The Checklist

The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande is an incredible read for anyone who loves to listen to incredible emergency room stories. The anecdotes of a surgeon are always interesting to hear, but Gawande uses these tales to demonstrate how a seemingly simple solution can make a gargantuan difference in not just the medical world, but in many other industries as well.

The basic premise of this book is that as humans we are fallible. In part this is due to ignorance, but more and more it’s becoming an issue of ineptitude. We have a lot of knowledge and resources, yet we do not necessarily have the ability to organise and use them well. While powerful our brains sometimes forget things or miss steps. This is why checklists can become powerful tools, when applied consistently.

Many examples are provided, giving evidence to the effectiveness of checklists, for all sorts of problems. Despite their different functions, each checklist is composed of simple and straightforward steps. They break down the essentials of a task, and provide an order in which to complete them.

While reading, I considered engineering my own every day checklists. What they would look like and how I could use them. Maybe with a checklist in tow I wouldn’t forget to take the trash out every Sunday night, or I’d avoid sunburn by remembering to apply and reapply my sunscreen throughout the day.

In some respects a checklist is kind of like having a routine or ritual. The only difference is that it’s on paper. I’ve been finding a lot of joy and calm in my mornings by engaging in a morning ritual, so the notion of adding a few checklists into my weekly planner seems useful rather than tedious.

My plan is to develop checklists for three different routine tasks and to see if or how well they assist me in completing them:

1. Grocery shopping
2. Attending a child’s birthday party
3. Going to the gym and exercising

I just have to remember to keep it simple and essential. Wish me luck!

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