60 Day Proof

Everytime you write something down think about making that writing 60 day proof.

The 60 day proof concept goes something like this:

“If I were to re-read what I wrote in 60 days time, would I know what it meant and would it still make sense?”

I’ve spent the last few years fine tuning my own writing based around this simple rule with lots of success. But also with lots of gaps and holes and at times I simply forget. I first encountered this 60 day proof idea in Michael Bernstein’s thesis on scrapnotes (an excellent read for people who make lots of notes) in which a subject he was observing made all of his/her notes sixty days proof. I was struck with how simple, yet powerful, this concept could be when applied to my everyday work, from note taking to defect reporting. It embodies my promotion of Purpose, Audience and Context principles for communication.

For everything I wrote down I tried my hardest to use this principle. This covered emails, notes, messages and any other form of communication I could…and it made a massive difference.

Adopting this simple concept meant I struggled less with ambigous notes and reports, had fewer of those “give me a minute to get my head around it” moments and it also made my communication even easier to understand by other people.

I still find notes in my pad that make little or no sense. Typically one time reference notes such as IP Addresses, temporary snippets of product information, blog ideas and key words that trigger thoughts in my head. But on the whole I’ve really started to take the care and time to write my notes with recall as a clear objective or purpose. It’s made a huge difference to my defect reporting as it’s made me think about making these defect reports as readable, understandable and future proof as possible.

Why not give it a go and see if it changes your writing. It may be you write your notes, emails, reports and defect reports with clarity in mind, but I thought the same also. Only on inspecting my writing did I find plenty of areas of improvement. Writing is a process of continous improvement and the 60 day proof concept, when considered constantly, has made a marked difference to my testing world. Let me know if you use a similar process or whether this concept might work for you too.

5 Replies to “60 Day Proof”

  1. Brilliant! I find myself in the same trap often. I am going to try this approach – I’ll talk to you again in 60 days to let you know how it goes 🙂

  2. Good reminder of what is a very useful and important technique. I keep on saying it, but I learned so, so much working as an IT auditor. One of the most basic things was that I had to take notes that would make sense in a few weeks or months. Time and again I’d have to check back to my original notes if an audit finding was queried or challenged. It was a tremendously useful discipline to acquire, and the habit has never left me.

  3. Very good, and useful tip Rob. I find using mind maps breaks down the confusion when I come back to remember what I need todo for blogs, works or whatever.

  4. Love this. Like a lot of things, this is something I’ve been slowly doing with a vague notion of “I need to get better about making my notes clearer and more detailed” but now I have a much clearer way to think about it. Thanks!

  5. @Rich – lol – please do let me know how you get on :)@James – It’s a fantastic habit to adopt and no-matter where people learn it I think they will always benefit. Glad to see it is still working for you. @Darren – Mindmaps are indeed a great way of breaking them down and structuring them. I make loads of notes on scrap paper which may then end up in a mind map…@Jereminate – Glad you liked the tip. Let me know how you get on.Thanks all for commenting

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