As I was rereading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, I was reminded how critical checklists are for saving lives. They are used in many areas including in hospitals when checking vitals and in surgery, in construction during planning and construction, and in aviation pre-flight and emergencies.

But what about the “regular” biz owners whose work isn’t life saving (just life changing?!)? How can using a checklist benefit them? Gawande shares that checklists can be particularly helpful for routine/mundane tasks – so steps are not skipped.

I reached out to my community to find out where they use checklists.

Their responses fell into two categories:

  • Checklists as a to-do list for daily/weekly action items
  • Checklists to keep the steps straight for a project





Often my clients will resist using checklists because they feel it takes too long to create and run through – or – because they feel if they were a “good business owner,” they’d “just know how to do this stuff” and shouldn’t need one.

However, the opposite is true. Gawande shares, “The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with . . . and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff.” The world we live in is complex and busy. The work you do is important. Use your brain to think – not to remember!

How do you create an effective and efficient checklist?

Here are a few tips:

  • Involve everyone that will be using the checklist to help create it. What they help build, they will support!
  • Think through the process from beginning to end. What are the natural sections of this project? You can often group your steps together chronologically: pre-project, during, and after the project. 
  • Keep the checklist to one page when possible. If not, keep the sections to one page each – otherwise, it is easy for your brain to get overwhelmed, which defeats the purpose of the checklist!
  • Concise action steps
  • Clear, easy-to-read font. Most of my checklists are stored in Asana – however, the ones I need to print are in a 14-point font so that I can read them without my glasses! 
  • Review and revise regularly. Consider every checklist to be a living document.


Utilizing well-built checklists is just one of the many ways you can accomplish more without actually working more. When you are ready to reduce the number of hours you work each week, let’s talk. Time management coaching might be your next best step.