Checklists make the world go ‘round

By Coach Tina

How many times a day do you do the same task? Have you ever felt like you’re on “autopilot”? Often times, we rely on our habits and routines to accomplish repetitive tasks. For instance, do you grab the same items before you go out the door to work in the morning? 

As a Type-A person, I am always running through a mental checklist in my head before I leave the house: purse, wallet, lunchbox, coffee, phone, keys. Most days, I don’t even have to think about it, I have everything gathered together. However, on the days I forget something, it makes for a rough day.

Why a checklist?

I recently read the book The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande and he described the value and utility in creating checklists. These lists are a stable in the medical and airline industry, but why do we care? Because checklists can help us “get things right.”

Checklists provide a practical approach to most problems we encounter on a daily basis; the simple, the complicated and the complex. For example, a recipe to bake a cake is a relatively simple checklist to ensure our time spent making the cake produces an actual, edible cake. Checklists can also help us evaluated a more complex problem or question. 

On a daily basis, I have patients ask me if they are having a medication-related side effect. Without having a physical checklist in front of me, I go through a series of questions that could lead me down the path of answering yes or no – when did you start to feel this way?, does anything make it better?, does anything make it worse?, have you changed any other medicines or habits lately?, have you ever felt this way before?

Increased efficiency

One of the most applicable benefits of a checklist is to help us be successful in being efficient. I have a checklist I do every night before I go to sleep so I can wake up in the morning having already set myself up for success with my meals for the day, coffee, change of clothes after the gym and everything set out to just grab and go. This way, I can sleep an extra 15 minutes instead of having to wake up earlier to gather everything together. Also, by making the decision the night before for what I will eat and wear the next day, I allow more time to make more complex decisions, such as fill out my intention journal for the day in the morning instead of running all over the house while trying to wake up. 

Checklists are intended to be simple and only to be an aid, not a replacement for knowledge and skill when needed. Is there an area of your life you experience on a daily basis that could be simplified with a checklist?

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