One of my biggest peeves is when information/documents/records don’t have a date. Dates can be incredibly useful on things such as cards (birthdays, events, holiday), notes, to-do lists, documents (paper and electronic), event posters, and notifications. When dealing with web content, the date is critical for information. How else will I know if what I’m looking at is relevant and timely?
My job often requires me to analyze documents and records retroactively. I encounter both printed and electronic documents without dates. Without a date, sometimes it’s really challenging to evaluate the validity of the information. The computer will automatically provide a create or a last-modify date, but many times this date can’t be trusted if documents (photos) were migrated (moved) from one machine, or system, to another one. Often when this happens, the migration date becomes the “create” date making it almost impossible to know when the document was originally created. Unless somebody put the date on the actual document.
Why is this important?
A date is a quick way to provide context to content. It helps to create a timeline of what happened when. It’s invaluable for assessing if something is truly outdated, or if it still has some value. Or for identifying the most current version of something.
I’ve started adding the year to event promotions. The event date is usually for something happening in the near future, so the year isn’t necessary. However, I find adding in the year makes it useful later, when I’m looking back to see what was done previously. For example, I run a workshop called “Tax Talks” every spring for small business owners. I find it helpful to have the month, day, and year on the promotionals so I can compare one year to the next.
When I cleaned out my childhood bedroom I went through boxes of old artwork. Since my artistic skills never progressed past a 2nd-grade level, I found it difficult to figure out what I made at a given age. Now I tell all my friends who have children to write a month/year on the back of the artwork. It seems insignificant now, but will provide valuable information later on.
Adding the date is easy, the hard part is making it a habit. I still forget sometimes, but I usually remember to write the date on everything, even post-it notes, to continually reinforce the habit.