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!
Mental checklists to improve thinking. Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Charlie Munger uses a mental checklist of biases and cognitive flaws that he reviews before making any big decision to ensure he’s thinking clearly about it. He’ll go down the list and ask himself if any of these biases are clouding his thinking and what he can do to mitigate it. Ever since I’ve learned about that, I’ve tried using something similar in my life. Crafting this list is still a work in progress for me, but here’s what I have so far:
Accepting the fallibility of our memories and the overwhelming amount of information we need to manage and apply in our jobs is an important first step. Realize, as Gawande wrote, that "Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us," and recognize that the checklist can make sure your brain doesn't fail you—ever. Then, you'll be ready to create and rely on a checklist, one that that will help you perform better, and more consistently.
Checklists make it easy to delegate tasks if someone offers to help you. If you are lucky enough to have assistance, you can refer to your list and know what to ask them to do right away. You can even share your list with them and let them pick what appeals to them. The disadvantage to delegating in this way is losing control when other people choose what they want to do. If you are concerned about giving away easy tasks and getting stuck with the challenges, keep your list to yourself.
Filming YouTube videos. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with Jordan Crowder to produce more video content for our YouTube channel. While Jordan edits and films many of our videos, I’ll do some filming myself sometimes and then send him the footage to edit. Over the years, I’ve run into some regular problems that have mucked up the filming process. They’re stupid simple things that I just forget about. So I made myself a “READ-DO” checklist of things I need to do before I start recording, and it has saved me boatloads of time:
Aviation checklists are designed for modern aircraft that are complicated, not complex; it is usually possible to define a single process path that offers optimum performance for each flight condition. These process paths are flight tested, endorsed (with minor modifications) by airlines when they purchase a new aircraft type, and published in procedural manuals and checklists. There are two categories of checklist used in the cockpit: normal and non-normal (or emergency) procedures.
Special Unicode Characters in Data Validation Lists: ☐, ☑, ✓, ✔ - This may be my favorite approach. You can include special characters like this in a Data Validation drop-down list. This isn't quite as good as clicking once to fill in a checkbox, but it is great for the mobile Excel apps. The only hard part is remembering how to insert a check mark symbol in Excel. For more information, see my article Using Unicode Character Symbols in Excel.
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:

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.

Checklists don't have to be boring. Pocket Lists is a fun, personal checklist iOS that lets you organize your checklists with icons. Organize the things you need to do, then add an icon to each checklist to make it easy to identify. It can manage your daily tasks, with due dates and notifications, and can also keep track of your more detailed checklists to help with your work routines.
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!
Because checklists provide a binary yes/no answer, they instill discipline in the person that uses it. Research shows that giving someone a checklist for a task increases his or her chances of completing it. There’s something about having a checklist that spurs people to get stuff done. Perhaps it’s the dopamine rush that comes with checking something off, or the concreteness checklists provide, or a combination of the two.
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