Imagine an alternate present time. A plane just falls out of the sky, third one today. This time the copilot forgets to flick the little green switch next to the other little green switch. It would be a tragedy if it wasn’t happening all the time. It’s not always the green-switch-next-to-the-green-switch problem, but it’s always something. At first we assume our copilots have grown stupid and sloppy, but that isn’t the problem.
The problem? We’ve lost the technology of checklists.
Once avoided infections now spread like wild fires, assembly lines screech to a halt every 10 minutes, and the few planes that actually get in the sky usually fall out of it.
Our hero: the checklist
Nurses and flight attendants and factory managers know the power of checklists when it comes to safety and productivity. Checklists actually save lives by solidifying best practices for taking blood or readying a plane for takeoff, landing, and everything in between.
Put another way, checklists are one of the handiest attention management tools for learning, teaching, and solidifying a behavior.
Checklists don’t need to save lives to be extremely useful. Implementing them may feel nerdy and go against your intuition, but you have to ask, are your current habits and intuition your most effective guides to changing a behavior? If not, then maybe a checklist is in order.
Suggestion for the week: Learn or teach a new behavior using a checklist.
Is there a best practice at work that could
- save people time,
- save mistakes,
- save lives?
Would a checklist of questions help you make better decisions, like a purchase?
- How many times will I use this?
- What will I do with it when I’m finished with it?
- How much happiness will this actually bring me?
- Where exactly do I have the money to buy it?
- Is this just another impulse of a childhood revenge fantasy?
Hints for how to make a great checklist
Start small, especially if you are going to involve others.
Start. Just making the checklist will teach you a lot. By writing it down you’ll notice the holes in your process where you waste time or make mistakes. You’ll also raise your alertness to solutions.
Visualize. Simulating the process in your mind is almost as good as actual practice. You’ll actually get better at doing what you need to do without actually doing it.
Teach it to someone else. At least construct the checklist like someone else will follow it without your being there. You will thank yourself later for the clarity.
Use it. Again, it might feel nerdy, but give your checklist a real go of it.
Adjust. Pause and reflect. Edit your checklist. Try it again. Repeat.
You may have noticed a period about a month back when typos, misdirecting links, and wrong headlines were more common in my emails of these posts. It took me 45 minutes to convert each article into a good looking email. Now, with the help of a checklist it takes about 20 minutes, and I challenge you to find a mistake. Bah, don’t bother. Typos can’t cost lives— can they?