• Jim

The Power of Lists

One of the most basic tools we can use to achieve our goals is the simple list. Lists are a great way to stay organized, save time and save our brain power.  There are two basic types of lists that we can use to help us become more productive and reach our goals – To-do lists and checklists.




To-do lists are simple lists if the tasks that we want to accomplish. We can use to-do list to plan what we want to get done, typically on a daily or weekly basis.  


Checklists on the other hand are used to make sure we do not miss steps in a process or routine. Checklists are used in aviation to assure that pilots follow a set procedure when taking off or landing an airplane. Surgeons use a checklist to make sure they are operating on the right person and the right bodypart in addition to making sure everything is the operating room is ready for the procedure to be performed.


You can use checklists for any routine procedure that you want to systematize in your life. Going on a trip – use a checklist to make sure that you pack everything you will need on the trip. Have a major project at work or home – make a checklist of the steps you will need to complete the project.  Working on your lifting technique – devise a checklist of how you approach and perform the lift, so good technique becomes a habit.


Checklists are also a great training tool. If you are teaching someone a task at home or work, a checklist is a good way to show them how to perform all the necessary steps in the proper order.


To-do lists and checklists help us save time because we do not have to take time to think about what to do next. Just check our list and we can stay productive. Lists can keep us on track when we become distracted. If you find yourself off-task, you can just go back to your list to get back on track.


For more information on the power of checklists see Atul Gawande’s book, "The Checklist Manifesto."


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