Making a list and checking it twice.

May 25th, 2009

checklist.jpgOn my professional blog, I’ve written more than once about the power of checklists, and especially about how they’ve been used to increase safety and effectiveness in hospitals. My conclusion was that many of us, as individuals or in businesses, could benefit from instituting this kind of simple but effective discipline.

Perhaps it will not surprise you that I’ve had trouble implementing this for myself.

Now, though, in line with my stated career objective in yesterday’s post, I’m putting together a big daily checklist aimed at ensuring that I cover each day’s bases that day (hey, that also sounds familiar . . .). Some of the things on the list seem silly to write down, since I do them automatically anyway. The point, though, is to get all of the things on the list to be automatic — and to have the list as a reference and a goad for those times when I’m prone to slip up.

Here’s the really hard part: you have to include things on the checklist that you know are going to be painful to do. And when you encounter those things in the course of your daily work, you have to . . . go ahead and do them. Possibly it’s just the bias of my own experience, but I think that shying away from what’s most painful — or even potentially painful — is the great stumbling block for many people, the thing that keeps them from achieving what they’d like to achieve.

No need to be a glutton for punishment, mind you. We don’t all have to be like Lance Armstrong, who said that a day’s training on the bike wouldn’t be complete without at least a little agony. But if we’re going to engage in deliberate practice and get better methodically, it implies that we need to address our shortcomings, even if that only means tidying up after them.

Try using a checklist for anything that’s giving you trouble. I’ll do the same, and report back with my results.
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(Photo by Kent Wien, used under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.)

One Response to “Making a list and checking it twice.”

  1. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » My new M.O., Day One report. Says:

    […] You’ve heard me talk before about using checklists to guide my work. Well, I used my Christmas vacation (which was lovely and relaxing, thank you) to compile a master checklist for my workdays, and yesterday — my first day back in the office — I started using it. My intention is to share my findings here as I iterate and improve this system for myself. […]

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