well worth the effort!  Now it will be easy to see where the information is that I need – or better yet, that an assistant needs – to get things done.  And the next thing I document will be faster still because I’ll do it right the first time.

I’m sure there are many of you shaking your head that I didn’t know how to do this – but I didn’t.  We all start at different places with technology and computer programs.  The point is, we are all very busy with many demands on our time – sometimes it’s easy to justify saying,

There may be a better way, but I know this way so I’ll just get it done.

and to believe that you are saving yourself time and accomplishing more.  I’m here today to question that theory.  It isn’t always true.  My new theory is

LEARN BEFORE YOU LEAP.

I’ll be asking myself if there is a better, more efficient way, on a daily basis, will you?

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed