I was surprised that the "Checklist Manifesto" didn't have more of an impact.

The book, which came out about four years ago, argued--correctly--that checklists are a wonderful way to make sure you don't overlook anything, and that it is true whether we are talking about the best way to treat someone in the emergency room or if you are about to make a big presentation to a client you really want to land.

I have been using checklists since I was in college and maybe that was appropriate, because I am known by my family and friends as being a bit of an absent-minded professor. I will find myself thinking about something--such as why don't you see many green cars on the road these days--and I will become so focused on the subject (which is usually only fascinating to me) that I will promptly stop thinking about everything else, and head off to the airport without taking my laptop.

And so I started using checklists. I have one that I use before I travel. One that I follow each Friday--we have a commuter marriage and there is a list of things I have to do to shut down one house and open the other. A checklist for things I want to cover when I call my editor... you get the idea.

The advantage of using checklists are many. First, if it is a one-off situation--I want to check in with my editor about where I am in the book I am working on--it keeps me remarkably focused. By creating the checklist, I know what I want to cover and in what order, and it keeps me from rambling or from bringing up information that it is going to get us off track.

If the checklist has been turned into a template--I have made copies of the checklists I use a lot, such as when I am going to travel from one house to the other--then it saves time and keeps me from forgetting things. And yes, I add items to the templates all the time. I never thought about writing down "put briefcase in car." I just assumed I did it automatically. Well, it turns out a couple weekends back I didn't, and you can now see "put briefcase in car" as item 17 on the "weekend commuting checklist."

Checklists keep me from forgetting things--and being inconvenienced. (Do you know what a pain it is to be 600 miles from home without your cell phone's recharging cable? Some of you do.) And it saves me time. I don't have to re-invent the list of things I need to make sure I take before I get on a plane.

My life--like yours--is complicated enough. I don't need to make things harder for myself.

That's why I use checklists.

I know the arguments against them. "They are just too simple; too basic," for a hard charger like you. You can remember everything.

I have absolutely no doubt that you can. But

A) Why should you have to?

B) Wouldn't you want a way of double-checking "just in case."

Believe me, checklists are worth a try.

Published on: Sep 27, 2014
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