A Case for Checklists

checklistOne of the seemingly counterproductive work habits I have is that I rely on comprehensive checklists, but it seriously works. This practice came from my time managing upscale restaurants in Philadelphia and Atlantic City as a fresh Penn grad. The restaurant organization I worked for required that managers fill out shift-specific checklists each workday to ensure that all our bases were always covered, no matter who was at the helm.

These checklists broke down every single thing that a manager had to do during the day, from the exact items an opening manager had to inspect during his morning walkthrough to the emails the closing manager had to send to the corporate office before leaving for the day. It sounds excessive, but nothing got missed. If something did go awry, the system made it easy to go back into the logged checklists and see who dropped the ball.

I still use checklists in my daily routine, albeit for a slightly different reason: mental feng shui. It's not that difficult to remember the everyday stuff, like what I have to do, what I'd like to do or what's just been sprung on me. I just don't want to have to exert brainpower keeping this to-do list in the back of my head.

Before I shut my laptop and call it a day, I refer to my checklist for the final time. Sometimes I realize I've missed something silly (or big) that I have to crank out immediately. When every task is complete, though, I feel free, and have a much easier time letting go of work until the next day.