Checklists –remember every time!


People tell me they think checklists are for dummies. In fact, they are for smarties. Checklists shine for any repeatable process that is important and repeated, or for things you do every once in a while, to help you remember. 

My First Checklist

The first checklist I ever saw on the job was my first job in a kitchen. Every morning the first cook to arrive would look at the opening checklist: every night, the closing checklist. ​Worked great! The only time anyone screwed up was when they didn't "check" the checklist.

A checklist is not a checksheet. Checksheets are supposed to be for collecting data, but in this era of rampant audits, they are sadly mostly used for "proving" something has been done. Ever see them on the back of the door in a public bathroom, like in a supermarket. The checksheet is always perfectly maintained, the bathroom rarely. I guess it is easier to write a check than clean the john?

But without checklists, many things would not get done well. Even the engineers that design new cars use them, so they remember the mistakes they made the last time and don't repeat them, and the things they did well.  They are also a way of ensuring safety, and avoiding mistakes.

So how do you use a checksheet to make work better, more enjoyable and more productive? Anything you do that you have to do over and over, especially if it is easy to screw it up, can use a checklist. When it comes time to do the thing, you "check" the list...  Simple but incredibly effective.

Memory, I forgot what that is...  only fools rely on memory when it can be written down, and people who forget that they forgot. Here's a simple example for a checklist:​

Step #




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Never forget what is really important again.

  • Don't over do it, use only where it really matter or is hard to remember. You don't want to fall into the trap of becoming inflexible, or your will snap!
  • For the history of Checklists go here.
  • For some more amazing examples of uses of checklists go here. and look at "Applications"

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.

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