If You Believe In the Importance of Checklists, You’ll Be Successful

The importance of checklists and why you should use them

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Checklists have the ability to revolutionize our productivity level and the way we get things done. Let’s consider the importance of checklists in the first place.

The intent of any checklist, process or system, is to make your work and life easier, not to be burdensome or slow you down. (And hey, we’re all about making it easier to get life and business done around here! So we love checklists!)

At this stage in life, the first reason is the biggest reason I love checklists!

Why is it important to use a checklist?

Assuming that you’re not a surgeon and no one’s life is at risk, the importance of checklists can fall under one or more of the following reasons:

A checklist can reduce decision fatigue

Checklists reduce decision fatigue by not forcing us to remember every.little.thing that needs to be done. The checklist acts as our memory. This allows us brain space for the things that do need our mental attention and effort.

A checklist can eliminate mistakes

Nobody sets out to make mistakes, but they happen more frequently than most of us admit. Following a checklist reduces the potential for mistakes and errors by ensuring thought is put into each step, every time.

A checklist will drive consistency

Without following a checklist, every one of us makes minor assumptions all day long that affect the way we do things.

For personal checklists, we are likely to make the same minor assumptions if we perform tasks often enough.

When multiple people complete the same tasks, a checklist is essential to ensure that the task, process or project will be completed exactly the same way each time.

Restaurant recipes are a prime example of checklist consistency in action. Nobody wants to order the same menu item, and get different something slightly different each visit. Consistency matters.

A checklist ensures that everything necessary is completed

Checklists reduce errors by clearly laying out exactly what needs to be done so that nothing is missed. This applies to both the routine things we do on a regular basis, and the things that are so infrequent that we would have to re-learn what to do each time without a checklist.

These all have the benefit of freeing up your memory to do your actual work rather than remembering what you need to do. A checklist is intended to help us get done what we need to get done with the least amount of mental effort possible.

Types of Checklists

So what does a checklist look like?

According to Atul Gawande, in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, there are two types of checklists: READ-DO and DO-CONFIRM.

With a READ-DO checklist, you follow the checklist as you go as a guide to make sure you follow every single step. A READ-DO checklist is great for those tasks and projects that you don’t have every step memories, either because they are long and in-depth or because you don’t do them very frequently. A READ-DO checklist is also a fantastic way to document information for team members to do.

A DO-CONFIRM checklist is used as a final check after a process or task is performed, to ensure nothing is missed. DO-CONFIRM checklists are performed at set pause-points in a given process, and ideally only take 30-60 seconds to review. A DO-CONFIRM checklist is a great way to gut-check that you aren’t forgetting anything critical.

Often, what starts as a READ-DO checklist can turn into a DO-CONFIRM checklist over time as you memorize the steps of the checklist. Chore charts for kids are a great example of this.

And while we’re on the topic of kids and checklists: A checklist doesn’t have to be written down! A verbal checklist can also be helpful.

We currently have a four step verbal bedtime routine checklists for our kids: Brush, floss, rinse, change underwear. We remind them when it’s time to start (READ-DO), then have them confirm that they’ve completed each step in the checklist before bedtime.

And there you have it. Four key reasons you should believe in the importance of checklists and two main types of checklists. Remember, the intent of any checklist, process or system, is to make your work and life easier, not to be burdensome or slow you down.

Examples of Checklists

We currently have a four step verbal bedtime routine checklists for our kids: Brush, floss, rinse, change underwear. We remind them when it’s time to start (READ-DO), then have them confirm that they’ve completed each step in the checklist before bedtime.

Other examples of checklists include daily checklists, weekly checklists and monthly checklists:

  • Morning routines
  • Travel and packing checklists
  • Daily planners
  • Chore charts
  • To do checklist
  • House cleaning checklists
  • Real estate transaction checklists
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Employee onboarding and offboarding checklists
  • Recipes!
  • Meal planning
  • I could go on and on

The importance of checklists is hidden in plain sight as we all use checklists every day, often without paying much attention. What checklists do you currently use that are helpful? What are areas you could create new checklists to make life easier and reduce decision fatigue?

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