How to write a checklist

By Eoin on 7 February 2014.

A written checklist allows you to break a task down into steps.

It’s easy to write a checklist that’s hard to follow.

It’s hard to write a checklist that’s easy to follow.

How you formulate each step in the checklist is what will make or break it:

The checklist is reponsible for taking the burden of decision making away from the person executing it.

The leverage of a simple checklist

The checklist gives you a format to share how a task should be executed.

As a business owner, it helps you delegate. As a team member, it helps create shared habits.

The checklist can be executed over and over again. If you’re doing something in your business over and over again, a single checklist will add up to regularly freeing up your own time.

For example, at Bitesize Irish Gaelic, I’ve learned to use checklists so that the customer support team member can:

Most importantly, don’t make me think

A checklist is just a list of steps required to perform a task.

Each step in the checklist should be an atomical action.

Here’s a simple bad checklist:

  1. Find the WordPress post and write the SEO description in under the post
    • Publish the post and view it online, then email Eoin to say it’s live

Here’s an easily-executable version of that checklist:

  1. Go to http://www.bitesizeirishgaelic.com/blog
    • Click “Log In”
    • Enter your username
    • Enter your password
    • Click “Submit”
    • Click “Posts”
    • On the top post, click “Edit”
    • Scroll down to the “SEO Optimizer” section
    • In “Description”, enter the SEO description
    • Click “Publish”
    • Click “View post”
    • From your browser navigation bar, copy the URL of the page
    • Go to your email client
    • Compose a new email
    • For the recipient, enter me@mysite.com
    • For the subject, enter “Please review new blog post”
    • Paste the URL into the body
    • Send the email

The second checklist is longer, for sure. But it takes the burden of decision making away from the person executing the task.

The only path of executing a checklist is to complete the first step, and to move onto the next step. By making each step so easy, you’re creating momentum for the person executing it. You’re helping them reach the end of the task.

Your ultimate goal is to have the person execute the last step in the checklist (having already completed all the other steps). Create as little friction as possible for them to reach that last step.

As every checklist should be, the one above is open to improvement. If you have suggestions, be sure to share them as a comment below.

Tips for writing a successful checklist

Finally, a successful checklist is one that evolves. It can simplify, adapt, and be broken up. Keep working on improving your checklists.

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