NOTE: The following is a writing sample that I submitted as part of a portfolio representing my skills, abilities, and capabilities for writing and blogging.
Why should you be using a checklist? Simple, because you are human! See, being human means that you will make mistakes like forgetting things. Well having a checklist can and will prevent that from happening. But before we get into the merits of checklisting, allow me to delve quickly into the memory process. This will help you understand, later on, just how exactly a checklist combats the kind of forgetfulness that we are trying to eliminate.
Right now, please read this. If you didn’t click on the link, no worries, I’m about to explain it all right now. In the bottom half of the 2nd paragraph we learn that “Forgetting typically involves a failure in memory retrieval.”. What this means is that a lot of times when you forget something, it’s not actually gone or lost forever; what’s really happening is that the information you were looking for is buried somewhere and your brain just simply can’t reach it or can’t recover it at the time. I will use an analogy to make it easier to understand.
It’s like looking for a file through your hard drive that’s ‘missing’ only to realize that it was actually deleted and left in the recycling bin.
So how does this relate to checklists?
Easy, checklists prevent memory retrieval failure from happening, because the checklist IS the reminder. You write down what you need to do. Then as you accomplish each one, you pull out the trusty old checklist and cross tasks off the list one by one. Each time you do that you get a quick glance at the rest of the list, thereby reinforcing your memories of the tasks that still need to be accomplished. It’s undeniably simple.
To go back to our analogy from before, this would be like what if every time you sat down in front of your computer, and went to look for a file, a Word document pops up that instantly reminded you of the file location. Convenient right?
Now if that hasn’t convinced you of the usefulness of a checklist. Please allow me to direct your attention to a real world example of checklists saving both money and LIVES even. I am, of course, referring to Dr. Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifest. Many of you are already familiar with this book, but for the others I’ll give a very brief and simplified summary. Basically, Dr. Gawande conducted an experiment about hospitals that used checklists and then measured the resulting differences. His conclusion, revealed a 36% decline in complications as well as a 47% decrease in deaths. A synopsis of his experiment can be found here. So if the humble checklist can save lives, don’t you think it’s at least worth a shot for you?