Creating Harmony with Checklists

My mom always told me that I kept a checklist of “to dos” on my dresser as a kid. I guess it’s a practice that came natural to me because it’s something I do to this day. I learned at an early age not to trust my memory, because if I did, I would invariably forget something.

The act of writing things down – and better yet – crossing them off the list, keeps me on track.

I also have checklists for projects or activities that happen on a regular basis. A recent activity reminded me that checklists are very important when some dear friends of mine joined me for a long weekend at our summer community in Maine. During our very busy weekend, I needed to carve out some time to close our rental cottage for the winter. My daughter and a couple of my friends offered to help.

After I listed the initial things we needed to do, we all jumped right in. Many hands made light work and before I knew it, those initial steps were completed, and my friends ended up waiting around for me to tell them what needed to be done next.

I realized that I hadn’t put together a checklist of steps for closing the cottage. If I had, my very responsible and capable friends could have just moved on to the next item on the list rather than waiting for me. It would have been much more efficient. Worse yet – I realized once I returned home to Massachusetts that I had forgotten a few things and had to send my daughter back to finish up. That was very inefficient!

Needless to say – I have I am creating a checklist to assure that this process goes much smoother next year.

I also used checklists when my daughters were in school. In order to avoid asking them the same questions every morning as they ran out the door to catch the bus – questions such as “do you have your lunch, homework, backpack, gym clothes?” – I created a checklist that hung on the refrigerator.

It was much better for them to refer to the checklist every morning, then it was for me to bark questions at them. As my younger daughter entered high school and had to get herself ready for practice three evenings a week, we created a specific checklist for the items that she needed to bring to practice and to competitions. These lists helped keep her on track, and assured harmony in the house when preparing for these hectic and stressful time-sensitive activities.

There are many good reasons for using checklists – here are just a few:

  • Save brainpower. By using checklists, you don’t have to remember every step of a certain repeatable task and you can use your brainpower for other, more important activities.
  • You save time. When repeatable tasks are written down in a well thought out list of steps, you don’t have to spend time remembering each step. You just spend the least amount of time possible completing the list.
  • It’s easier to delegate. Others can complete tasks that are repeatable if the steps are explained and documented.

Let’s face it. It’s easy to forget things. When there are multiple steps, it’s very possible that we could forget a step or two. Writing down the steps helps us make sure that we don’t forget anything, and that we do each task correctly, consistently, and efficiently every time.

How do you use checklists?

I would love to hear about your successes in the comment section below.

TA DA Tip of the Month

Here are some best practices to consider when developing checklists:

  • Identify repeatable tasks. Over the next few weeks, observe family activities and identify those that could be aided by using a checklist.
  • Start a daily personal to do list. Before going to bed, write a few things down that you need to get done the following day, and cross off the items you accomplished that day. It’s a great feeling to go to bed recognizing how much you have accomplished!
  • Try different ways to keep track of “to dos.” If you are a paper person, designate a small notebook or pad of paper that you keep with you throughout the day. Or if you are comfortable with using electronic lists, take a look at the many apps for your smart phone or computer and give them a try.

Ask yourself if there are daily or weekly repeatable tasks that could be made much easier by creating a communal list for family members. Could a list help you with annual tasks that have multiple steps? Are there tasks that only need to be done on a quarterly basis? How about when you pack for a trip – would a checklist help you remember everything you need? Ta Da!

p.s. Need help getting started? I would be happy to send you a Well Ordered Spaces To Do list pad of paper. Click here and leave me your snail mail address.


4 comments to Creating Harmony with Checklists

  • Hi Diana,

    Good article. I have always use a daily “to do list” but never thought of doing one for repeatable tasks. Great idea! I will definitely try that and let you know how it works out.

  • Thanks Karen. I look forward to hearing how creating those new checklists works for you.

  • With my husband recently retired he is always asking me what needs to be done around the house. It’s hard to think of things on the spur of the moment. I have started a notebook with a checklist (I prefer to call it a wish list) of projects that need to be done. Of course with a home the list is never ending, but one by one things get crossed off the list.
    Thanks for a great article!

  • Chris you have great organizational instincts! I love how you call it a “wish list.” And doesn’t it feel great when items get crossed off the list?

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