5 Reasons Why Record-keeping is Never Obsolete

A gentleman’s handshake is as much a thing of the past as the typewriter. Or the Ice Age. Today, if you can’t prove it in writing, it didn’t happen. Of course, we can’t spend all day making notes in a pocket notebook of off-hand conversations and social interactions, just to guard against the unlikely event we will one day be called in court to give evidence. “Your Honour, according to my notes, at 8.05am, I commented that Janice’s toast had too much butter for my liking, not too much jam.”

However, there are some situations where it is worthwhile to make a quick file-note, or to set something down in writing. Here are five reasons why:

Reason 1: It avoids confusion and ensures you’re all on the same page

People can sometimes walk away from a conversation with different ideas about what really happened. Summarising the points discussed and spelling out (literally) the outcome, either in a formal letter or in a quick email or memo can help reinforce your advice (if the discussion was in an advisory context) and ensure there are no misinterpretations.

Reason 2: It’s a record that can be relied upon to show what really happened

In the event that a matter escalates, and requires internal or external determination, having a contemporaneous record of your side of the story is a valuable piece of evidence that should not be overlooked. This applies to everything from malpractice to sexual harassment to workplace injury and performance reviews.

Reason 3: It jogs your memory and minimises mistake-making

Ever forgot someone’s last name? Phone number? A genius insight that occurred to you mid-way through the conversation? Making detailed notes can help ensure you gather accurate and complete information, including objective client-based data and your own subjective thoughts for further action.

Reason 4: The more you put in, the more you get out

A stream of recent court cases has served to re-emphasise the courts’ preference for detailed clinical notes, contemporaneous documentation and organised, systematic records. When it comes to proving a point, the more relevant information you (or your client) can provide, the better.

Reason 5: Information sharing makes for smoother workplace relations

If a policy or procedure needs to be circulated to all staff, or to clients and other corporate entities (think: insurers, lawyers, employers), what better way to do it than by written correspondence? Everyone gets the same information, you can keep track of who you informed and when and how, and also keep a record of any enquiries or concerns raised as a result of the correspondence. Leave the grapevine for social interactions.

In this day and age, documentation is key and record-keeping is paramount, both for your business and yourself. You don’t have to keep a handwritten journal and an inkpot on your desk, but in an era where emails and documents can be accessed and created anywhere, at any time, there’s simply no excuse for failing to keep records, in one form or another. And if you’re not doing it, you can bet the competition is. So pick up your pen, or your e-pen, or your Dictaphone, and don’t be a dinosaur.