There’s a point to paperwork.
It’s not to bore people doing exciting jobs out of their minds. It’s not for the sake of tradition. Not for FBI Agents in Hollywood flicks to have a badass line about “sloppy paperwork.” And it certainly is not to add another meticulous task to an already busy mind and schedule. In fact, William Arruda addresses this in a recent Forbes article:
“The one (personal branding) habit you can’t be too busy for: Document your wins… Keep a job journal.”
Let me acknowledge upfront that this method might only come in appealing to entrepreneurs with a certain mindset. The kind that actually likes to take notes, make lists, keep a diary and such. Nevertheless, I believe the Captain’s Logbook principle, when applied to a growing startup has a lot of benefits.
Your startup’s journal is to make your future self’s life easier by providing clear prints to trace back your steps. It’s because details of what happened before shine a light to what’s coming next.
Ugh! But do you really need to keep a record of all the stuff that’s happening? Consider these:
1. Your memory is a coercive instrument.
Says science*, “the very act of remembering changes the memory itself… every time we recall an event, the structure of that memory in the brain is altered in light of the present moment, warped by our current feelings and knowledge.”
When you report on your business’ progress, you create a more trustworthy record of history than your memory. Events find their place on a clear timeline. Have you been stuck in a whirlwind of stagnancy? Are you pivoting too much? Are your projections looking like a hockey stick or more like a hip check? You can objectively judge your decisions’ efficiency and your performance as a leader in your company.
2. It will come in handy for your investors and stakeholders.
When you are asked to report on your development, explain key milestones and justify financial goals your LogBook will be a life savor. It will contain “this is why’s” of your business. Besides, it proves you are conscientious of every step taken, every movement and pace of your progress.
3. Your Captain’s logbook is your personal trainer/therapist.
Self reporting is an excellent tool of motivation. A proven psychology method that keeps you in line and focused. It might actually prevent you from giving up. It physically teaches you the reflex to learn from failures. This is your private space to really try and understand what went wrong and train yourself not to be so discouraged at every roadblock.
4. This is your “overnight success story” in the works.
Everything that happens before the tipping point matters. Each small victory or each unpredictable disaster and how you dealt with them are a part of the narrative. They may not necessarily be source material for an Aaron Sorkin picture. But it is meaningful to revisit the behind the scenes that built up to the big climax. Analyze what you did right when it all worked out, so you can better calculate the moves of your next success.
What goes into the Logbook?
Anything from your responsibilities in the company, to your team’s performance and the current market’s circumstances. A few sample categories are:
The Inception of your Startup Idea.
Notes from brainstorming sessions.
First sketches and elevator pitches.
Building of your MVP.
New people, fresh minds that get involved.
Team Members that come. Team Members that go.
Investor discussion notes.
Logo Design, First Wireframes, Beta Release, Hard Launch…
Set goals, pivots and reached goals.
Screenshots of relevant activities.
Remarkable site traffic/ app download increase.
Things that went wrong
External Events out of your control that gave you a hiccup or a boost.
How you dealt with them.
The first dollar in.
The next dollar out.
The first power user.
What you gave and what you got.
Consider what needs to be done.
You set it. It’s not rocket surgery.
Do you like making lists? Let’s go. Be matter of fact. Write in bullet points.
Do you need a bit of sense of humor? Sure. You can even use emoticons.
Do you need to battle your demons? Granted. You can give yourself permission to be vulnerable. Admit your mistakes. Accept your weaknesses. Or simply drop the humble man act, and celebrate how you’ve been kicking ass a little. You are allowed to be proud of yourself. As long as you are honest with yourself.
Where To Write?
Think blogs. Start easy. Host it under your startup’s own website. Or simply go ahead use Tumblr. Here are some free templates Fake Crow team picked for you. These templates are very readable, clean of crowded graphics and icons. Dates are clearly accentuated, so you can get a clear sense of chronology.
Use tags that represent the type of milestone, goal or task you are talking about in your posts. #clients #user behavior #branding #UX design #investors #social media #key meetings etc.
Tags will help you search for your progress on a specific subject.
Example scenario: Search the tag #investors, to look back at the feedback you have received from VCs for the last eight months, and better strategize how to approach them again in the future.
Make it Private and/or Collaborative
If you’re all about transparency, fair enough. Make your Captain’s Logbook a public journal.
Chances are, you want to keep some of that information inside the family.
You can choose to create a password protected, private blog on Tumblr or on any other blog platform for that matter.
You can also add contributors to your Logbook. Your partner or team members can post their own daily/weekly reports and thoughts on progress. This way you can distribute some of the reporting load to your team and inspire them with the habit of keeping themselves in check with their own progress.
Example scenario: Your marketing team can contribute to your Captain’s Logbook with numbers and graphs on your product’s social network growth, reports on lead creation, conversion and retention.
— Asli Sonceley, Managing Director at Fake Crow
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