Why it is important to use a checklist

Checklists have the ability to revolutionize our productivity level and the way we get things done. Let’s consider the reasons to use a checklist 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 business done around here! So we love checklists!)

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

Four Reasons to Use a Checklist

Assuming that you’re not a surgeon and no one’s life is at risk, a checklist exists for one or more of the following reasons:

To 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.

To 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.

To 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.

To ensure 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 (affiliate link), 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.

And there you have it. Four key reasons to use a checklist 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.

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