The secret of eternal happiness: checklists.

“How do you do it?” asked a friend of mine recently. “Dates, deadlines, facts, follow-ups. You never forget any of them.” Her voice dropped a tone and took on a weary, wistful note. “I wish I had a memory like yours.” Actually, she doesn’t. You see, I have an average memory. And like most people, I forget things. Then I worry about what I’ve forgotten, but because I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten, I’m not sure how worried I should be. Not good.

Up, up and away

It’s over 10 years since I last flew a plane (ask me sometime over a skinny hazelnut decaf latte). And yet, whenever I see a light aircraft taking off, I mentally say BUTPMFFESL. No, not a variant on Klingon, but the after take-off checklist I memorised way back when I thought I was Saint-Exupéry. [OK, you asked: Brakes (test on/off), Undercarriage (up), Throttle (full), Pitch (fine), Mixture (rich), Fuel pump (off), Flaps (up), Engine pressure and temperatures (normal), Strobe light (on), Landing light (off). ] The message is simple: checklists work. And the good news is that you don’t need to memorise them. Just write them down.Then forget about them – until you need them.

Cheque list checklist

A few years back, I ran an unpaid invoice report in my accounting software. And my jaw dropped in disbelief. How could that be? Surely I didn’t have that many outstanding invoices? I checked. And double-checked. I pulled out box files, spread papers over my desk, cross-referenced, got online and checked my account. I scratched my head and drank cup after cup of coffee. And then I realised: they were all paid, but I’d forgotten to mark them off. And thus was born my invoice checklist. Now I have them for everything. Going away on holiday? Check. Coming back to work? Check. Quoting on a job? Check. Following up? Check. Posting on my blog? Check.

Check it out

So what could you use checklists for? How about:
  • Launching a new product
  • Carrying out market research
  • Preparing your marketing plan
  • Writing telemarketing scripts
  • Creating a website
  • Designing an ad campaign
As you’ll soon see, you can use them for virtually anything. And then, you can impress your friends and wow your clients with your prodigious memory and attention to detail. As I did with my wistful friend. Seeing her deflated, I couldn’t keep it to myself. So I told her: the secret of eternal happiness is one little word. Checklists. She smiled broadly. But it didn’t last, as joy quickly turned to consternation. “Yes,” she countered, “but how do I remember to use them?” I give up. Really, I do. Find out more: