Working Out Loud


We keep our working documents public and invite frequent review.

That’s how we keep information flowing without defaulting to meetings, quickly improve our work and grow as professionals, and keep teams more tightly aligned with their managers.

Start it public

Read through

if you haven’t yet. Make note of this particular line:

When you’re opening up a channel of communication or a new document, assume it should be public, and find specific reasons for why it should be private, rather than the other way around.

The best way to make a document public is to create it as such from the start. In Notion, from the parent page, give a simple /page, give it a title and emoji, and get going.

Reasons to start public:

  • It’s easier to loop people in as you go along. Otherwise you’ll likely forget to give people access and the permission request cycle will slow momentum.
  • It’s helpful for others to see what documentation is in process.
  • You’ll grow more comfortable with the give-and-take that leads to great ideas and excellent work.
  • Unless your page is linked from a high-traffic page, chances are nobody will see it anyway, since there’s no feed of new docs in Notion.

There are also a few reasons not to start a document publicly, such as:

  • It’s something really sensitive and bad stuff might come about if someone unintended saw it.
  • You’re incubating a new idea and want to keep your tender little baby safe.
    • Relatedly, it might be scary or unfamiliar for you to work in public like this, based on your nature or past experience. It’s never bad to start a doc private, just try to get in the habit of making it public sooner than you may have previously.
  • They’re private notes.

In some cases, such as settling into a new role, a happy medium is sharing early and often with your manager. They can provide fine-tuned guidance until you’re steady on your feet.

Write about what you’re going to write about

Before you do the work, start with the rationale for the document. A few lines at the start are typically enough.

What’s appropriate can vary a lot based on what you’re trying to do, but it could cover:

  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Background, perhaps including stats, examples from other companies, and so on.
  • Goals, and maybe non-goals
  • Strategy

This mini-brief clarifies your thinking. You’ll either set yourself up for better output or decide not to do the work. It also gives the people reviewing your document important context.

Share early

By exposing our work early and often to others’ input, we do better work faster. Course corrections earlier on mean less backtracking. By extension, getting input on your brief will lay the foundation for an even stronger piece of work.

Many people, even those who generally take feedback well, are uneasy with having their writing critiqued. But the only way to get better at writing is to suck it up and get the review, early and often.

Another reason to share: if you’ve suddenly run out of steam, a few minutes of someone else’s review could unblock you.