You know that when doing something difficult or challenging at work, you will need every weapon on your side to win. And a useful weapon is documentation—a weapon so powerful that many Davids have used it to win battles against Goliaths.

It’s a weapon for both defense and offense!

It’s useful to articulate cases in which documentation is a powerful weapon, because I get the sense that you, having read this far, see the value in some level, but haven’t yet started implementing it yet into your life. So today I’m going to try to share specific examples and cases that make the case more compelling. Here are different situations in which documentation is often a weapon:

  • Your boss or the team agree to something that they aren’t as excited about as you are… and then later they “misremember” the extent of their commitment.
  • Documentation makes it very easy to catch people in lies. Note that some lies may be intentional, some accidental, some mean-spirited, some positive-spirited—but they’re lies regardless.
  • Documentation is the best way to clear up misunderstandings.
  • Documentation always turns into the official-ish transcript of what happens, so you become the official keeper of the narratives—a deeply powerful position
  • Documentation lets you, as the official keeper of the narrative, frame everything in the optimal way in which it needs to be framed.

Sometimes you need to sharpen your knife. The metaphor in this context is to know when you actively (proactively?) bring your documentation to the fight. As the old saying goes, “don’t show up to a gunfight with a knife.” As a common example, go into important meetings with the relevant document in hand or, less metaphorically, with the 6 relevant tabs already open on your computer.

But remember: guns kill the person holding the gun as often as they kill the intruder. Misused, they can hurt you more than they help. By keeping good documentation, you will commit yourself to actions and to stories—and now you need to follow through and do them! This is the hardest part. And guess what? This is precisely one of the reasons why your boss or client will love it when you’re documentation focused because you’ll be keeping yourself accountable. That’s not only the best way to become accountable, but it makes his job as a manager trivially easy.