Leaving Behind Footprints

Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is what I would like to refer to as my professional legacy. The subject to which I am referring includes the clues, procedures, and documentation we leave so that others or that we, ourselves, may pick up again at the same place at which we last left.  In the current era of technical support, most of these records are digital, but organization and layout is still just as important as if they were paper. The footprints in the sand we leave for others to pick up where we left off are the most important way in which we can ensure that processes continue smoothly in our absence. Adopting that perspective at all times and thoroughly documenting all of our processes as we go along also helps us transcend the reliance on our own memories which are, at least occasionally, fallible. Documenting what we do as we proceed through our routines, perhaps more importantly, is also important to ensure that we are able to work collaboratively as a team and step in when needed to cover for each other or provide a solution to a problem that may not have occurred to our team members. Doing so will allow us to maximize the full potential of our team and utilize the diversity of idea, background, and population that makes it great. 

The word “footprints” has a few specific connotations for me. There’s a famous religious poem that many of us remember, but most of us have our own associations with the word. Of course, there’s the term “environmental footprint” which, while important to consider, is not not necessarily the happiest reference. I’ve also used a ticketing system with the name “Footprints” for much of my career so those memories comprise my first thoughts when I hear the word. A ticketing system is actually a great way to consider the issue at hand, actually. We enter and update support tickets not just to provide a consistent communication process for the clients we support, but we also often document notes, directions, and references that will never be visible or relevant to those clients. We put so much in our support tickets because we often consider them a kind of reference to the way we can approach similar issues or resolve the issue in question if it ever reoccurs. We also often want to provide our colleagues with a frame of reference to not only pick up after us, but also to engage with the users we support about the issues that are being reported and resolved.

Beyond support tickets, when thinking of the professional footprints we live for ourselves and for others, we should also be considering the processes we perform and execute on a daily basis that may have already become second nature to us, but will be new and perhaps even frustrating to others. Through the process of documenting those processes, we can also consider if we perform them more efficiently perhaps by sharing our documentation with others who may be able to provide insight. The more we document like this, the more it becomes clear how we occupy our time, and where our priorities may exist. In that sense, we will have a better understanding of how our time may best be utilized and whether we have the capacity to accomplish more than is currently occurring. This kind of analysis will allow for effective long-term strategy.

If we document more, rather than relying on our memories, we also free up our limited brain capacity and attention to address other issues that may arise or may have  otherwise been overlooked. If we can perform our daily routines more efficiently without having to think about how they were previously executed, the more prepared we are to address new challenges. Once we start doing that, we also pave the way for considering which processes could be automated or delegated to others that may not share our strengths in other areas. In all of these ways, our efficiency and effectiveness as a team supporting our organizations depends on how well we document and leave footprints for others (ourselves) to follow.

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