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  • Writer's picturedereklovett

When to Use Checklists

January 31, 2024

It happens to all of us. We get down to a pivotal juncture in time and we realize that we have missed a critical cog in the process. We thought we had meticulously connected each piece of the puzzle and with bated breath we had started to put the finishing touches on. And then, in the blink of an eye, we encounter a rude awakening: we realize that we had almost made it to the finish line but it was too little and too late.

You may be wondering, "What in the world is this guy talking about?" But if this sounds familiar to you, it is probably because this narrative invokes a grim familiarity, a series of anxious feelings that many of us know all too well.  If you are a person that struggles to get to work on time then you definitely understand where I am coming from. The other day my wife and I got into a mild debate about the cause of a hectic morning. In all consideration, it should have been a very smooth ordeal. We both had taken the day off and all we had to do was get one child (in lieu of our usual three) ready and off to school. But in our laxed state, we had failed to plan. As we scrambled to get our bearings, she exclaimed, "I would have been better off with a checklist!"

You won't get it right every time

For you, the aforementioned narrative might parallel your shaky morning routine trying to get to work.  We all deal with preparation within a tight window of time in some capacity.  And honestly, it is virtually impossible  to remember everything that needs to be done when we have so many balls in the air.  For these cases, you need a checklist. But, here's the kicker: the real task is having this realization before it is too late to use one. The following are a few considerations that you can adopt as a practice to quickly evaluate when you need a checklist.


You are struggling to make progress on a task

This can be anything. Take a goal for instance. Oftentimes, individuals don't move forward with their goals because they don't know where to start. Making a checklist, which may involve some minor research, would help them establish a starting point.

An unexpected challenge occurs

Our lives run like systems. If we are effective, our systems produce a product that is a composite of the routines and habits we have established to meet our daily demands. However, on occasion, a challenge will come that is out of our scope and you may have to create a whole other system for this. Because these things can sometimes be overwhelming, using a checklist to address the challenge can help you preserve mental capacity for carrying out regular responsibilities.

You have a significant life event

We all have planned a trip or hosted an event. If we are honest with ourselves, there have been times that we made the X's and O's harder than they had to be. And some of us probably still underestimate the preparation it takes. Major activities like these have moving parts that are connected to other areas of your life. For instance, a big trip can affect kids, pets, work, finances, and routine. Going on only your fine memory and instincts can cost you time and peace of mind. Instead of risking that, just make a checklist!

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-Derek J. Lovett

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