What could be easier than a checklist? Before answering, consider that aircraft manufacturers spend years getting the checklists for their aircraft ready, and have entire divisions dedicated to checklists.
The answer, it turns out, is not so simple. Atul Gawande wrote a complete book about it: The Checklist Manifesto. This book is a very good read, and will change how you look at checklists.
Recently, Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore had a post over at the Clutter Control Freak Blog about Effective To Do Lists.
What makes a To Do List – or checklist – effective?
Everything in one place. This way, you know where to find what to do next. Don’t have multiple todo lists.
Update frequently. If things are missing from your todo list, then you won’t refer to it – or if you do, these things to do will be forgotten.
Access daily. Refer to the list every day – preferably first thing in the morning. If you do this, then you’ll be able to keep up to date with what is going on and what needs doing.
Write down actions. Don’t put big projects into your to do list – write down only actions that can be done. For example: “Get tires” is too big (unless all you have to do is go get them). Where will you go? Will you call many stores to compare? What size will you get? How many?
Revise often. Perhaps the things that are on the list are no longer to be done; remove them from the list. Your list should be current at all times.
If you keep your to do lists “alive” and active, then your ability to act on them increases and you can get a lot more done.