Checklists – Why they work

Checklists are just processes in their simplest form. They are easy to read and understand. They keep track of your progress. A checklist can tell you what’s been done, and what hasn’t. Almost anyone can use one. And they are incredibly important at times. 

Airplane pilots, whether private or commercial, go through a comprehensive checklist before takeoff. Skipping steps on these checklists can have very serious consequences. If you’ve ever watched a shuttle launch, you can hear them go through checklist after checklist, making sure all systems are go. Surgeons have saved countless lives by using checklists before and during surgery.

Checklists are very effective communication tools. They help in routines that are monotonous, and they are essential in emergencies. During emergencies, people panic and aren’t usually thinking clearly, so a checklist can be invaluable. For example, if a worker is injured, what procedure should your project manager or lead carpenter take to ensure the best outcome? What should they do for the victim, who should they call, and what should they do as they wait for help?

Some checklists I use

Before David Hawke and I do our weekly podcast, Remodeling Business Blueprint, we go through a checklist, making sure our devices are silenced, the fish tank is turned off, notifications are turned off, and computers are muted. We even include going to the bathroom, and posting a “Do not disturb” sign on the door. This ensures a successful podcast every time. 

My wife and I like to take a week off occasionally in the mountains. We prefer cooking our own meals, so we need to take most of our food and drink with us. A week of meals can be quite a long list, so we make a checklist in Evernote and go through it several times before we head out. Leaving a key ingredient behind doesn’t bode well for the guilty party. A plus to this checklist, as with most processes, is that we can use it over and over again. This has made planning trips a lot easier for us. 

Another checklist that is almost as vital as the food list, is our electronic checklist, which I’ll share with you later. This list is embarrassingly long. Like tech junkies, we keep telling ourselves that we need to cut down, but so far it hasn’t worked. I’m really grateful for this checklist because if a cable or device is left behind and we’re miles from the nearest Apple store or Best Buy, we could be in a heap of trouble.

Creating checklists

Here are some basic guidelines for making effective checklists:

  • Create a clear and meaningful title for the checklist.
  • Make the checklist items easy to understand.
  • Use a large and easy to read font.
  • Make each item individually actionable, i.e., don’t have two or more required actions on one line. For example, don’t write something like, “In case of an accident, immediately call the police, check to see if the other party is injured, and get their name and tag number.”
  • Have pause points on the checklist breaking them up into subsections, i.e., don’t put more than 7-10 items in a row, before making a break on the page. This allows people to stop and check to see if they have completed that section of the checklist before moving on to the next section. 
  • Make the checklist so that the required actions are in a logical order.
  • Make checklist that are easily read and understood. They should be easy to read aloud to another person  and be understood.
  • Emphasize critical steps that must be done.
  • Include checkboxes if possible.
  • Trial the checklist with actual users

What checklists can do for your business

Checklists can make your business run a lot smoother. Having routines done in a consistent manner empowers your staff, and frees up your time so that you can write the next great process that will take your company to the top. 

Teach your staff to use checklists regularly. You can have many checklists, but be aware, when you make too many, they will be largely ignored and people will fall back into doing what they think is best or depend on their memory. 

Like any good process, make sure that you get feedback on the checklist, and improve them over time. Make your checklist readily available to your staff by saving them in a program such as Evernote or as a document on a project management program such as Teamwork Project Manager.

Checklist examples

Here’s a link to our electronic travel list. Please share some of your checklists in the comment section for other readers. 

✅Have a wonderfully successful week!

Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall

This article was written by Randall Soules, remodeling coach, adviser, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System, showing you better ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to discover better ways to run your business, click here. He also provides his uniquely customized one-on-one coaching to a select group of contractors. Feel free to contact Randall at

You may reprint this article as long as it is displayed in its entirety, without modification, and with a live link to ©2013-2014


Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software