Sheesh, Chip, you are starting to scare me a bit, I hope that you will get through whatever you are facing. It is less dramatic than what you are facing, but I am leaving a client this week where I need to handover to another person so some of my responses are with that in mind. Plus the fact that I have been in your position, quite suddenly, I had an emergency almost a decade ago that I nearly did not survive and that knocked me out of business for a few months.
May I suggest that every independent consultant has income protection and life insurance, covering temporary and permanent disability. At least that way you do not have the additional worry of having to eat your house. Also have a will, and decide in your will what happens with your assets, including your business.
Now we come to documentation. I have always brought a level of discipline to my clients to document such that someone can follow the bouncy ball and pick up where I left off, even if that colloquial bus would hit me. Following standards, particularly around project methodology, status reporting, versioning and config document of source code and architecture artefacts is also a key component.
Have a trusted wingperson, even if I work solo, and that happens a lot, there is someone in the client or in the team that knows where things are at. I have a standard handover template that tells people Who Knows Things, where are things, where are things at, what to watch out for and I update this in key stages of an engagement. I always create a project plan with deliverables and a matrix what needs to be signed of by whom and when and where files are. Using TFS to track defects, issues and changes and store documentation, source code and release notes is also a tool I use to ensure that someone can take over the job without much disruption.
I disagree with Pgit, if you do things right from day one, with agreed documentation standards, using standard templates (if you gotta bring your own framework please do, but there are industry standards that allow you to not invent the wheel) it does not take that long. And it is our duty of care, documentation is NOT optional, it is part of our trade and also part of the reason consultants get a bad rep if it is absent. Our industry is built on trust.
Chip, I wish you good luck, sometimes in life you gotta surrender and let go of the "noise" to be able to focus on what is truly important. My advice - build in doco as part of your routine, if the colloquial hits the fan, at least you know that your reputation is intact as your clients can trust in your discipline and professional integrity, even if part of your body and life is falling apart. Temporarily.
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