Two Powerful Types Of Checklists You Must Use
Have you ever spent hours preparing a big presentation only to find your laptop battery out of charge moments before speaking?
Or perhaps you’ve tried to outsource time-consuming tasks in your business, like setting up an ad campaign, only to find the person responsible “forgets” several vital steps.
If so, you need a checklist.
Why Checklists Are So Powerful
Checklists help you avoid mistakes and simplify outsourcing specific tasks. They also free up some of your mental bandwidth from worry and help you focus on more important work.
American surgeon and writer Atul Gawande explained why checklists are an essential productivity tools in his excellent book The Checklist Manifesto. He wrote,
“Checklists…remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instil a kind of discipline of higher performance.”
Whether you’re an executive in a large company or working in your business, two kinds of checklists will help you avoid mistakes and accomplish more faster.
Checklist One: Read-Do
If you’ve ever cooked dinner while following a recipe, you’re familiar with a Read-Do checklist. It outlines the steps required for accomplishing a specific outcome, like cooking lasagne.
If, for example, you’re setting up a Facebook ad for your business, this kind of checklist should detail how to set up an ad correctly and track your return on investment.
You can also use a Read-Do checklist to outsource tasks to other members of your team or contractors. After all, if they’re worth hiring, they should be able to follow your recipe for success.
Simply get into the habit of documenting tasks you undertake regularly to achieve specific outcomes.
Checklist Two: Do-Confirm
A Do-Confirm checklist covers tasks you complete from memory.
Pilots use a Do-Confirm checklist to ensure they haven’t overlooked anything such as checking the right instruments or locking the plane’s brakes. Essentially, this kind of checklist helps the pilot fly a plane safely without relying solely on his or her fallible memory.
Now, you might not fly a Boeing 747 from London to New York, but you could use a Do-Confirm checklist for important projects like giving a speech or planning business trips.
You’re unlikely to forget writing your speech or even practicing it, but what about confirming you printed enough handouts for attendees and checking your presentation remote is charged and works?
This kind of checklist will help you avoid embarrassing and preventable problems at work.
If you travel a lot, this kind of checklist will help you confirm you’ve got what you need (like your passport!) before you leave the house or office.
How To Write An Effective Checklist
You can document a checklist on paper, in a spreadsheet or even in a tool like Evernote. The tool is less important than having your relevant checklists in an accessible place that you review.
Ensure your checklist is easy to read and follow too. And avoid long checklists. In his book, Gawande said a good checklist contains only five to nine items and fits on one page. You might not get your checklist right the first time, so practice using it in the real world, and then refine as needed.
For example, I keep a self-editing checklist for articles in Evernote.
Every time I finish writing an article, I read through this checklist and ensure I’ve covered things like checking for spelling mistakes, preparing a suitable image, adding internal links and so on.
You might not be a writer, but your effective checklist could relate to reviewing work at the end of the week, preparing the books at the end of the month or ensuring you vet new hires correctly.
To prepare your first checklist, ask yourself what tasks you complete regularly, document what’s involved and then turn it into an appropriate checklist today.