Random Inspirations

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Life by the Checklist: Achieve More than You Ever Thought Possible

on September 26, 2013

Checklists are our friends, and they’re also my current obsession. I’ve always used checklists to an extent. In school, my homework was organized on a checklist. When I moved out on my own, my grocery lists took the form of a checklist. When I worked as a pharmacist, I was often so busy during my workday that I’d forget to do anything out of the ordinary (i.e. training modules, etc) unless I wrote out a checklist.

But over the past few months, I’ve realized that my checklists have become even longer, more inclusive, and totally crucial to my life.

A little background: My last few months were pretty hectic. I was planning our wedding without using a wedding planner, which is a huge yet extremely fun checklist in and of itself. We were also selling our condo in Chicago, and believe me when I say that was pretty labor-intensive. We had to stage the place within an inch of its life because prospective buyers expect city condos to look absolutely perfect and not the least bit lived-in. I was preparing for my career change, working on website building and promotions, which would all culminate in my retirement from pharmacy. Add California house hunting trips to the mix, and I had a convoluted soup of things to do. This didn’t even include basic functions like working full-time, exercising, writing, and maintaining relationships with important people.

I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar — we’ve all been there. It was difficult, but it was also one of the most productive times of my life. I enjoy optimizing my days, although this took it a bit far. 🙂 My brain was overwhelmed, swimming with endless tasks. It felt like I was juggling and I could drop everything at any moment and be standing before an audience, totally vulnerable. So, I started living my life by the checklist, and my checklists helped me to keep everything in check!

Yesterday's checklist, complete with huge check marks! ;)

Yesterday’s checklist, complete with huge check marks! 😉

I began writing a daily checklist, and I had so many things to do that they frequently spilled from the front to the back of the Post-it note. Sometimes, I would also write a checklist for the week. I recommend daily and / or weekly checklists for anyone, because they helped me in so many ways. Here are just a few:

  1. Sense of accomplishment: Ticking items off that checklist feels beyond amazing.
  2. Less forgetfulness: I’m pretty good at remembering things, but we all have our point of saturation. When things get too crazy, checklists are the best way to remember everything.
  3. Power of focus: Seeing all the day’s tasks in front of you keeps you focused on completing them one by one.
  4. Better sleep: Insomnia can be caused by the stress of knowing you have a zillion things to do. Since I started living by the checklist, I’ve fallen asleep more quickly and slept more soundly.
  5. Organizational value: Checklists keep you organized and give direction to your day. They’re essential if you’re planning any event that needs to be super-coordinated (i.e. a wedding), but they’re just as applicable when you’re simply planning your everyday tasks.

You’ll be glad to know that the wedding and the move went off famously! Much of that was due to great teamwork. (Thanks Antonio!) However, I believe my endless stream of checklists had a lot to do with it as well.

Of course, my one warning about checklists would be that they’re addictive. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I have a whole new battery of checklists. These center around organizing the new house, as well as accomplishing my writing goals and setting up a home office. It seems like the checklists are never-ending, but I like it that way!

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