In the Processing Bookkeeping Transaction (PBKT) module we look at typical examples of the business documentation that we are likely to be faced with in the workplace.
While negotiating the technicalities of the fully blocked letter, the complementary close or the art of netiquette it is easy to neglect the importance of the humble note. Here’s a simple but often overlooked tip to make your notes more effective, adopt it and watch what happens.
Technically, the ‘note’ is an informal means of communication used primarily for internal purposes but, quite often, there can be much more riding on the contents than the description may suggest. That scribbled message for Julie in sales may have a large order depending upon its prompt attention; those figures you have just taken down for John in the warehouse could have the potential to save the company a fortune if it’s acted on today. In fact, notes can be very important indeed, even if you don’t recognise their significance yourself.
Some organisations have a protocol in place for setting out notes on electronic or paper based systems which may even involve pre-printed carbon copy pads, that’s great, but many organisations do not.
It’s not unusual for many of us to return to our work station to find a host of notes decorating our desk. While the messages may contain sufficient detail to enable a response, you may have little or no idea when the individual notes or messages were originally taken, their ‘relevant date’. Have they been stuck there hours or minutes? Perhaps I’ve been away on holiday, have they been there days or weeks? Am I going to be embarrassed when I return the call?
The solution is quite straightforward; potential problems and embarrassment could be avoided if the relevant date and the time of the message have been recorded on the note. It doesn’t seem much to ask for but this detail is often overlooked.
Many companies now use forms of electronic messaging and notes distributed by these methods will almost certainly automatically contain the date and time that the note was forwarded to the recipient. Everything’s sorted then, or is it? Unfortunately there is still a potential problem and it still relates to the ‘relevant date’ for the original receipt of the message. There could well have been a delay which has a bearing on the message or its response. For example the note may just have been sitting unattended in someone’s messaging inbox. Also, it is not uncommon to transfer a paper based note to an electronic medium or vice versa. In any case, it is still good practise to confirm the date and time the message was first taken or initially received, not just the time it was forwarded.
If you find yourself in this situation, an effective way to embed this practice in your organisation is simply to start adding the relevant date and time to the notes and messages you write or forward for your colleagues. Keep it up and they will soon recognise how useful your notes are. Then, just sit back, and see how long it is before you start receiving notes in this format too.
Russell Hague an AAT tutor at Sheffield City College and works as a Finance Manager for a small group of companie.