Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.
If you do not want to exhaust your team members’ creativity, checklists are a must-have tool for production. Their function is simple - to check whether anything is forgotten or unfinished. And the most important thing is that you do not have to create a new checklist every time a task appears. Creative energy can be channeled to the more exacting tasks.
It's primarally a to-do list app, but Wunderlist can also be a great tool to create checklists. It's free, runs on just about every device, and is incredibly simple to use. You can't duplicate lists, but you can make a list and share it a Public List. Anyone—on your team or around the globe—can then add the list to their account, check off the items, then add it again whenever needed. It's a workaround, one that might keep you from needing a new app just for making checklists.
One thing to remember: your checklist doesn’t have to take the form of a list. One checklist I use every day is my Daily bookmark folder. It’s a bookmark folder in my browser (I use Firefox) that contain the sites I want to visit daily. Every day, all I need to do is opening the bookmark folder and it will automatically open all the sites I want. Simply by opening it I can be sure that I won’t miss anything.
In addition to the above examples, I’m trying to develop more checklists for my work and personal life. I’ve looked at some re-occurring sticking points that happen throughout the day and have been experimenting with whether a checklist can help with it. My challenge to you this week is to take a look at your own life and see if there are areas where a checklist would help out. It’s not a sexy tool, but it’s a powerful one!
4. Checklists save time. A common complaint about checklists is they take too much time to go through. But running through a checklist need not take very long, and research shows that doing so will actually save you time in the long run. Because checklists can prevent errors caused by skipping basic steps, you spend less time fixing mistakes and more time doing constructive work.
Google Sheets beat Microsoft to the punch and introduced a Checkbox as one of the Data Validation options. You can go to Insert > Checkbox to quickly create one, and you can customize it by going to Data > Data Validation. I've updated most of the Google Sheets versions of my checklists to use that feature. I hope Excel gets smart and introduces a similar feature some day.
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Checklists put everything you need to do right in front of you. You can see the beginning, middle and end of what needs to be done. Though this helps some people tackle tasks in front of them, it can also be distracting. If you are the type who prefers to take things one step at a time, you might enjoy working through a checklist. Big picture people might struggle with a large collection of isolated items, however, and might need other tools such as mind maps, ideas lists and deadline reminders to help them focus on what needs to be done.
Being a professional implies constant education. Even top-notch experts have to nurture their domain knowledge to maintain their background. At the same time, can we claim that a high level of expertise guarantees lack of errors? The question is especially acute in software development where each error results in an increase in time and cost. Therefore, regardless of the chosen methodology - Agile, Lean, Rapid, Feature Driven, or others - striving to organize software development processes should be a top priority for project managers and other leaders. In that context, similar to the unsung hero, whose is not noticed by the public but crucial for the history, checklists come to center stage.

This week I made my first checklist for setting up one of my thesis data collections. I listed specific essential tasks and supplemented them with common errors I had either made or had encountered in the past. After making this specific checklist, I decided to see if I could make a general list that could be applied to all studies. Surprisingly, it was easier to do than I thought, although I’m sure it isn’t perfect. I was able to group many of my tasks together under one common point. What is not easy so far is trusting and not deviating from the checklist. It’s been easy to throw the checklist to the side when I get frustrated. In more stressful situations or even when things are running smoothly, I may forget that I’ve come up with a structured way to make sure I’m managing my data collection in the best way possible.
We may not like to admit it, but many of us can describe a time when we’ve made a mistake during the progress of a study. These mistakes can range from mixing up wires or forgetting to turn on an amplifier to forgetting to collect an essential piece of information that either requires additional processing time or prevents you from analyzing a certain variable altogether. Increased computing power and technological advancements have also made it easier than ever to collect data.
If you do not want to exhaust your team members’ creativity, checklists are a must-have tool for production. Their function is simple - to check whether anything is forgotten or unfinished. And the most important thing is that you do not have to create a new checklist every time a task appears. Creative energy can be channeled to the more exacting tasks.
You need sprint planning to ascertain the relevant context of the product and responsibility for certain tasks. The process itself is a kind of endorsement of the decisions taken during the backlog refinement. The checklist's role is to establish a proper context at every point of the backlog. It is a good practice to shape a separate list for three stages of the session - before, after and during the sprint planning.  In doing so, you will reduce the cognitive load of handling practices.
Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.
‘Non-boldface’ checklists form part of the normal framework of ‘job aids’, which might also include mnemonics and other rote learning tools, task visibility, context-sensitive help functions, decision support and instruction manuals. Mnemonics (such as ‘ABC’ for ‘Airway, Breathing, Circulation’ in resuscitation), for example, are sometimes used to retrieve procedural items where participants are likely to be subject to high cognitive load; however, mnemonics are more critical in situations where there is no later access to a physical checklist for confirmation.
Clinicians have long relied on an analogous form of decision support such as lists or algorithms for differential diagnosis. When a patient presentation is unusual (non-normal but not emergent), differential diagnosis lists (whether in old-fashioned textbooks or new-fashioned handhelds) support clinical performance by serving as a cognitive aid. The practice of reviewing a complete differential helps overcome anchoring and confirmation biases and can be a forcing function to ensure that every critical, and treatable aetiology is ‘ruled out’. Unlike non-normal checklists that are built into cockpit workflow, differential lists are often not well-integrated into clinical workflow and this may undermine their use.12
Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.
This isn’t a problem unique to medicine, of course. It exists across almost every domain of life, be it business or science or even just getting things done around the house or on your car. More and more of our work requires coordinating different teams to get a task done. If you work for a big corporation, you’re likely collaborating with a whole host of people to complete a project. And just as in medicine, you’ve likely seen projects delayed or even fail not because of lack of know-how, but due to head-scratching ineptitude.

Google Sheets beat Microsoft to the punch and introduced a Checkbox as one of the Data Validation options. You can go to Insert > Checkbox to quickly create one, and you can customize it by going to Data > Data Validation. I've updated most of the Google Sheets versions of my checklists to use that feature. I hope Excel gets smart and introduces a similar feature some day.

As you can see, the power of checklists is not an illusory phenomenon. A famous surgeon, Atul Gawande, even wrote a book dedicated to this topic. Despite their simplicity, checklists give an extraordinary boost to organizing things in the most effective manner. Though, maybe their very simplicity underlies their power? Anyhow, you should try a few out. That is the only way to realize why you need checklists.


Agile software development leverages a technique called the user story to get enough information for implementing software features from an end-user perspective. Shaping acceptance criteria is an integral part of this process that can be improved with a checklist's help. You can create a special format containing categories, point assessments, labels, names, etc. For example, a Definition of Ready can be transformed in Definition of Done category after changing the story specification. On the picture below, you can see an implementation plan, which is, in fact, a ToDo list containing guidance on how to handle the user story written in the description section.


That brings us to the last point about checklists - they DO NOT replace knowledge. An investor interviewed for the book said it best when describing that the checklist is “not a fail safe thing…you still need expertise and insight into the process to be able to ultimately perform each step correctly”. These checklists wouldn’t help me if I didn’t know what I was doing to begin with. Rather than being a “Step by Step to Collecting Data”, people can perform a task however they want and the checklist makes sure that in the end that task was performed correctly.

Agile software development leverages a technique called the user story to get enough information for implementing software features from an end-user perspective. Shaping acceptance criteria is an integral part of this process that can be improved with a checklist's help. You can create a special format containing categories, point assessments, labels, names, etc. For example, a Definition of Ready can be transformed in Definition of Done category after changing the story specification. On the picture below, you can see an implementation plan, which is, in fact, a ToDo list containing guidance on how to handle the user story written in the description section.
Investigators discovered the crash wasn’t caused by a mechanical malfunction, but rather pilot error. The problem was while the new bomber could carry more and fly faster and further than any other bomber in history, it was also an extremely complex plane to operate. To fly it, a pilot had to pay attention to four different engines, retractable landing gear, wing flaps, electric trim tabs, and much, much more. Because the pilot was so preoccupied with all these different systems, he forgot to release a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls. Overlooking something so simple killed the two men at the helm.

We may not like to admit it, but many of us can describe a time when we’ve made a mistake during the progress of a study. These mistakes can range from mixing up wires or forgetting to turn on an amplifier to forgetting to collect an essential piece of information that either requires additional processing time or prevents you from analyzing a certain variable altogether. Increased computing power and technological advancements have also made it easier than ever to collect data. We can collect five measures simultaneously in one study and hundreds of trials in no time at all. But where does this leave us now? We must set up all of this equipment and make sure it works together, monitor it as well as our participant or specimen, and somehow sift through all the data post hoc. Even with a detailed lab notebook, its no wonder problems can arise. Even just writing this makes me feel…exposed, as if I’m the only one who struggles with this. It seems so simple, how can I not get it perfect every time? I always thought that I just had to work harder to not miss small steps, but maybe I just needed a different, yet structured, perspective on how to manage such a high volume of complex information.
Travel checklist. I also have a checklist that I use before I leave on an extended trip. It’s kind of a combo of a to-do list and a routine list. It’s stuff I need to get done, but I use the same list every time. And it’s a DO-CONFIRM checklist: I do my prep from memory but then check the list before I leave to verify that I took care of everything essential. These are the things that I’ve had the most trouble remembering in the past, so they’re on my list:
One thing to remember: your checklist doesn’t have to take the form of a list. One checklist I use every day is my Daily bookmark folder. It’s a bookmark folder in my browser (I use Firefox) that contain the sites I want to visit daily. Every day, all I need to do is opening the bookmark folder and it will automatically open all the sites I want. Simply by opening it I can be sure that I won’t miss anything.
Being a professional implies constant education. Even top-notch experts have to nurture their domain knowledge to maintain their background. At the same time, can we claim that a high level of expertise guarantees lack of errors? The question is especially acute in software development where each error results in an increase in time and cost. Therefore, regardless of the chosen methodology - Agile, Lean, Rapid, Feature Driven, or others - striving to organize software development processes should be a top priority for project managers and other leaders. In that context, similar to the unsung hero, whose is not noticed by the public but crucial for the history, checklists come to center stage.
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