Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Checklists for productivity

What can one learn about simple checklists? Especially someone like me who routinely uses checklists, various other lists and even lists of lists (to keep track of new lists).

I had plenty to learn, as it turned out. I read Atul Gawande's book "The Checklist Manifesto" recently and had a number of takeaways. As might befit a surgeon his writing is logical and lucid. He is a good story-teller who takes us into the world of operating theaters, skyscraper construction and aviation history to show us how modern checklists have evolved. Perhaps with the confidence that comes from being a world-class surgeon, he isn't afraid to share his own doubts and misgivings, and that makes the whole book a great read.

Takeaways: For me, the biggest revelation was the importance of the communication checklist. These are used in large construction projects about who will talk to whom. In addition to the familiar checklist for tasks, they have another checklist to ensure that communication steps haven't been missed. This could be invaluable in any setting where groups of people work together as team.

And on a personal level, every chapter in the book reminded me of the need for personal discipline in getting things done. Those who go to work daily have a structure imposed on them. The rest of us have to figure it out ourselves. There are days when I am very productive, and days that I feel I wasted. And the difference is discipline. And in that, I believe, checklists can be a big help.

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