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Use checklists and sleep better at night!

Are you busy running so many activities that when you try to go to sleep at night, you get a nagging feeling that maybe you forgot to do something really important for tomorrow’s big event? In today’s post we’re going to explore checklists and how they can benefit us as enablers of change.

John loves checklists! He finds them incredibly useful and, better still, they really do help him sleep better at night as he can be assured he has done all the important things for the next day.

Denise confesses that she loves checklists (although not as much as chocolate) but wishes she used them more! Often she feels so busy juggling multiple tasks that she does not feel she has the time to make checklists.

However we are not saying we need checklists for everything, but just the important activities, and especially the ones that involve multiple steps. For example, after we finish recording an episode of Enablers of Change, John has a handy checklist of the 39 steps needed to edit it. He then has another shorter checklist to help with uploading the episode to the website and promoting it far and wide.

Not that you need checklists only for difficult tasks. In the book Switch: How to change things when change is hard, the authors Chip and Dan Heath give an example from a hospital situation. Patients in ICUs often need intravenous lines inserted into them. These then sometimes create infections and further complications for the patients. However, a simple five step checklist dramatically reduced the rate of these infections. It was not rocket science – just things like the doctors washing their hands beforehand and wiping the site with antiseptic. However over 18 months, it was estimated that 1500 lives were saved, plus the hospital saved an estimated 175 million dollars from not needing to treat the associated infections.

This is a great example and so effective! While the activities we are involved with might not be as high risk as that, checklists can certainly help. There are two big benefits. The first is that it helps ensure the quality of the work we are involved with. Checklists are a good QA process for ensuring we do all the things we need to do. The second is that it helps our mental health. We know we sleep better at night if we have used a checklist for a big event. As we try and get a good nights sleep we do not have 101 ideas swirling in our head as to what might have been forgotten. And if we have run the event before, then we can reuse a checklist that we know worked.

So that’s where typing up a list in Word or in a Google doc is a good way to go, as you can recycle them again and again. Denise has a colleague who does this in spreadsheets so just use whatever you are comfortable using! And perhaps add new ideas as they come to mind for the next time you need to use it. Using an online document means you can share it with your teammates too.

And while electronic documents are a step up from handwritten notes on paper, the next step up is to use fit-for-purpose software. John has used Teamwork in the past for managing complicated webinars being run on a regular basis. He created a template that had the 20 or so steps already in it. Then he would just replicate that for a new webinar and assign dates for the tasks that needed to be done. This also allowed delegation some of those tasks to team members.

A nice feature of the program was that it could send a daily reminder to each of us about what still needed to be done, and alert John when tasks were running late. It also had a dashboard so John could see where things were up to for the event. Teamwork is just an example and there are 101 alternatives, such as Asana, Basecamp and Jira.

So it’s horses for courses. You might just need a simple Post-it Note for a small event. The important thing is to take the time to think about what the critical steps are for your activity. This sure beats doing it all by the seat of your pants! And you can sleep better at night! Plus, if you get sick at the last moment, it’s much more likely that a team member can step into your shoes if you have taken the time to note down the steps that needed to be done and ticked them off as you’ve done them. That way they can easily see where you’re up to and what else needs to be done.

One extra benefit to mention: We all love ticking items off our to do lists! We get a small rush of endorphins when we tick that box on our checklist to say “I’ve done that”. We all love accomplishments, even little ones. It gives us the sense that we’re really doing things and making progress.

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we would like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences with checklists, including any tips and further ideas about them. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us!

Thanks folks for reading this Enablers of change post. Remember to subscribe if you’d like to know when new posts are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they can join the conversation!

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Ramesh Raj Puri
2 months ago

Thanks, John and Denise,
Having checklists and enjoying good sleep at night is a good idea. I do make a master checklist for my tasks and a to-do checklist. The to-do checklist is a subset of the master checklist.

It’s working and will step up in a digital form, probably with Excel.


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