By Gillian Callison

Published July 8th, 2015

Two Ways to Work with Checklists

There are two basic ways you can work with checklists. One is to randomly add items to a list that have no relationship to each other except for the fact that they need to be done and you need to know when they are completed so you can move on to the next one. The second is the more creative side to checklists where you are actually setting up a system to organize a larger project that is compiled of multiple steps and/or tasks. Let's look a little bit closer.

Get 'Er Done

This is nirvana for the task oriented person. Hand them a list with empty check boxes next to each item and send them merrily on their way. They will return upon satisfactorily marking the last box with a check mark and be ready for the next list. There is no need to have the items be connected to one another. You can easily have "Wash the dog" be right before "Take out the garbage". This type of list makes it very easy to create. Jot items down as you think of them, add them to the bottom of the list and keep working on those unchecked items.

This type of list can also provide a profound sense of satisfaction. Each check mark placed is a completed job. For the person who likes to see a sense of completion in their day, this will fit the bill.

However, there are times when this type of list is just not enough. You need more than just a random listing of unrelated items shouting at you to "finish me!". You have a large and looming over-sized task that will require some advance planning, thoughtful consideration of the many steps involved, anticipation of obstacles and how to work around them and more. That's when you call on the professionals!

The Plan

More than a list, a plan is needed when you are dealing with a big project or event that requires many steps and has many permutations before its final incarnation.

This type of work is the dream of the fanatical organizer! The opportunity to look at something, break it down into its tiny parts, stepping it out from infancy to maturation, nurturing it along the way, changing course when the situation warrants it and finally reaching the end. The final check mark. In this mode, the person is not motivated by how rapidly the number of items on the list are being checked off, but rather by seeing something created from nothing more than an idea. In fact, with this type of system, during the process, things are constantly being added to the list and even removed without being done as that item may be deemed irrelevant and no longer needed.

A planner would look at the list that has "Wash the dog" and Take out the trash" next to each other and determine which order would be the most efficient to complete the jobs. It might be best to take out the trash first, because the dog might decide to help you and then get dirty, and if you had already given him a bath, you might have to do it all over again!

You know you have a planner in your midst when spontaneity means coming up with a new step within your plan because the last one was derailed by circumstances outside of your control. And that is a key word in the life of a planner: control. Ask a planner to let go of the reins and you are in essence asking them to cut off their right arm. Just a titch outside their comfort zone.

Regardless of whether you are a Task Master or a Planning Maestro, both are needed to accomplish the many deeds of a day, including washing the dog and taking out the trash.