What these stubborn surgeons fail to see is that checklists provide them more freedom to exercise their professional judgment. They don’t have to think about remembering to do the stupid simple stuff because there’s a checklist for that. Offloading the need to remember basic tasks frees up the brain to concentrate on the important stuff. For surgeons, this means they’re left with more mental RAM to focus on handling unforeseen problems that often come up when you’re slicing someone open.
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.
My interest in general checklists above and beyond the detailed lab notebook began after reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and Harvard Professor (he also is the author of a New Yorker column on the same subject). The purpose of this book is to describe how a basic checklist can help us perform complex tasks consistently, correctly, and safely. Much of the book is told from the point of view of eliminating errors during surgery, but Gawande also draws on stories on how checklists have benefited those in construction, aviation, and investing.
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.

Billed as a notebook for lists, WorkFlowy is an app to manage all of your checklists. Everything's listed on one sheet, where you'll keep all of your separate lists and sub-lists in order. Select on a bullet-point to focus on a particular sub-list, or the minus button on the left to collapse a list. That makes it easy to organize long checklists and still be able to focus on just the tasks you need to complete right now.
2. Checklists free up mental RAM. People often bristle at using a checklist because it feels constraining. They want to be flexible and creative, and the checklist seems to take away their autonomy. For this reason, implementing checklists among surgeons has proven difficult, even though studies show checklists dramatically reduce the number of preventable, life-threatening errors. Surgeons feel that their work requires an intuitive judgment that’s born from years of training and experience and can’t be reduced to a simple checklist.
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Most companies strive to arrange their best practices in the most convenient way. Checklists work well here. Providing essential information for repetitive tasks in the form of a list proves a company’s consistent approach to any level of activity. As an example, introducing specific rules and policies to new team members is quite practical when done through checklists.
Everything seemed fine, until the patient stopped responding and his heart rate skyrocketed. The patient's blood pressure was barely detectable. Nothing his medical team did improved it, so he was rushed to surgery. Only when he was opened up did the doctor finally realize the stab wound went much further inside the patient than he'd thought, cutting right into the aorta—the main artery from the heart. Although it seemed like a small knife wound, the patient had actually been struck by a bayonet—part of the assailant's costume.
Sophisticated areas of focus like medicine, software development, numerous sorts of manufacturing, and others abound with complicated pipeline steps. Teams and departments interact to either complement or proceed with the production process in stages that require proper coordination. At first glance, the checklist's role is not remarkable. However, a deeper analysis shows that this tool stores trivial and easy-to-forget tasks outside your brimming-with-tons-of-data brain.
You might have heard a lot about Internet Marketing especially if you want to start an online venture. But oftentimes, you lack the knowledge on how to start and may get confused about different platforms you want to use to begin your online marketing journey. But a successful marketer, Kevin Fahey has created the IM Checklist, designed to make your marketing easier and more profitable.
If you're a fan of writing in Markdown and using keyboard shortcuts, Checkvist is made for you. It's a web app that lets you create checklists that you can print or share with others, and even set up daily reports. If you need collaborative checklist management, or you want a checklist that integrates with your favorite services like Evernote, try Checkvist.
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.
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.

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.
‘Normal’ checklists are effective whenever there are advantages to standardising performance, time is not critical, the series of tasks is too long to be committed to memory (or there are likely to be interruptions to execution of the task that might interfere with memory retrieval), and the environment enables a physical list to be accessed and used.
Construction. Take a moment to think about the complexity of building a towering commercial skyscraper. Teams of contractors and subcontractors work on different parts of the building at different times and hundreds of specialists are needed to get the job done: engineers of all kinds, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, elevator installers, excavators, window installers, environmental experts, security experts, geologists, cement pourers, steel manufacturers – the list goes on.
Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Boldface items are for immediate action, when the aircraft may be lost if the items are not completed quickly and in the correct order. Correct and rapid execution of these steps is so critical and essential, that pilots must complete them from memory. Through training and repetition, the paired cognitive and motor activities required to perform the checklist are stored by the pilot as procedural memory (or ‘motor skills’).10 Despite notable exceptions (such as ‘choking’ under pressure), procedural memory retrieval is less affected by stress than declarative or episodic memory retrieval.11 For this reason, aircrew practice time critical emergency procedures regularly to aid in forming the correct ‘habits’. However, as soon as time permits, the checklist is used to confirm that the steps were executed as required.8
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