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“I’m sorry we amputated the wrong leg, Mrs. Jones, but I couldn’t be bothered to follow that 19-point checklist.”

I was attending a webinar recently and heard the host’s phone ring in the background. Not a catastrophe, by any means, but it startled him and interrupted the flow.

As I heard him muttering and fumbling around in the background, I thought, “Shoulda used his pre-webinar checklist … “

Even before I started reading The Checklist Manifesto, I’d learned that doctors using a checklist could cut patient deaths in half.  Half!

Granted, you might not be dealing with life or death in your business, so do you really need this extra step?

Why bother with checklists?

Quite simply, we make checklists so we don’t forget something important.

A few years ago I stopped the idiotic chore of reinventing our grocery shopping lists every week. I made one for us in Excel which included our own unique foods and posted it on the fridge. Checking things off as we needed something may have saved us only a few minutes each week, but that adds up over a year.

More importantly, we no longer have to run to the store for what we forgot and blame each other for not putting it on the list.

Besides a grocery list, common examples of checklists you already use are:

  • Recipes
  • Driving directions
  • To do lists
  • Assembly instructions
  • Attendance records

The thing is, when you do an activity habitually, you start to do it unconsciously. (How often do you arrive someplace in your car and realize you were lost in thought the whole time?)

Unconsciousness and distractions can cause you to forget an important step in any process. A checklist reduces the need to remember steps, so you can use that energy on something else, like creativity.

Using a checklist in your small business

For every forehead-smacking moment when you realize you forgot something, just think: there could have been a checklist for that!

For every activity you do over and over and have to stop to think every time, you could make a checklist to follow (and maybe even delegate it to someone else).

At Enlightened Marketing we actually have an entire manual of checklists for our team. Some of them are:

  • Daily Task lists
  • Opt-in page creation
  • New product set-up in shopping cart
  • Aweber setup for clients
  • Pre-Call Checklist for Teleseminars [download this one – it’s a gift!]

Do this right away:

  1. Take 30 seconds right now and think about a step-by-step process or a multi-part task you do more than 4 times a year. It could be preparing for your workday or an outreach call, adding a new page to your website or dealing with a tech issue you have to look up how to do every time.
  2. Make a note to create a checklist for it the next time you do that activity. You can see from the one for the teleseminars that it’s not about complexity; the fact that it looks so stupidly simple is the reason most people won’t do this … and will continue to lose time and money (and possibly reputation).

Don’t believe me?

The shocking statistic about checklists that blew my mind!!

A 2009 study of doctors monitored their adherence to checklists, in particular six incredibly basic tasks, such as checking the patient’s name and what type of surgery was to be performed.

Incredibly, 43% could not manage to follow the list consistently. I mean, really… If you knew “Oops, we amputated the wrong leg,” could be avoided, wouldn’t you just go through the darn list every single time?

What’s your version of this?

What checklist has helped you the most in your business? Let me know in the comments!