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The Checklist

David Allen in his Productive Living newsletter describes the three problems most people have with making lists:

  1. They’re hard work;
  2. They’re scary; and/or
  3. They’re disappointing.

Allen goes on to explain that lists are hard because we usually leave important details off the list and instead write down a shorthand version of what needs to be done. Every time we look at the list, we start to think about all the other things that go along with each written action item and we can start to feel stressed. This stress can be alleviated by making lists complete and organizing them by the situation we need to be in for the task to be completed.

Lists are scary when they make us feel even more out of control than we already do. This is because our list often does not include the specific action items we need to do. Writing specific steps will help to solve this problem.

Finally, lists are disappointing when we don’t finish everything in the time allotted. Allen recommends putting on the calendar the things that can only be done that day and putting everything else on “‘as soon as I can get to them lists.'” That way we don’t feel guilty if those things don’t get done today.

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