How to Make a Checklist to Improve Your Productivity
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How to Make a Checklist to Improve Your Productivity

Zach McDaniel Zach McDaniel Last Updated:

Remember that time when you completely winged a project and everything worked out just fine? If you’re struggling to remember, it’s most likely because that never happened. You have to be prepared before facing any project. And the best way to be prepared is to make a checklist. In this article, we’ll discuss a little about why checklists are so important, and some ideas you can use when you create your own.

Want to improve your productivity? A simple checklist might be just the tool you need. Here's how to use a checklist effectively so you can get more done. #productivity

Why is it important to make a checklist?

The main reason why you should use checklists: so you don’t forget anything. In particular, work can get overwhelming, and inevitably, stressful. There are many symptoms of stress, one of those being a forgetful mind.

It’s okay to have a full schedule. In fact, a full schedule usually means plenty of work, which means that you get paid. What isn’t okay is missing a deadline because you forgot a key step in your project. If you miss even just one small step, the entire project can come crashing down. This is why checklists are so important. Make a quick checklist template for the project and check it constantly.

There are plenty of ways to make a checklist, but Toggl Plan makes it simple and easy. The software includes a checklist feature that allows you to jot down your key steps, and check them off as you go.

It serves as a visual reminder

Checklists serve as visual reminders that we can reference as often as we need. Just like when you create a visual timeline, a visual checklist uses the sense of sight to help you better understand the important points. Make a checklist for your daily, weekly, even quarterly routines, and display it for your team to see. You can also make personal checklists for your team members, just so the varying tasks don’t get confusing.

It aids in reducing errors

Think about the importance of the instructions that come with a complicated piece of furniture. How difficult would it be to assemble that furniture without a guide telling you exactly what to do? In the same way, a checklist allows you to go step-by-step down the timeline of tasks and check each step off, one at a time. Studies show that in the ICU, nurses who use a checklist to administer care to patients reduce their patient’s time spent in the hospital by half. This is a great example of how a checklist can increase productivity, and reduce error.

It will routinize your day

In a way, a checklist is a routine. You have clear, defined instructions for the outline of your day. The only difference is that with a checklist, the routine changes from time to time. When you make your timeline, you make your schedule. Following each and every step of the checklist ensures that you know the steps to come, and therefore your routine.

Now that we’ve gone over why it’s important to make a checklist, let’s get into some of the ideas you can use in creating one.

make a checklist

Read-do vs Do-confirm

There are two different ways you can use a checklist. The first one we’ll discuss is a Read-do checklist. The Read-do means exactly what the title suggests, first you read, and then you do the task. By doing this, you’ll be checking off the tasks as you go, and referencing the list multiple times throughout the project.

The Do-confirm checklist is the opposite of the Read-do. With the Do-confirm, you do the tasks from memory, and then check them at some point during the project. This is the style used mostly by experienced project managers and professional checklist users.

If you’re new to the checklist idea, I would suggest the Read-do style because it relies less on your memory.


A pause-point is a point in the project when the team stops and evaluates the checks before proceeding forward. In terms of project management, it’s like an Agile sprint meeting. You’ll be able to go over the list with your team and discuss the next steps that need to be taken.

Make a short, simple list

A short list isn’t as overwhelming as a lengthy list would be. Try to condense as many tasks as you can. If you make it short, it’s easier to remember. It should, in theory, fit on one page.

The overall tone of the checklist should be direct and exact. The font and wording should be easy to read. You should use language that is familiar to anyone reading it. There’s no need to add any distraction. Keep the colors and imagery to a minimum. Remember, it’s a checklist, not a birthday card.

The application of a checklist

Checklists display a constant reminder of the basic minimum tasks needed to complete a project. To use a checklist, you’ll need to verify your work. By doing this, you sort of instill this need or contest against yourself for higher performance.

When you make a checklist you basically make yourself a metaphorical safety net. This net helps catch the hidden flaws in your workflow. The result will be a higher discipline towards getting the job done.

Put it into practice

At the end of it all, a checklist is only a tool. Simply going down the line and checking the boxes isn’t the goal. The goal is to increase productivity by providing a simple template to your methodology. Checklists are often confused with how-to guides. This simply isn’t the case. A checklist should serve as nothing more than a tool focused on aiding your productivity.

Checklists aren’t for everyone. As I said before, they’re designed to aid you in your projects. If you find yourself spending too much time trying to make a checklist and follow it’s template strictly, then you might want to look into another technique.

Overall, a checklist is a much needed tool for your productivity. Used correctly, you’ll find yourself spending less time scratching your head and trying to remember tasks, and more time actually doing those tasks.

Zach McDaniel

Like many other people, Zach McDaniel gained his knowledge of management and project management through research and necessity. He believes that the most interesting thing about project management, management, and productivity is that there are so many different strategies, so there’s always something new to learn and share.

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