The Power of Checklists in the Workplace

You might not think that checklists have a role in the workplace. Often used for simple tasks like creating a grocery list or packing for a vacation, checklists aren’t often thought of as a tool for increasing productivity and efficiency at work. But the power of checklists has been proven time and time again across a variety of professions and industries.

The Power of Checklists

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve performed a task or how much training and experience you have in your role, checklists reduce the likelihood of important steps or tasks getting overlooked and help you feel confident that you’ve completed your work expertly.

How Professionals Are Already Using Checklists in the Workplace

In a 2007 article in The New Yorker, Atul Gawande told the story of how the U.S. Army Air Corps was able to make use of a Boeing aircraft that, after a crash during its maiden flight, was deemed “too much airplane for one [person] to fly.” The solution to flying the unflyable aircraft: a pilot’s checklist.

Gawande writes:

Using a checklist for takeoff would no more have occurred to a pilot than to a driver backing a car out of the garage. But this new plane was too complicated to be left to the memory of any pilot, however expert.

Later in his article, Gawande also explains how doctors and nurses use checklists in hospitals to prevent life-threatening mistakes and oversights when working with patients.

In one example, a hospital used a checklist for one specific procedure for a year. During that time, the infection rate for that procedure dropped from 11% to zero. The hospital estimated that using that one checklist over a two-year period had prevented 43 infections and eight deaths and saved the hospital two million dollars in costs.

Gawande went on to write The Checklist Manifesto, an ode to the power of a simple checklist’s ability to increase productivity and efficiency while also reducing errors and costs in the complex modern workplace.

Tasks Versus Checklists

It’s easy to think of things you need to do at work as tasks. As a writer, I might have the task “write an article.” But there are many subtasks that must all be completed before an article is complete. Delivering an article isn’t a simple matter of putting words on paper. I also have to:

  • conduct SEO research
  • find or create images
  • edit the final copy
  • add the post to a content management system
  • add internal links
  • insert images
  • add alt text for images
  • make sure links open in new tabs
  • add relevant calls-to-action

And though I’ve written hundreds of articles over the years, I still use checklists to make sure I remember to complete each of these steps. Fairly often, my checklists remind me to do something I neglected. The reality is that after a long day of writing, it’s all too easy to forget one small step in a larger process.

Most business tasks require more than a single action. But at the same time, those multiple required actions are all a part of completing a single task.

In other words, it wouldn’t make sense for me to add individual tasks for each of the actions above that are required for one article to be complete. Instead, it’s far more effective to simply include checklists listing those items for each article task I create.

Creating Tasks and Checklists in MeisterTask

MeisterTask is a project management tool that makes it easy to keep track of your tasks as well as create checklists for tasks that require more than one action.

Going back to my example for my own work, I might have 20 articles to write in a month. Each of those assignments becomes its own task that I create in an “Assignments” queue:

Tasks in MeisterTask

Each of those tasks also includes a checklist I use to make sure that I don’t forget any steps when writing or publishing an article:

Checklist in MeisterTask

As I complete each subtask, I can check it off, and when all of the subtasks in my checklist are complete, I’m fully confident that my work is 100% done.

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Using predefined checklists in MeisterTask

The great thing about MeisterTask is that I can create predefined checklists that I can load onto tasks so I’m not typing the same list of tasks over and over again.

To create a predefined checklist, open any task, hover over “Add Checklist Item,” and click the “Load” link.

Load Checklist in MeisterTask

In the pop-up that appears, click “Manage Checklists.”

Manage Checklists in MeisterTask

Next, click “Add Checklist” and give your checklist a name you’ll easily recognize. Then, add all of the subtasks you regularly complete as part of your main tasks. When you’re finished, click “Done.”

Create a Pre-Defined Checklist in MeisterTask

Now when you open your task, you can click the “Load” link and select your predefined checklist to add it to your task automatically.

Load Pre-Defined Checklist in MeisterTask

Automatically adding checklists to tasks in a specific queue

Typically, all of the tasks in my queue are for writing assignments, so any new task I add to that queue needs to have my article checklist added to it. Thanks to MeisterTask’s automations, I don’t need to manually add my checklist to every task. It gets automatically added to any task I create in my assignments queue.

To set up an automation that adds a selected checklist to any items added to a specific queue, start by hovering over the header for the queue until the down arrow appears. Click the arrow, then select “Automations” > “Add Automation:”

Create Automation in MeisterTask

Select “Add Checklist.”

Add Checklist Automation in MeisterTask

Now select your pre-defined checklist from the dropdown, check the box next to “Run this action on all existing tasks in this section,” and click “Done.”

Add Checklist Automation Creation in MeisterTask

When you’re finished, your checklist will be automatically applied to every task currently in that queue, and it will also be automatically added to any new tasks you move to or create in that queue.

Examples of How to Use Checklists in Other Industries

So far, we’ve talked about how pilots and doctors use checklists, and we’ve covered how writers like me can use checklists to increase efficiency and reduce errors. But like I said in the beginning, checklists are helpful for people in nearly every role and industry.

If you or your employees have tasks that require multiple actions to complete, checklists can benefit your organization. Here are several examples:

  • Fleet managers could create checklists for their drivers to use to check their vehicles before leaving a depot. For example: check fuel level, tire pressure, and mileage, make sure packages are secure, etc. Also, when returning a vehicle: check that its clean, that the fuel has been refilled, that there aren’t any damages or scratches, etc.
  • Restaurant managers could create multiple sections in MeisterTask with automated checklists for different areas for people to check. For example, the kitchen could check food stock, expiry dates, cleanliness, etc. Front-of-house employees could create their own checklist for making sure all condiments are clean, all salt shakers are filled, tables are wiped down, etc.
  • Retail managers could create checklists for opening their stores. For example: turn the alarm off, turn on all light switches, make sure that the newest samples are on display, clean the floor, etc. You could have another checklist for closing the store.
  • Maintenance workers could use checklists to make sure that they have checked all the equipment or machinery in the right order. For example: check for leaks, ensure the pressure is within the green range, grease lines and look for rust, check fluid levels, etc.
  • Professional service providers like plumbers or electricians could create checklists for the things that need to be checked or completed when customers request service for a specific issue. For example, an electrician’s checklist might have items like check the breaker box for blown fuses, test voltage of problematic outlets, look for signs of heat damage, etc.
  • CPAs could have two columns in MeisterTask: one for junior accountants with a checklist for making sure all information has been added to a tax return and that all relevant documentation is included, and another for a senior accountant with a checklist listing all of the items on the return that need to be reviewed.

If you have a unique way of using checklists in your business, we’d love to hear about it in the comments at the bottom of this post!

The Benefits of Using MeisterTask for Checklists

Using checklists in any format will deliver a lot of benefits, but there are a few advantages of using a tool like MeisterTask over other methods like printouts or whiteboards:

  • Everything is digital, which means that it is logged, tracked, and saved. You’ll never lose any data, and you’ll always have a historical overview of completed checklists.
  • Because there’s an archive of historical checklists, when something goes wrong, you’re able to pinpoint exactly where and when in the process, which creates more accountability and responsibility.
  • MeisterTask is easy to use, so your employees don’t have to be highly technically savvy to use it. Once someone sets up the initial project and automations, using MeisterTask is as simple as pointing and clicking.
  • MeisterTask is mobile, so it can work on the go. As long as there is a phone or tablet around, people literally just need to tap through their checklist items.
  • Everything in MeisterTask is updated in real-time. Managers and team leads are able to know exactly when tasks are completed via notifications.
  • Lastly, everything can be automated, saving you tons of time. The checklist can be loaded automatically to tasks, and tasks can even be automatically assigned to the person responsible for completing them.

Checklists are a great way to increase efficiency and reduce the likelihood of mistakes in your business, and MeisterTask—with its automations and archive features—boosts those benefits even further.

Contact MeisterTask’s friendly sales team if you’d like to find out more about setting up accounts for you and your team—and get closer to meeting your goals by combining your project management tool with checklists.

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