One of the productivity habits I have picked up over the past year is using checklists to minimize human error when carrying out repetitive tasks.
This isn’t my idea, of course.
Checklists are widely used in aviation — both commercial and private — because the margin of error in both endeavors is essentially nil.
The checklists used in aviation look something like this:
Formulating standard operating procedures (SOPs) and checklists needn’t be reserved for people flying tens of thousands of kilograms of metal with passengers through the skies.
Humans are prone to making errors — particularly when completing repetitive tasks under tight time constrains. Aviation’s checklist-centric paradigm for maximizing safety has been adopted in several other industries including healthcare. SafetyCulture has put together a nice resource with some suggestions for devising good ones:
Lessons We Can Learn From Aviation Checklists - SafetyCulture Blog
In the last thirty years, aviation has had a radical cultural transformation. The transformation has been a critical…
Although the stakes involved in forgetting to CC the A&P department on an invoice aren’t quite as high as forgetting to put the landing gear down before landing a 737, I find using checklists helpful to avoiding mistakes that might have adverse professional consequences.
Finding software for reusable digital checklists is surprisingly difficult.
Of course, there are plenty of to-do list programs (Todoist, Wunderlist, among others). But the list of software that allows you to create task lists that are designed to be used repetitively is smaller.
I searched for ‘reusable checklists’ and went in search of a tool that was either cross platform or had a good web UI.
- Firesub. Firesub is the tool that I have actually ended up using. It’s free and cloud-hosted but users can pay a premium in order to be able to use the checklist tool as a team.
- Manifest.ly. This is a checklist apps designed for team use. At the time of writing its pricing starts at $25 per month for a team of five. So this isn’t priced attractively for single users.
I have also heard that it’s possible to reuse Trello cards and to use Google Keep for this purpose. But I didn’t find either option an attractive solution.
I tend to try avoiding using my smartphone for business but an app that I could sync with the cloud would have been nice. I didn’t succeed in finding that. But I did find a few Android apps that support resusable checklists.
Taking inspiration from how checklists are used in aviation, I built checklists focused on things that I do everyday — and included small details that it’s easy to overlook without (hopefully) creating overwhelmingly long lists to check off.
Here’s the one I have been using to make sure that work I’m sending to clients is presentable and ready to go out the door. The “deadline” item is there just in case I’m sending something behind schedule — in which case an apology to accompany whatever I’m sending is in order. The second screenshot shows how Firesub looks when you’re working through the lists.
And here’s one for sending monthly wrap-up invoices to clients:
Depending on how forgetful you are, times where personal checklists could come in handy might include:
- Before leaving on a business trip
- Before leaving the house!
These checklists have helped me to reduce human error and given me the confidence that, even if I’m sending in a job in the small hours of the morning (as happens from time to time) I’m not sending it in with any egregious errors.