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Productivity / Processes

The importance of using checklists

It amazes me how many times I come away from a life experience with something valuable to my business. In many cases, the gems are as simple as they are surprising. Here’s one about using checklists that I was reminded of a couple of weeks ago.

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In the midst of a client coaching call, my mind floated off to the plains of Africa. Fear not, I took my client with me as I intend to take you now.

In the early 90s, I took a year out to travel the world. I like to think of it as long service leave after a successful decade, but a response to a ‘burnt out and buggered’ state is nearer the truth.

Semantics aside, I found myself in Zimbabwe with my dear sister. Here we were in the back of an old Landrover about to drive off on safari.

As we readied ourselves, our guide handed us a large sheet of paper with names and line drawings of the animals and birds we were likely to encounter. There were hundreds of them and alongside each was a little checkbox. See the species, tick the box. Easy really.

The effect of using this checklist was profound. Instead of just staring out the window in amazement, we looked intently at every moving thing and made sure we distinguished between a Great White Pelican and a Pink-backed Pelican.

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In business – as evidenced by my client who had just suffered from a disturbing failing in a key aspect of his work – using checklists help ensure we do routine things completely and efficiently.

"I like to think of it as long service leave after a successful decade, but a response to a ‘burnt out and buggered’ state is nearer the truth."

Two key examples that benefit me hugely are my checklists for ‘Organising speaking engagements’ and ‘Taking on new clients’.

Both checklists have a number of key components and actions covering details that if omitted, make me look very silly.

“Didn’t I tell you I needed a laptop for my presentation? Oops.”

Hey, who wants to write a new checklist this week? Who has a gem to share? 

Robert Gerrish

is the founder of Flying Solo and helps soloists stay upbeat and energised. He’s recently published The 1-Minute Commute, is a presenter and facilitator and works one-on-one with those needing a refresh. Find out more about his skills and services and his Olympus Trip 35 camera side hustle or connect on LinkedIn.

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