The Power of Checklists

Years ago when I was moving and apartment hunting all the time, I found it difficult to keep all the detailed information straight. Which apartment came with off-street parking? How much was the square footage again? Which apartments had a washer-dryer vs. an on-site laundry mat?

In order to help me remember all the questions to ask and keep the information straight, I made an Apartment Checklist and Form. I filled one out for each apartment I was looking at with all the details I needed to know. Right at the very top was the question, “Do you accept cats?” Because there was no point in going further if the answer was no.

When I started traveling a lot for work and leisure and it seemed nearly every trip I’d forget something – a blanket for the plane, sunglasses, or bug repellent. So, I created a travel checklist to print out for every trip.

These checklists were a game changer. They all but eliminated mistakes and I could get the work done in half the time. I was far less stressed. No more calling the landlord back with extra questions or forgotten items to pack for trips. I was no longer doing last minute frantic packing or worried about what I’d forget.

Checklists and forms can simplify business. I’ve created a forms for my coaching strategy sessions, checklists for the client intake process, and my weekly and monthly tasks.

Providing checklists to your employees can dramatically improve performance. It helps ensure they don’t forget items and tasks. For example, a receptionist could have opening procedures checklist (unlock doors, put out sandwich board, turn on open sign, turn-off voicemail, make coffee, check supplies), closing procedures checklist (turn-off lights, turn-on voicemail, set alarm, take out trash), and weekly and monthly checklist (Mondays order supplies, publish calendar on the 1st of each month).

Where can checklists simplify and improve your business and life? Create your checklists and tweak it as you go. I’ve updated my travel checklist many times over the years as technology and needs changed. Also, keep in mind not all checklists need to be printed out. I’ve memorized my five point going-out-the-door checklist: 1.) Purse 2.) Phone 3.) Water 4.) Jacket 5.) Sunglasses.  Tip: keep your checklists as short as possible for simplicity.

For further reading,  check out The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande on how pilots and hospitals use checklists to save lives. He also has a great TED talk on this topic here.