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How to harness the power of a checklist

May 10, 2012 - Featured, Professional Development, Project Management

It never ceases to amaze me. I can be the most frazzled and overwhelmed manager / wife / mother the world has known, but when I get to that point, all I have to do is turn to a simple piece of paper and a pen.

A checklist. It fixes pretty much anything.

Feeling frazzled and bombarded with endless To-Do’s?

Create a very specific, itemized checklist. I find that doing this the old-fashioned way, with an honest-to-goodness pen and notebook paper, makes the to-do’s “stick.” As soon as I have the tasks written down — eliminating the possibility of forgetting any, easing my brain and failing memory — I already feel calm, having reduced the burden weighing heavily on me to remember each little detail (besides the fact that it’s oh-so-satisfying to pen a checkmark with a flourish). Now it’s time to focus and finish.

Feeling overwhelmed and overloaded?

Now that the checklist is written, do you get queasy as you unroll and unroll the lengthy scroll? Sit down, take a deep breath, acknowledge that you’re human, and don’t forget that work isn’t your entire life. Prioritize those checklist items. Are any items in the urgent and important quadrant? Priority #1. Anything that’s important, but not yet urgent? Priority #2. Everything else, Priority #3 or eliminate it altogether. Remember the key objective of this checklist in the first place: Getting you to focus, focus, focus.

Have hard deadlines?

If there are critical deadlines to hit for one or more of the tasks in the checklist, it may be in your best interest to expand outside the checklist and strategically place reminders in other locations. The easiest thing to do is place multiple reminders directly on your calendar (electronic or otherwise). But sticky notes, pocket planners, cell phones, etc. all work. Do what it takes to — say it with me — focus, focus, focus.

 

What methods or tools do you use to focus and finish?

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