For pities’ sake, write it down!

For pities’ sake, write it down!

Man Stool BookTimelessTime consultants have represented many firms at tribunal. We’ve supported managers in cases when the firm was in the right but the plaintiff employee got the upper hand simply because of procedural errors on the part of the managers.

There’s often one simple cause – managers don’t write things down. They don’t document the various discussions with employees. They don’t prepare for meetings and document what they hope to achieve, then don’t document what they actually said and what was actually done. They don’t use daybooks.

If we could change anything about how managers deal with employees it would be one thing: that all managers use daybooks. A day book is a hard-backed book in which the manager makes note of everything he or she does during each day; every discussion, every phone call, every doodle or scribble whilst thinking. Then when asked to recall what happened, it’s all there.

How do I use a daybook?

We’ve seen some who are masters at the art of day-books. And we’ve seen many who are just adequate. If you aspire to use day-books, here are some useful tips.

  • Use a thick, hard-backed book of quality paper. Don’t use loose leaf.
  • Number and date your day-books. You’ll likely use several per year.
  • Date each entry. Some folk number each entry sequentially.
  • Just capture the key points.
  • Do drawings and mind maps to help with later recall of information.
  • Keep a glue stick handy and paste in any papers of external origin.
  • Be free about what you log in the book. It’s your book. You set the format.
  • If your day prevents you from carrying a day-book, keep a small jotter in your pocket and then glue the pages into your daybook at the end of each day.
  • Ditch the post-it sticky notes, or if you are wedded to using them – put them in your daybook once you’ve written them. That way you’ll know what day you write the note. And it won’t get lost under a heap of papers on your desk!

Why can’t I use my computer, instead of a daybook, to keep notes?

Whilst we advocate daybooks for managers and the management function, their use doesn’t end at logging conversations with staff. Daybooks are a useful addition to a computer for every aspect of every worker’s life. For those working in an otherwise electronic world, don’t forget that you can always scan your daybook pages and save to your prescribed stores.

Remember also, that sometimes you won’t have your computer, laptop, or other mobile device to hand, so you may need to make hand-written notes.

If you want to keep notes electronically there are many ways to do this. You could scan and add your daybook to your chosen media storage platform, e.g. DropBox or GoogleDrive. You could use a dedicated app such as Microsoft OneNote, Apple Notes or Evernotes.

If you choose to keep all notes on an electronic system you should bear in mind that the Data Protection Act 2018 will apply (but see also below about daybooks generally).

Be prepared

The day-book comes into its own when looking back over events. How many times did you talk to Joanne about coming in late? When was it that you discussed training with Bill? And did you really promise Sophie a pay rise at the meeting on the 3rd June?

Whatever method you decide on to keep notes of meetings, telephone calls, ideas and other useful information you’ll find the content invaluable when communicating with others, challenging or confirming information at a later date. With all your information in one place you’ll always be able to find the information you need.

Once you start, you’ll realise you can never be without your day-book – however much you might love your laptop, there’s no substitute for the pen and paper when it comes to capturing your day-to-day activities.

But remember

Like computers, all daybooks remain the property of the firm. They must therefore be retained by the manager for as long as he or she is employed. And when he or she leaves, their daybooks must pass into the firm’s archives. They should then be managed according to the firm’s data management policies.

All daybooks are confidential. Managers must treat them as they would customer and employee data. When not in use, they must be kept ‘on the person’ or locked away. And they could be covered by the Data Protection Act 2018 (sitting alongside GDPR) and as such subject to disclosure. It is therefore important that they only contain fact when recording details of meetings and the likes.