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How to write your own instruction manual

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

This weekly tweak is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.

When you get a new device, a new TV or a new fridge, what's the first thing you do? You go straight to the quick start guide or instruction book to figure out how it works. Why?

It contains all of the information you need to begin and to get up and running as quickly as possible. It also helps to troubleshoot when something isn’t working.

But when it comes to our most complex selves, we often don't take the time to figure out where we work best, where we work worst, and what helps us learn and grow. We often don't know how we like to receive feedback, how we feel valued or what we need from our team or manager.

In our fast-paced working environments, these are things that we deal with all the time and even in our personal relationships. Yet, when we don’t examine how we work, it’s far more difficult to communicate our needs with our colleagues. It can even cause tension and conflict and may mean that we ourselves, don't even know how we work best.

This is where the personal user manual comes in. By creating your own manual, you can provide your colleagues with valuable insights into how you work best, what you need to be successful, and how they can best support you.

This week's tweak - Create your instruction manual

Your personal user manual can include anything that's important for the people around you to understand.

Start with the reflective questions below and build from there, adding anything you think is relevant. Remember, however, to keep it simple and to the point, we’ve all read some instruction manuals that make brain surgery seem like a breeze.

  • When do you get stressed?

  • What are your working hours?

  • When are you at your best?

  • How do you like to communicate?

  • What’s something you are working on?

  • What do you need from your colleagues?

  • Anything goes!

You can download the "Personal instruction manual for working with me" template and share it with your team.

Benefits of the personal user manual for work

Jotting down your manual and understanding it yourself can be really powerful. Here are a few benefits:

  • Improved self-awareness: This can help you make better decisions, be more effective in your work and identify times you may need support.

  • Builds understanding with your colleagues

  • Reduces tension and conflict

  • Helps develop healthy relationships with colleagues

  • Increased satisfaction: When your colleagues understand how you work and what you need, they are more likely to provide it.

For managers

If you're a manager, it can be an incredibly valuable tool for your team to get to know how you work. By sharing your own manual and encouraging your team members to create their own, you can help to create that culture of open communication and collaboration for your team.

Your team will know how you work best when you work and any other needs that you may have on a day-to-day basis.

Here are 3 key benefits for managers that we have identified both by using our own instruction manuals at A Better Work and while working with our clients.

  • Improved communication: When team members understand how their colleagues work best, they can adapt their communication style to meet their needs better. This can lead to fewer misunderstandings and more effective collaboration.

  • Better outcomes: When everyone on the team knows what they need to be successful and how they can best support each other, they can work more effectively together.

  • Greater trust and psychological safety: By sharing personal information about yourself and your work style, you can build trust with your team members. When they see that you are open and willing to share, they are more likely to reciprocate and share their own information.

If you're a manager, this is an incredible tool for your team. You could even turn it into a fun away day or half-day workshop. These are some of our favourite workshops to run, they not only create those ah-ha moments for the team but for individuals.

Best of luck, and let us know how you get on!

Let's make work better together.

Michelle Wallace


A Better Work


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