Why I’m Testing Checklists

After reading Tiago Forte’s book Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential, I digested the PARA and CODE concepts. Part of my process was to see whether other credible people mentioned any of the same ideas Forte did. When multiple unrelated credible people reach the same conclusion through trial and error, their wisdom is often worth paying attention to.

One of Forte’s ideas—that using checklists in your process is valuable—met that criterion. Forte mentioned using checklists to ensure that you’re starting and finishing projects consistently. In a post last week, I shared that Josh Kauffman, in his book, recommended checklists to prevent omissions when learning about and acquiring a new skill rapidly. I also remember Charlie Munger’s “Investing Principles Checklist” from Poor Charlie’s Almanac: The Essential Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.

I know checklists work—they were key components of the processes at my e‑commerce company. The teams followed them to ensure that we executed processes consistently. We became known for our reliability and built a solid reputation because of it. Sadly, I never applied checklists to my work style. I keep in my head an idea of how I need to execute things I do more than once, but I haven’t always executed consistently on some of them, even though I consider them important.

Today, I decided I’m going to test using checklists for things of high importance that aren’t one-offs. I’ll spend some time thinking about what deserves a checklist (I don’t want to go crazy with this) and then thoughtfully create the checklists. I’ll test using them and adjust as necessary. I’ll also make sure using checklists is lightweight and doesn’t bog down my workflow.

I’m excited about this experiment and can’t wait to see the results. My gut tells me it’ll have a positive impact given that smart, credible people use checklists.