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By Michael Angier






 been on
the Net
since 1995


Our Checklists

I'm a big believer in systems. Systems help make our work and our life easier, less prone to error, and they free our minds for better things. And no system is simpler or more useful than a checklist.

When I walk on board an airplane, I take some comfort in knowing the flight deck crew is going through their checklists. Even though they may have gone through their routines thousands of times, they still use checklists to minimize the chance for error. Lives, equipment and reputation are on the line, and they wouldn't think of risking these things without using checklists.

We all use them. Most of the time, they're mental checklists. Before we go to bed, we lock the front door, turn out the lights and brush our teeth. It's a routine that doesn’t require a written checklist.

But anything longer or more critical than this mental list would be best served with a written one. Anything we do infrequently or that affects safety should utilize this simple system.

Just a few things for which I've written checklists:

  • travel, camping

  • article, newsletter writing and publishing

  • book authoring and publishing

  • new product evaluation

  • boat winterization, commissioning

You've heard it said that "A long pencil beats a short memory." It's true—our minds are better designed for thinking than remembering.

Checklists also help us to delegate tasks and projects to others. If we have a system, we're more confident the job will be done better, and we're more inclined to delegate it.

Action Point
What processes do you or your team members conduct that could be improved by using a checklist? What project are you involved with that you could document and develop a checklist for the next similar project?


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Last Updated 11/13/2007