Productivity – How Checklists Can Make You More Productive and Successful

This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. I hope you enjoy the chapter and my book.

Productivity – How Checklists Can Make You More Productive, Successful,  Change Your Life and Supercharge Your Business Continuity Program

We have so many tasks to attend to as we build our programs. If you are like me, you are almost always working on multiple projects simultaneously. Multi-tasking is a way of life, even though it has been proven that it is not the most productive way to work.

I live by checklists:

For many years, I have jotted down a simple checklist each-and-every morning listing everything I want to accomplish that day. In fact, I cannot remember a day that I have not made a checklist. I learned, through experience, to include even the simplest tasks so absolutely nothing falls through the cracks.

I use solid bullets for work related tasks and hollow bullets for non-work tasks. I circle the tasks that are most time sensitive. Those are the ones I want to insure I complete early in the day. Crossing each task out as I complete it gives me a sense of accomplishment. This disciplined methodology leaves nothing to chance.

For example, I may put on a list:

  • Schedule Accounting BIA review meeting
  • Schedule HR BIA meeting
  • Analyze that RTO gap analysis
  • Begin the Supply Chain mapping strategy
  • Do the Sales plan walk-through
  • Steering committee meeting at 3:00 pm
  • Write two chapters for the book
  • Buy train tickets
  • Pick up dinner

These simple checklists have made me super productive. They have enabled me to complete even my most complex and challenging work and side projects. Checklists have enabled me to create commercial software, author books, create videos, prepare for speaking engagements AND build real-time resilience programs.

When planning large projects, I create elaborate checklists so I do not miss any steps in planning and execution. Sometimes the checklists morph into full-fledged project plans. Whether it is planning an exercise or implementing a new automated system – checklists work for me every time!

Tip – When implementing business continuity tools such as a BCM system or mass notification tools I will develop a more robust project plan. A project plan is really a supercharged checklist listing the steps and the resources required to complete a project. The 200+ step business continuity roadmap included with this book can be thought of as a big checklist.

Tip – I use checklists in every phase of building my resilience programs. They are especially valuable during a crisis so nothing important slips through the cracks. I create scenario specific checklists to prepare for different types of potentially disruptive events. For example, during a blizzard I use checklists to make sure we have attended to snow removal, securing or removing outdoor items, updated the employee emergency hotline… I do a checklist run-down with all departments. They appreciate it and I do not have to worry that we missed something important.

Tip – Leading up to a tabletop or recovery area exercise I maintain a checklist for every step from day one of preparation through the post exercise meeting. It has never failed me. I have never missed an important step.

Tip – It is important to be brief but to include enough detail so you clearly understand each task on the list.

Tip – For quick and dirty daily tasks I typically use a paper checklist I keep in my shirt pocket. It is ‘old school’ but I can easily update and refer to it many times during the day as I add new tasks. It is very mobile. There are also lot of good checklist apps.

Tip – A good book about checklists is, ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande. He implemented checklists in many hospitals which significantly helped reduce mistakes that were made during surgeries. This resulted in reducing post-op infections. His checklists were simple bullet items and very effective.

In order to come up with his health-related checklists he studied how the aviation industry has been using checklists as pre-takeoff check-downs as well as responding to in-air irregularities. Airlines also keep a large detailed manual on each plane but it is the checklists that prevents a lot of potential mistakes from happening in the first place. The checklists make it much simpler, easier and faster to respond to disruptive events. They obviously work, as the aviation industry has been using checklists since the 1930’s.

Checklists make me feel free, calm and organized.

I encourage you to create your own checklists and use them on a daily basis. Make them a part of your routine.