Career SkillsLessons on Leadership

The Checklist: A Tool to Keep You on The Right Track

By Jacquelyn Adams

Sunday, 30 October was National Checklist Day. And since we commandeered the first day of fall a few weeks ago to help us strive to be better versions of ourselves, I thought we could start embracing random holidays as stepping stones along the way. And honestly, is there anything better than a good checklist? My neurotic side says absolutely not! So how do we celebrate this holiday in a way that helps us grow as people? Well, I have a couple checklists up my sleeve for just that.

The Daily Checklist

Let’s start simple. One solid option is a recurring daily checklist. It’s good not to set the bar so high that it’s unachievable. Instead, start with a few manageable tasks that can snowball into healthy habits. Some options include: making the bed, exercising for 15 minutes, drinking 8+ cups of water, doing 30 deep, soothing breaths, cleaning for 15 minutes, etc. Once you pick four items, put a checklist on a calendar, poster board or notebook. Then, as you accomplish a task each day, mark it off with a big satisfying X, a sparkly star sticker, or whatever suits your fancy. The important part is maintaining that momentum and gradually developing new healthy habits as time progresses.

The Tomorrow Checklist

This one is my favorite. I love taking time at the end of my day to review what I have accomplished today, and making a list of my priorities for tomorrow. It is so soothing and can be worked into any slow moment. As the mom of a newborn, I love to do this while nursing or pumping. For commuters, perhaps you could use Siri or Alexa to make tomorrow’s list while you drive. Or for those who hide in the bathroom for extended periods, that can also be a perfect time to… sit and ponder. Depending on the season, I sometimes have separate work and home to-do lists. Sometimes it is just one big list. Do what works best for you. And confession time: I am 100% the type that adds items to my list checklist when I have to accomplish tasks I hadn’t previously anticipated. Because there are times when things come up (especially on my home list) and I have to pivot. The priorities from yesterday are put on the back burner. So it is easy to get to the end of the day and feel like I didn’t accomplish anything if I don’t update my list. It might seem silly, but it is one of those little tricks that help me stay sane.

The Ongoing Checklist

Then there are the big items. I like to keep a separate page in my notebook to keep track of odds and ends. Maybe they don’t have a due date. Perhaps they are projects I need to chop away at a little at a time. Either way, it seems like this list is never-ending, and again, if I keep it in my head, it can add to the crazy. On paper, it diminishes the mental load and helps me be purposeful about what project I choose when I have time and energy. It is less likely that things will be forgotten or fall through the cracks.

The Forgotten Checklist

This strange little checklist is one that I accidentally stumbled upon that brought me a lot of peace of mind. A while back, I made a list of ten time-intensive projects that had no real deadline but were still things I really wanted to accomplish. Well, life got crazy, the list got set aside, and I had forgotten that I made that list. However, about six months later, I found the list. Almost everything on that list was completed. It was such an incredible validation of the things I had accomplished and a great motivator to continue working on the items I still wanted to achieve. So every now and again, I purposely repeat this. Because too often, I forget that, list or not, life moves forward and things get accomplished. Yes, they help me to be more organized but they are not the be all and end all. It is a reminder that even in the craziest seasons, life keeps moving forward, and we keep contributing.

As we continue to walk through this fall and change with the seasons, I hope we can seize the opportunities to challenge ourselves. It can be hard to create healthy habits, even with the best of intentions. Still, if we are going to be leaders in our homes, workplaces, volunteer sites and communities, we need to strive to be better versions of ourselves constantly. So, please take some time to consider what should be on your checklist today, tomorrow, and every day… and once you get that started, check it off your list.

Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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