How-to: Document your workflow

How-to: Document your workflow
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How-to: Document your workflow

Document your workflow

Your workflow is the backbone of your daily productivity. It's the chain of habits and processes that help you get stuff done.

Since your workflow is so ingrained, documenting the steps involved in projects or tasks may seem unnecessary. But doing so creates valuable guideposts for others who may need to do the same work.

Evernote makes documenting your team's workflows easy. This guide will walk you through how to compile and share procedures with your team.


Types of documentation

There are three essential types of workflow documentation that you may create in Evernote: procedures, checklists, and how-to's. Here's a brief overview of each:

  • Procedures outline the tasks necessary to deliver your product or service.
  • Checklists ensure a task is completed, often in a specific order. Checking an item off marks progress, while unchecked tasks serve as a reminder of things yet to be done.
  • How-to's provide clear step-by-step instructions. They are often supported by graphics, which is why they work well for screen-based workflows.


Start with the overall procedure

Imagine you are creating an email newsletter, and you want to make sure you prepare the newsletter the same way every single time you need to send it out. To do so, you'll need to create a set of instructions that document the steps - a procedure.

Start by creating a business notebook to contain your documentation. Click +New Notebook and select 'Business Notebook.' Name the notebook "Workflows."

Create notebooks for existing projects

Consider the steps for the overall task you're trying to accomplish. For instance, a newsletter may have the following key steps in the process of sending it out:

  1. Create newsletter copy
  2. Build newsletter draft with text and images
  3. Create send test
  4. Create list
  5. Send to list
  6. Track results

You'll want to create a note that outlines all these steps - a central spot that lists every major procedural item. Click +New Note in your "Workflows" notebook, title it "Newsletter - Create and Send," and then write down all the steps in your procedure. Add checkboxes to help you stay on track.

Checklists listing key steps


Create a checklist

Now that you have note listing the procedural steps, it's time to add more detail. You'll do this by creating a checklist for each one of the steps in the newsletter creation process.

Click +New Note in Workflow to add a blank note to the notebook, and title it "Newsletter - 01 - Create Newsletter Copy." Make sure you are sorting your notes by title, found under 'View' in the toolbar. Assign a numeral to each note to organize the notes numerically in your notebook.

Now, list the specific steps needed to complete the task. Add a checkbox for each step by clicking the checkbox icon on the note editor tool bar. You'll probably create a note for each major procedural step, with associated checklists within each.

Checklists with detailed steps


Document how-to's

Procedures and checklists are great for steps that can be easily described with words, but what about describing on-screen actions? Skitch, when used in conjunction with Evernote, makes it easy to capture and annotate your screen-based workflows and incorporate them into your documentation.

First, open the application or web page that you want to document. In this case, we're opening our email newsletter management tool. Open Skitch and select the Screen Snap tool. Drag the cursor over the area you want to capture. In this case, it's the template selection screen of our email newsletter tool.

Your screenshot will automatically show up in Skitch. From there, you can draw arrows, boxes, add text, or highlight sections of the screen.

Use Skitch to annotate screenshots

This can be particularly useful if you're documenting a workflow because you can show specifically where to click and eliminate any potential confusion, as in our newsletter example.

Use Skitch to add explanatory text

Once each step of your process has been clearly annotated, just drag the screenshot into a note in your "Workflows" notebook in Evernote. This will store it alongside any explanatory text, checklists, and other supporting information about each workflow. If a workflow has several steps, just capture multiple screenshots and then drag them into Evernote. One note can contain multiple screenshots related to a specific workflow.

Capture screenshots to accompany how-to steps


Use note links for faster navigation

When your procedures have many steps, hyperlinking to them from a single note can save you time. We'll use your "Newsletter - Create and Send" master procedure note to to organize all the rest of your documentation.

First, find your "Newsletter - 01 - Create Newsletter Copy" note in the note list. Right-click on the note in the list and select 'Copy Note Link.' This will create a hyperlink that will be copied to your computer's clipboard.

Copy note links

Now, go back to the "Newsletter - Create and Send" note. Highlight the text from the first item in the list, "Create newsletter copy," and then right-click. In the pop-up menu, scroll down to 'Link,' then click 'Add.'

Specify text to convert to a link

In the pop-up window, right-click and select 'Paste' or hit Control-V or Command-V on the keyboard to paste in the link that has been copied to your computer's clipboard, then click OK.

Paste link to note

You'll see that a link has been created for the text you just selected. Clicking the link will take you directly to the note with steps to create newsletter copy.

Completed note link


Share with your team

Once you've documented your workflow, then it's time to make sure your team can access what you've created. You can share with your team right from Evernote with Work Chat. On Windows, click Notebooks in the sidebar, then click Share as you're hovering over your "Workflows" notebook. On Mac, at the top of your "Workflows" notebook , click the Work Chat button. This will invite your team members to view or collaborate with you on your documentation.

Share notes with the team

Your team members will be able to see the notes that you've created, and if you've given them permission to do so, they'll be able update your workflow notes as things change over time.