When was the last time you paid attention to a set of instructions?

If you’ve bought anything recently, odds are it’ll have a set of instructions for either putting it together, setting it up, and sometimes even for unboxing it. But how much of this did you actually read or pay attention to?

If you make and play with Lego then the instructions are quite important if you want the results to look like what’s on the front of the box. The same with Ikea or other DIY furniture. The instructions for both have next to no writing on them (no need for multiple translations making the instructions far thicker than they need to be). Simple, effective image-based instructions … “take this and put it here”.

  • Yes, I know, I am in the minority and actually, I like Ikea furniture – it’s easy to assemble, reasonably cheap, looks good, and lasts. Don’t hate me for it.

What about your last TV? Did you even look at the TV booklet or just unbox it, put the stand together, plug in the arial and other HDMI/USB cables, plug it in, go through the on-screen setup (incl wi-fi) and wait? Did you also remember to put batteries in the remote? There, done. No instructions necessary. It’s all so simple and out-of-the-box ready.

So, what about the stuff you handle at work? You send a meeting invite out – does everyone really know how to connect and access the meeting space? Are you sure? You need to collaborate on a document – does the link work and can everyone who needs access engage with it? Are you sure? Your students need to review a case study before coming to class – have you loaded it or linked to it and can they access it? Are you sure? You’ve put an announcement in the online space for your students or even colleagues, are you sure they will all see it in time? Are you sure? Your students are new and only have a link to their online resources, would a clearly defined guidance document help orientate them and help them get to where you want them? Are you sure?

When was the last time you checked any of this stuff? When was the last time you thought “well, it worked for me, it must be working”. Sadly, this is not enough. Yes, I’m sure it works 90-95% of the time, for most people, but it’s the other 5-10% of the time when it’s not working well. It is then that you should be checking things. Again.

Does any of this sound familiar? We spend so long these days doing all this stuff that to us it is easy and, well, that it works. But not everyone is as good as you, and sometimes taking a step back and thinking about whether any instructions might be useful is a good thing to do. Your students, colleagues, or family members will thank you for it.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash