Keep missing things you needed to do? Forgot to pick up the milk from the shop? Feel you need to organise the chaos? If you checked off any of these then you NEED a checklist.
Checklists are a perfect tool to keep organised, help plan out your day and keep away the pesky procrastination goblin. But how to make a checklist? And which checklist is best? Not all checklists are created equal.
Before we get you more organised and efficient with your checklist, let’s look at why you need one in the first place.
Why you NEED to use a Checklist
David Allen (author of ‘Getting Things Done’) famously said -
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
What should we take away from this? Your mind is not a good tool to hold list-based items, i.e. shopping list, ideas list, etc … but it’s great at coming up with the ideas in the first place. So, you need an external tool to store this information once it’s been thought of.
Checklists or to-do lists are the perfect way to bullet point out the information and stop it from being lost and missed in the ether of your mind. You can create digital lists through apps, spreadsheets, word docs or even the notes app pre-built into most phones. Some people prefer a physical checklist using a simple to-do list notebook although any notebook with space can be turned into a checklist.
Many love a physical checklist as when completed checking an item off the list, it enables you to enjoy the satisfaction of ticking or crossing it off giving the boost of motivation to move on to the next thing on the list. Try both digital and paper checklists and see which works best for you.
Creating a checklist is a great way to help motivate you to get going, improve your productivity and save yourself a lot of time from figuring out what you need to do. If you are feeling the procrastination bug, then this can be a great exercise to break out of it.
You could use any type of notebook:
A ‘Things to-do’ notepad is great for basic tasks or shopping lists to use on a day-to-day basis, the tick box once checked, can give you the motivation to continue onto your other tasks. Another added bonus is that they fit into small bags, so that you can take it on the go!
For bigger projects and brain dumps requiring a lot more notebook space, a larger notebook is ideal.
How to start a checklist (dump and organise)
The first step for creating your checklist is to create a brain dump. This is just a simple list of everything you can think of that you need on your checklist.
Once you have everything listed, you can start organising it into the ideal order. If it’s a shopping list, organise it into the order you would come across it in the shop so you can work your way down as you go through your usual route.
If it’s a work-based list there are serval ways that you could organise your checklist
- By priority – The tasks that need to be completed first or that hold more weight in your work should go at the top while less important tasks are kept near the bottom. This way you work through your top priorities first so if something new comes up you’re less likely to have an important task pushed later
- By work type – Having your checklist organised into work type can help get through your list more efficiently as your focus will be on one type of work rather than shifting your focus back and forth on each task.
- By Time Needed – The third way to organise your checklist is by the time it will take to complete it. A good rule to use is to split them into
- 2 Minutes or Less
- 2 – 60 Minutes
- 1 Hour +
If it’s less than 2 minutes it can probably be done right away, and the other tasks can be allocated a slot when you have around that amount of time. For example, if you get back from a meeting and have an hour before your next one you should pick something that takes less than 1 hour so you have uninterrupted focus during this task.
The way you organise your checklist is entirely up to you, try out each method and see which one works the best for your productivity.
How to use your checklist
Before you start working through your list there are a few points you need to run through.
- Are the listed items clear and concise?
- Do you need a particular environment or tools to complete it?
- Have you allocated an adequate time slot for the item?
Once you’re happy with your checklist it’s time to start working through it and remember once it’s completed tick it off for that feel-good feeling.
Remember to leave some space and flexibility within your checklist for those times when unexpected things happen where you might need to rearrange or add more to the list.
It’s best to review and create checklists weekly while building in some flexi-time for when certain tasks on the checklist list take longer than expected or when new tasks come up.
Prefer a physical checklist? Check out these to-do list notebooks.