FAQ: Do I have to write my Manual of Me all at once?

A Manual of Me is a living document which you can build and update over time, and taking your time is important.

Matthew Knight
Oct 31, 2021 · 3 min read

Increasing numbers of businesses and teams are using a personal user manual to help their people get to know each other, but so often they’re done once — perhaps as part of a team-based exercise or on-boarding process, and not returned to again.

I think that’s a mistake for three reasons…

1. Some of the questions are really hard to answer

The very best Manual of Me contain more than just operational entries like working hours or communication preferences, but bigger questions around motivation, support, and needs. For most of us, we’ve never been asked these questions, yet alone had time and support to explore and answer them — so it takes time to reflect, gather insight, and truly answer honestly.

Sometimes you’ll need to ask others for their input, sometimes you’ll need to go through a number of exercises or actions in order to answer, sometimes you simply won’t know and need to take some time to be more aware of how you’re working and collect data.

This process can be tiring — not because it’s dull or boring, but because you’re asking yourself some big questions and reflecting upon how you work and what work means to you. It’s not unlike therapy at times.

Trying to do all of that in single go is too much. I prefer to encourage people to think about just one question at a time, perhaps one a week, one a month, so they can reflect, explore and consider their answer over time.

2. Things change

To expect that your answers will be static makes the incorrect assumption that how you work today will be the same as how you’re working in six months, in twelve months, in five years. Imagine if you’d had completed a Manual of Me in January 2020 about working together or methods of communication. Just three months later, every single entry would have probably been out of date.

It’s not just the practical changes, but our ways of working and preferences change over time as our needs change, as we learn more about ourselves, as our context shifts. Reviewing the answers to your questions is an important part of the process, asking ourselves: Is this still true? What has changed? And why?

A Manual of Me is best used when being truthful and honest — rather than writing aspirations for how we want to work, it should include the current reality, so that others can work well with us today, not someone we want to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t strive to change some of the things you want to improve upon — and if you do, your Manual needs to change with you.

3. There’s almost always a new thing to consider

And perhaps the most obvious reason to make your Manual of Me a living document is including new things which you hadn’t considered before. This is especially powerful in teams — as you continue working with a group of people, you’ll uncover new aspects of your working relationships that you either want to address, or new challenges which you want to communicate around as a team.

Hybrid and Remote working is an obvious example at the moment. As teams explore new ways of working together — using a personal manual to communicate your own preferences, and a team manual to align on shared principles and approaches is something lots of teams are doing right now.

Some businesses we’ve worked with have even established a ‘monthly question’, where their people suggest a new question each month to include, reflect and answer in their manuals each month, coming together to discuss the answers and what it might mean for their working together.

However you use a Manual of Me, make sure part of your process for creating it, is also to think about how you’ll keep it updated over time.

Manual of Me is a powerful document to help you explore and communicate how you work best with others. Create your own for free at my.manualof.me

Manual of Me

Explore and explain how you work best together.