October 30th is a day to remind you to check your lists. That’s right, it’s Checklist Day! Checklists are a great way to remind you to pack what you need for a trip or as a reminder of the sequence of steps you need for a highly detailed activity. How important are they? Well, variations of the familiar checklist have probably been used for centuries, but the first recorded widespread use of a checklist came about due to a tragic aviation mishap. On October 30, 1935, a prototype for the familiar Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crashed during takeoff. The crew had forgotten to disengage a gust lock. As a result, a group of pilots instituted a series of checklists for takeoff, flight and landing that helped to prevent future accidents and they were able to deliver their next batch of 12 B-17s without a mishap. In commemoration of the accident that led to a more widespread use of checklists, October 30th of every year is Checklist Day.
Recipe for a Good Checklist
- A pen that works
- Notepad Paper
- 15 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time
- A safe place to keep your checklist
First, establish that your pen has enough ink to finish your checklist without having to hunt for another one. Put your notepad paper on a flat, hard surface like a desk or table. Pause to think of everything you want to put on your checklist, like items that you want to pack or the steps to assemble that life-sized Lego Yoda. Write down each list item in a sequence that makes sense to you using your most legible handwriting. Add any details you think you might forget if they aren’t written down. Do not stop and come back to it because you can forget list items if you get sidetracked. That’s why you want several minutes of uninterrupted time to make your list. When you have all your list items completed, put your checklist in a safe place where you can access it easily when you want it. Refer to it as often as you like.
What Can Checklists Be Used For?
- Shopping: Shopping lists are one of the most common checklist for around the house. This is indispensible if you frequently have to run back to the store because you forgot that one ingredient you use to make cookies.
- When you travel. Checklists are useful for everything from reminding you to pack your toothbrush to making sure you print off directions to the hotel. Some travel sites might even have checklists of things to do if you can only spend one, two or three days in a certain place.
- In government. A lot of time along with your taxpayer money is wasted because people forgot to have all their paperwork properly filled out and had to backtrack. Checklists can be handy for government workers who have to repetitively fill out and file forms for each case and handy for those of you who have to fill out paperwork for a passport, government assistance or income tax filings.
- Health and Nutrition. Required checklists have been suggested for health care professionals to help cut down on medical errors that have an impact on patients’ health. Checklists can also be helpful for making sure you get a balanced and nutritional diet and cook food properly to help prevent illness.
- Exploring Space. If you’re a space buff, you’ve probably seen pictures of astronauts consulting a checklist while going about their daily routines. Yes, I know there was that big flap about an Apollo 13 checklist that was going to be auctioned off but those checklists are really invaluable to help astronauts avoid costly mistakes.
- Anything that has to be accomplished using a detailed step by step method. That B-17 crew learned the hard way that forgetting one small step can have fatal results. Maybe forgetting a step might mean nothing worse than having to take it apart and redo it but sometimes your job might require you to have a checklist on hand for a very good reason.
- Your daily life. If it’s something you do routinely, there’s a chance you could make a checklist out of it, even if it’s only instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Use Checklists Every Day
You might not think so, but mistakes have a habit of cropping up even in activities you handle on a repetitive basis. And then you have to go back and analyze what might have gone wrong. Checklists are handy both for reminding you of a certain step and for going back and reviewing when the mistake shows up. That’s right, you in the back, I can see you rolling your eyes. However, if you’re involved in any kind of high-stakes activity, that checklist could end up saving your life or make the difference between picking up a small fortune and losing it all. So keep those checklists handy and make sure you follow them to make sure things stay on track.
Some Checklists You Can Use