How to create an effective checklist

airline-pilot-checklist

A checklist helps with memory recall and clearly sets out the minimum necessary steps for a process. Checklists are not comprehensive how-to guides but quick and simple tools to buttress the skills of expert professionals. They can help turn routine tasks into habits and has the effect of distributing power to people. So how do you come up with a checklist that actually works? The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande shows us how.

DO-CONFIRM or READ-DO?

When making a checklist, you have to decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist where the task is performed from memory and experience and once the task or series of tasks are done there is a short pause to check that everything was performed the way it’s supposed to be, or a READ-DO checklist where the task is carried out as they are checked off the list, something like a cooking recipe.

Short and sweet

The checklist shouldn’t be lengthy. Generally, it is ideal to keep the checklist narrow between five and nine items, which is the limit of the working memory. In addition, people sometimes get distracted and they start taking shortcuts so the list should be short by focusing on important items that would be very bad to skip and overlook.

Text that’s easy on the eyes

The wording should be simple and exact, using familiar language to whoever would be reading it. Ideally, it should fit in one page and be free of clutter and unnecessary colors with both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading. The recommended font to use is a sans serif type like Helvetica.

Test the checklist

Ultimately, the effectiveness of a checklist is only felt when actually put into use. You can run simulations or rehearsals for whatever the checklist is for and experience first-hand where the holes in to roof are. Make modifications or additions into the checklist and sure that the checklist does not disrupt the flow of work.

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