Checklists and Why We Should Use Them


Every Saturday I get an email from blogger Amy Lynn Andrews titled the Useletter. The Useletter is always filled with great tips for people who use computers, including software and new ideas along with a little chit-chat.

I can’t say I actually look forward to many of the weekly/monthly newsletters that I’ve signed up for, but Amy gets it right. Her newsletters are short and well organized. They are link heavy and there’s almost always one site included that I want to check out.

If this kind of thing interests you, go to Amy’s archive here and see what she does. By the way, see the way I linked that? I didn’t link to one single word but linked to four–a phrase. Amy pointed out in one of her useletters that many people read on mobile devices and linking to several words makes it easier for them to click. Thanks, Amy.

Last week Amy talked about checklists. I was immediately intrigued. Seems an author named Atul Gawande has written an important book (Amazon book of the year for 2009) The Checklist Manifesto about the value of checklists and what a difference they could make in our world. Who knew, right?

Gawande discussed this at length in a New Yorker article, which will give you a good synopsis of the book. Apparently if doctors used checklists and followed them exactly? Our health care wouldn’t be better, it would be astronomically better. Because even the best doctors forget small steps as they work, steps like washing their hands, for instance. Checklists are the answer, and when they’ve been tried? The results have been amazing. They can be amazing in any field because as fallible humans, we often forget all the steps we must take to finish any project. Especially if we’re overworked, fatigued, or too sure we know everything.

To go along with this Amy suggested a program called WorkFlowy, which she uses and which many people have used to create amazing things. BTW, if you click on that link and sign up, I get more workspace on WorkFlowy. I’m not  sure I need the space I already have, but this could get to be a habit, even an obsession. Here’s a cute little demo to show you how it works. I signed up immediately.

Right now my Workflowy page is organized into two major headings, Personal and Work. I’ll do a subheading for shopping under personal, another for appointments–one list to make, another as a reminder. I’ll make lists of books people tell me to read, recipes I want to try soon, restaurants I like. You get the idea, right? All the lists collapse so you only have to look at the ones you’re using at the moment. I can import/export/share. The possibilities are endless.

The harder I work, the more I forget. So this will help keep me on track. Tomorrow as I begin reading through When We Were Sisters in preparation for finishing the rough draft I’ll also use Workflowy to make notes of things I need to add, change or reconsider.

How do you keep from getting overwhelmed? Do you have a system that helps you stay focused and organized that you’d like to share? There are many. Workflowy is just one that I happen to like, but it’s time for me to get better organized and put all the pieces of my life into one place where they’ll be easy to see.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I won’t change the world or prevent staph infections with my checklists, but I might very well change my day.


  1. Ellie Cammer on September 22, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I’ve used a “To Do List” for as long as I can remember. It all started with Barbara Hemphill and her book, “Taming The Paper Tiger”. She also came up with the little “To Do
    Book”. Love new organizational ideas!!!! Thanks!

  2. Kathleen on September 22, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I just love getting your tidbits each week!
    They are always thought provoking and/or challenging. Thank you!!

    If anyone has an iPhone, it came with a message app. It looks like a little yellow notepad. It allows me to make lists and has become important to me to use. Grocery, projects, daily chores, fav music, prayer, medical history, etc…

    It helps to emoticon the days goals to get going!!!
    I’ll check out the book for list ideas too. Hope this helps someone else

  3. Emilie Richards on September 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks Kathleen and Ellie. The more organizational tips, the better. On my iPhone I use a program called Clear which is great for grocery lists, etc. Workflowy is on my home computer and more comprehensive, but Clear goes shopping with me.

  4. rick russ on September 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    This was very helpful and it lead me to a host of valuable life changing stuff!! thanks!

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