Hacks for Filing and Documentation for SSPs

Tips to Get Documentation Done

So, how does a time-strapped leader make time for something they really do not want to do? First of all…

Do Not Be Embarrassed

Here is an open secret – nearly everyone in harm reduction is behind on some form of documentation or filing. For many folks this can become a real source of anxiety. Relax, you are in good company.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There are a variety of resources for templates and examples of spreadsheets, forms, and checklists to help you track critical information about everything from passwords to outreach logs. Check the Hacks database and learn to use tools like Google Advanced Search to get to specific formats (such as .docx,.xlxs, .txt etc.) that you can modify for your needs.

Set Aside Time/ Choose A Day

Make filing and documentation a priority by setting aside time for it. For some people this can mean setting aside time each day, week, every two weeks or even monthly. Write it into your schedule and block off time for it. You need to treat documentation and filing as you would any other meeting or obligation on your calendar.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed, Make it Incremental

Do not overwhelm yourself by deciding that you are going to do nothing but documentation for a full day or a week. For some lucky few this may be a relaxing task but for most of us, especially those of us who thrive on the chaos of harm reduction, it is as boring as watching paint dry. And, if we’re being honest, tantamount to admitting we will never do it.

Instead, pick an incremental and sustainable amount of time (like 30 minutes) and commit to doing it on a schedule. If 30 minutes sounds like a lot, try for ten. As with all things harm reduction, BETTER IS BETTER, and some change is better than none. Like any habit change, over time it will become less overwhelming and, best of all, there will actually be less of it to do.

Set a Timer

Use a timer to help you manage your time while you are filing and documenting. One evidence-based method for this is the Pomodoro method, which has lots of apps and other tools available to use for free.


If you have people you are working with, delegate some of your documentation to them if you can. This may mean telling someone information while they write or type it (doing a verbal download), or simply showing someone where the information is that needs to be transcribed. It is important to take advantage of your team; not only does it lighten your workload, it also increases transparency, builds trust, and eases change.


Documentation and filing are not fun for most of us, and it is easy to let it slip to the very bottom of the to-do list somewhere under “do a full Google Earth deep dive on the country Paraguay”. Do not fall into this trap. Documentation is a gift to your future self and your agency’s well-being, and it is essential for successful organizations.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
Suggest a Resource

External Resources

Collected from around the web
There are a number of external resources that contributed to the development of Harm Reduction Hacks. Here are a selection relating to this section:


The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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