Documenting Rare and Confusing Tasks

There I was again, trying to figure out how to get the eBook I had just checked out from the library onto my Kindle Reader. The red flag went off! This is the second time around trying to do something that was confusing the first time. I better document what I’m doing, so this confusion won’t happen again!

“Documentation is a love letter that you write to your future self.”

Damian Conway

In this particular instance, the confusing element was a particular button on my library’s website that says “Download Kindle.” I’m a very literal person, so both times I came across this, I thought to myself how I did not need Kindle on my device since I already had it, rather I needed a way to download the book I just borrowed to my Kindle.

Well, it turns out that is what the button is for. As I began to write the documentation for this, I thought that this could be a great blog post, ergo, relieving myself of having to document it since I’m now going to remember what that button is for. (By the way, I used the suggested comments button on their website and suggested they change it to “Download to Kindle” since that makes so much more sense. I checked this feature on Sunday evening (05/10/2020) and it still says “Download Kindle.”

When I first started working at Security Benefit, I was documenting everything. Although impressed with my work, my boss would comment how there is probably a little too much detail in my documentation. At the time, I thought that he may be right.

I was in a state of first learning how to complete the task, however, so I was in a prime time to write documentation. The more that you already understand something, the worse you turn out to be to document the process. It is easy to glaze over steps, use jargon, and to perhaps skip important steps completely because they seem so trivial and obvious.

In learning how to do my job, I have had to work through a lot of documentation that was not that great. It was put together by someone with a full understanding of what they were already doing, and it had not been updated or edited as the process evolved. That isn’t to say that this documentation was not helpful. I couldn’t have done the job without it. It just could have been better.

“Documentation is like sex: when it is good, it is very, very good; and when it is bad, it is better than nothing.”

Dick Brandon

Documentation is becoming less and less important with the advancement of technology it seems. Documentation for about anything seems to be just a Google search away. For example, last month I was working with spreadsheets and was getting sick of having to use the mouse to click back and forth between spreadsheets on my Excel workbook. So, I searched for a keyboard shortcut for it and found out you can push Ctrl+Page Up to navigate quickly to the left one worksheet, and Ctrl+Page Down to navigate to the right.

Another instance was when Chrome (my web browser on my laptop) was showing certain pages as if I were on a mobile device. I wanted some documentation to let me know how to toggle back and forth. A quick two step process will do it.

  1. Push F12.
  2. Press the toggle button in the screen that pops over from the right.

However, not everything is searchable. And even if it is, sometimes it is nice to have those few notes somewhere handy (offline) so that you can get to them without the internet. If you just document one thing, you’ll forget where you put the documentation when it comes time to use it. Documentation is a habit, but a good one. If you have a place you store documentation when you need it, and have it properly labeled, tagged, and named, you will find that your productivity will increase. That confusing task you have to do is not so confusing anymore.

My blog is not where I keep my documentation, but I thought I would provide an example. Next time I’m having difficulty checking out an eBook, I’ll have the following that will finally get me past step 5:

  1. When you have an eBook that is available on your library website, a green “Checkout Now” should be available. Click or press it.
  2. An informational message will appear that will tell you which formats you can read the book in. Make sure that Kindle is on this list. If it is, then click the blue “Checkout Now” button.
  3. It is now checked out. Press the blue Download button regardless of what device you are currently using, whether that be your computer, smartphone, etc.
  4. Another informational message will appear like before asking which format you would like to download in. Select the Kindle button, and again, press the “Checkout Now” button.
  5. A big blue button confusingly labeled “Download Kindle” will appear, which should say “Press this button to download the item directly to your kindle reader.” Push it.
  6. This redirects you to an electronic copy on Amazon’s website. Two buttons appear to the right which include “Get Library Book” and a toggle button “Deliver To: <Kindle Device Name>”. Make sure the name of your device is present (for me, it is “Outlaw’s Reader”) and press “Get Library Book.”
  7. A Thank You message appears and you are done. The next time you open your Kindle Reader, it will have the book available.

3 thoughts on “Documenting Rare and Confusing Tasks

  1. Very informative. I documented when I was learning to do the ‘city payroll’. This resulted in a step by step guide for the person who would replace me when I left the job.


  2. Thanks, Jonathan! Two days after this post, I found myself documenting a complicated job at work that I had not yet documented. My future self is going to be thrilled!


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