National Checklist Day serves as a reminder that we don’t have to figure things out over and over again. Leave tracks. The future thanks you!

We’re busy, right? We don’t have enough time. Well, if we don’t have enough time, how do we have time to do things over and over and over?

When we solve a problem or undertake a project, we often know we’ll face this situation again. Why not save our future selves some time by putting together a checklist?

October 10th is “National Checklist Day.” It’s a time to look at a handy tool to keep us from reinventing the wheel every time we face the same situation.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for checklists comes to us in a book called The Checklist Manifesto. The book talks about checklists as if they are a matter of life and death…literally. The author is a surgeon who discusses mistakes being made in the operating room due to the lack of a checklist. He also points to pilots and how they meticulously work through a checklist before a plane departs.

Life is Complex. Checklists Simplify It.

Life is too complex to keep everything in our heads. You don’t have to be a surgeon or a pilot to experience the time-saving value of checklists.

Use “National Checklist Day” as a time to re-visit checklists you’ve made and perhaps abandoned. It’s also the perfect time for making some that will save time in the future.

We all take trips. How many times have you gotten to your destination and realized you forgot to pack something important? Don’t wait until the day of the trip and throw random items in a suitcase. You hope you remember everything. Chances are you won’t.

Make a list and use it for every trip. What toiletries do you need in order to get ready for the day and to end the day? Do you need medications? What about first-aid supplies? What clothing do you need? Are you going to need an umbrella? What about a bathing suit? Do you need your passport?

Once you have the list, work through it from top to bottom on each future trip. You’ll time and reduce stress.

If you need help getting started, here’s a quick starter list ChatGPT returned for me:

  1. Passport/Visa: Check that your passport is up to date and will be valid for the duration of your trip. If you need a visa, apply for it in advance.
  2. Flight/Travel Arrangements: Confirm flight details and make sure you have all necessary travel documents.
  3. Accommodations: Book a place to stay and make sure you have the address and contact information for your hotel or rental.
  4. Transportation: Plan for airport transfers and transportation at your destination, such as rental cars or public transportation.
  5. Health and Safety: Check for any health or safety warnings for your destination, and consider getting travel insurance.
  6. Currency/Financials: Research the currency used at your destination and arrange for sufficient cash or credit.
  7. Clothing and Gear: Make a list of what you need to pack based on the weather, activities, and cultural norms at your destination.
  8. Communication: Make sure your cell phone plan covers international usage or consider getting an international plan.
  9. Itinerary: Plan a rough itinerary of the places you want to visit and activities you want to do, but leave some flexibility for spontaneous adventures.
  10. Backup copies: Make digital copies of your passport, travel insurance, and important documents, and email them to yourself.

What projects do you handle annually or periodically during the year? Chances are the tasks aren’t hard. What’s hard is remembering them all. The worst part is worrying about what’s been forgotten.

As a school administrator, the end of the grading period brought with it a list of tasks that had to be completed, and they had to be completed in a certain order. I wrote about that example ten years ago.

Your call to action from this article is to brainstorm the checklists you need to make your work life and personal life operate smoothly.

Get the Timing Right

The second challenge is knowing where to keep your checklists so you see them at the right time.

Some projects happen at regular times, annually, monthly, etc. Define the individual steps and work them into your task list. Give each one a date and make each one a repeating task. Each item reappears at the right time. Major holidays and the beginning and ending of the school year are examples of repeating events that include many tasks.

Other checklists can be needed at any time, such as packing for a trip. Another example is hiring, another function from my days in school administration. Here is a post I did about checklists and hiring. I think of the checklists that support them as reference material. I put that sort of thing in Evernote.

For the new teacher, here is The New Teacher’s Big List of All the Little Things.

I have a notebook in Evernote called “Emergency.” What to do if you have a roadside emergency? What to do if you have an accident? How do you jump-start a car if it’s something you have never done? What do you do if you lose your wallet or phone? When you need that information, it’s there from any connected device.

On “National Checklist Day” spend some time examining the ones you have and thinking through the ones you need. Your future self will thank you.

Life is too short and time too precious to waste one more day. If you are someone who stumbled upon this site for the first time, let me help you take a major step forward right now. When you join my email list, I’ll give you two free gifts. The first will get your desk clean. The second will put everything you have to do in one place. Plus, each week you’ll hear from me with nuts & bolts tools and strategies to make life easier and more productive. You’re one click away from making it happen