March 26, 2019

Geeking out about SOPs with reader Mike Wolfe

Reader Mike Wolfe wrote in about my 10-Day Systems Challenge. He and I had an email exchange that I think you'll find useful if you're interested in systematizing your business (shared with permission):


I'm a big fan of this. I've been doing it for years.

I spent 10 years as the secretary and treasurer of a tiny borough. The job paid $1200/yr; it was basically a community service.

I didn't want to keep doing it forever, but felt guilty stepping aside because I knew the borough would struggle to fill the position. To make the position easier to fill (and to reduce my guilt when I stepped aside) I started making step-by-step lists for all my duties, reports, etc.

The idea was to ease the transition for my successor. I was not expecting it to improve my own productivity as much as it did. It was mind blowing.

Since then I've applied the same approach to my day job. Until I saw your email, though, I never considered it as a noteworthy business practice.

As for the secretary position, I passed the torch on that last January. And I handed my successor a 50+ page PDF printout of my DokuWiki SOP.

Thanks for listening,


P.S. I love DokuWiki for this for a whole bunch of reasons, but I've rambled long enough. I'll gladly share them if you're curious, though.


Thanks for your note, Mike! I'd love to hear more about why you like DokuWiki :)





I think wikis generally work well for the following reasons:

I settled on DokuWiki over some of the other options for these reasons:

All that said, I don't know that DokuWiki would be a good choice for most non-technical users. It requires setup and hosting and there's no built-in WYSIWYG editor (plugins are available, but I've never used them).

See here for more info:

Out of curiosity, what are you using for your SOPs?


Wow! Amazing answer!!! Lots of very compelling reason there.

Right now I'm just using plain text docs in Dropbox, which is dead simple, easy to share, and automatically versioned... but I don't love it. I'll take a look at DokuWiki, thanks!

BTW is it okay for me to share this thread?


Sure, no problem.

For what it's worth, I think your approach is a fantastic starting point for most people. It lets them start applying the SOP principles right away without having to learn a new tool. If they stick with the approach, they will eventually run into the limitations of using text files. At that point, though, they will have a set of pain points they can use to guide their search for a replacement tool. And those pain points are likely to be different for every user.


Agreed! Thanks again :-)

So to recap... to get started with SOPs, maybe just use Dropbox and plain text files. When you're ready to go nuts, take a look at DokuWiki.