We love to-do lists here at Lifehacker, but checklists — routine lists of steps involved in a process — often get overlooked. They're invaluable for giving your mind freedom to think about the important things.
Picture: Mark Jones Jr/Flickr
Most of us have things we do every day that have many routine steps involved. In my case, I write articles that involve a headline, body, source, photo attribution, scheduling and sharing to social media, among other smaller tasks. Every one of these steps is something I need to keep in mind and re-construct every day. It may seem strange to give yourself a list of things you need to do for basic job duty tasks, but having the external checklist means you don't have to keep it in your mind. As tips blog The Art of Manliness Explains:
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.
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.
Checklists don't replace judgment, they enhance it.
External checklists for routine tasks can also prevent errors, save time and stress, and even help you get more disciplined at your job. Much like to-do lists, they also provide a reference point for how well you're doing at your job and where you still need to improve or what needs to be done.
The Power of Checklists [The Art of Manliness]