Thursday, March 24, 2005

To Checklist Or Not To Checklist

I'm kind of a fan of checklists.

When I was in my prior job, where my day-to-day routine was fairly consistent, I kept a text file on my desktop with a list of all the things I needed to do each day. Each morning, I'd pull it up and as I'd finish each one, I'd delete it. By the end of the day I'd clean the whole list away. I'd close it without saving it, and the next day the list was there, ready to go for me again.

Lots of people aren't fans of checklists.

Checklists, you see, are guilt-inducers. Sure, if I don't have a checklist, I'll feel guilty about some of the things I'm not doing, but at least I'll have the luxury of getting to forget some of them. If I have the checklist, then I am reminded of each and every thing I was unable to do. The only thing that's maximized is my sense of inadequacy.

There's a happy medium to be found here, I think, and that is this:

The checklist is a tool, not a rule.

In other words, the checklist is there to help you, not to govern your actions. Like any tool, if there is a day or a situation that it is not useful in, then it is the tool that is inadequate, not the person using it.

Today was laundry day at my house. Lots of time was spent making dirty clothes clean. Since we don't have a washer or dryer, we tend to use those of others on one specific day, making laundry an all-day project. A "daily checklist" that's perfectly good on non-laundry day becomes useless on laundry day.

Does that make sense? The situation changed, so the tool wasn't useful in this case. Tomorrow, it probably will.

And even on days when you can't do everything on the list, the list still doesn't rule. It just serves as a guide. You can say, "Alright, I know X, Y, and Z all need to be done. Let me take care of X, and I don't have to worry that I'll forget about Y or Z, because they're written down here. And if I don't have time for Z quite yet, That's okay, because I'll know X and Y are taken care of and off my mind."

Tools, not rules. Let them help you, not rule you.

If you make the checklist just another thing on the checklist--in other words, if it's another thing you feel like you have to have done--then the checklist will just be a burden to you and take up more of your time.

But if you can treat it like a tool, know that it's in charge, and consider any shortcomings the fault of the tool rather than absorbing that guilt yourself, you'll empowered rather than demoralized.

Now, let me go mark "Blogging" off my checklist so my conscious will leave me alone.

No comments: