How to Use Checklists to Stay Organized

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power of using checklist

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I love a good checklist. I make them all the time, for all different reasons, and usually have several that I’m working on at once, for different aspects of my life. That makes sense, I guess, since I am a naturally organized person and checklists are a fantastic way to organize your thoughts and activities.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a major list-maker.

But do checklists work for everyone? My short answer is a resounding YES. I think everyone can benefit from the power of using a checklist, and I’m here to share with you some reasons to use checklists, how to set them up, and to explore different types of checklists you may way to use.

Checklists Have the Power to Keep Us Organized

“They recognised the simplicity and power of using a checklist.”
― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Reasons to Use Checklists

Checklists are a fantastic productivity tool. Once you’ve made your list, it will prompt you with activities, so that you don’t waste time or energy determining what to do next.

It’s much easier to focus on the task at hand because you don’t have to worry about forgetting about another task – it’s written down!

You can tell where you are at a glance – what is and is not checked off? There will be a trail of what has been completed and a clear marker of what still needs to be done.

Checklists allow you to set priorities.

It’s easy to share tasks and distribute responsibilities to any number of people by using a shared checklist.

Checklists also make it possible to track tasks with multiple steps by breaking them down into smaller tasks.

When the inevitable distractions occur, a checklist will bring you right back into focus without the need to remember just what it was you had been working on.

power of using a checklist

How To Create A Checklist

I’ve found the easiest way to make a checklist is to take about ten minutes and do a total brain dump. Write down everything you can think of that belongs on your list. If you aren’t sure about something, write it down anyway. Don’t stop until you feel confident that you have captured everything. (But don’t be surprised if you come up with additions to the list as you go – that happens almost every time).

Once you’ve gotten everything down, sort it in broad categories. This is also a good time to break larger tasks into smaller steps. You want a really specific, complete list, with tasks grouped as appropriate.

Next, prioritize your list. Anything with deadlines needs to be clearly marked, and tasks with the highest priority go first.

Share, share, share! This checklist may be exclusively for you, but if not, now is the time to get some assistance with these tasks. Be sure to note who is responsible for which activities.

Now get to work. Remember to cross off or check each activity as it is completed. This serves two purposes – it keeps you constantly aware of what you need to focus on and motivates you by showing how much you have already accomplished.

Checklist Tools

The most common checklist is handwritten with pen and paper, but there are incredible computer programs and apps that are designed to help you out. A sampling includes:

Google Docs










Process Street

Generous Apps

Reusable Checklist List

Clever Checklist

Try some of these out, and see which works best for you.

“checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized.”
― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Types of Checklists

You can really make a checklist for almost anything, and it can be short and simple or robust and complex. Some are single-use, and some checklists may be used over and over on rotation.

Here’s just a small sample of potential checklists:

Personal Activity

Travel Agendas

Packing List

Honey-Do List

Bucket List

Password/Security Info

Content Promotion

Emergency Preparedness

Home Inspection

Shopping List

Wedding Planning

Moving List

Event Planning

Invitation List

Recommended Post: Quotes that will Inspire You to Declutter

Final Thoughts

Checklists truly are powerhouse productivity tools, and when used consistently, they can improve efficiency, motivation, and progress. There are many tools available to help create and use checklists, and they can be adapted to almost any task.

Are you a list maker?

the power of using a checklist

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  1. Latisha Porter says:

    Yes, I use a checklist at home and at work. It helps me stay on track.

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