The checklist is a simple and effective work hack that many professionals use to improve their performance. Whether you are a surgeon, pilot or software developer, checklists make a difference. They are one of the best ways to avoid problems and increase the consistency of your results.
1. They start with developing their expertise
A checklist puts knowledge into a useful form. However, you cannot get started with a checklist until you develop significant experience and knowledge. For example, if you are building a checklist for a monthly report, wait until you have issued the report two or three times before you create a checklist.
2. They recognize the limits of their knowledge
Successful people spend their own money to obtain additional knowledge – that’s a given. However, they also recognize that more knowledge is not the answer to every problem. In many cases, it is important to consistently and correctly apply the knowledge we already have. A checklist is a great way to improve consistency.
Tip: Resource How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.
3. They use the checklist to avoid “dumb mistakes”
Do you know that surgeons sometimes leave medical equipment inside patients? According to the Daily Mail, 870 patients in the United Kingdom had medical items left inside them from surgery between 2005 and 2012. That’s a serious problem! Fortunately, this type of error can be presented with a checklist step like “check all medical instruments are accounted for.”
4.They know about the limits of human memory
The human mind is a powerful resource that enables us to accomplish many of our goals. However, there are limits to our memory. For example, memories with a strong emotional aspect tend to last longer. That means a routine step in a work process – unlikely to have any emotional significance – is more likely to be forgotten. Those exact steps are great candidates to be included on a checklist.
5. They work to avoid the biggest causes of failure.
Successful people understand the value of managing risk. As Richard Branson explains in his autobiography, ““It is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside.” A checklist is a great way to avoid failures. For example, to prevent problems during travel, make sure to keep a copy of your passport identification page.
Tip: 5 Great Questions to Ask Yourself After a Failure. If you fail, then you have the opportunity to learn from that experience and avoid that problem in the future.
6. They keep their ego and self-confidence under control
Successful people have a great deal of confidence. Their confidence gives them the ability to make presentations, make sales and get ahead. However, confidence makes it easy to skip important steps and details. A checklist reminds you of the importance of working through the most critical steps for a process, each and every time. For example, a wise security precaution is to change your personal passwords annually – no matter how confident you are about them.
7. They use systems to reach success rather than guessing
Successful people put their trust in systems. Once you find a proven method to achieve a result, why waste time continuing to experiment? A checklist is a great system that can improve performance in all areas of life. For example, you can use checklists to improve your evening routine and your professional presentations (e.g. use a checklist to check a presentation for formatting and consistent design).
If you are very keen to develop a system with a brand new activity, there are two options. You can do an Internet search for a template or checklist to use. Or you can ask an experienced coworker or mentor to see if they have a checklist that you can use.
8. They know the power of communication in working through problems
According to industry surveys, project managers spend 80% of their time on communication. It is a critical skill for high performance in all areas of life. Rather than make assumptions, successful people verify information and communicate proactively. With checklists, medical professionals often include communication steps (e.g. introduce everyone on the team by name and role). For a recurring activity at work, this approach improves results.
Tip: Find out Ten Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills.
9. They know how to work through conflict to their advantage
Successful people know that conflict is a reality in the workplace. Given that reality, professionals build habits and routines to reduce conflict and resolve conflict after it occurs. For example, a team building checklist could include one team lunch per month to increase social bonding in the team. In addition, connecting around common goals in team meetings tends to reduce conflict.
Resource: Continue your conflict management education by reviewing this guide to 33 conflict management resources.
Featured photo credit: Checklist/DS355 via flickr.com