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The Usefulness of Checklists

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande c. 2010

I originally ordered this book because a presenter referenced it in a workshop I had attended. I liked Gawande's book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, which came out four years after this one. Gawande is a good writer and I enjoy his work.

What surprised me about The Checklist Manifesto is that I thought it would be more radically profound than it was. I expected to be "wowed" by the knowledge of how amazing checklists are to productivity, efficiency, etc. That IS Gawande's message: checklists are an amazing tool. Atul Gawande is a surgeon, and the book focuses mainly on his personal experiences creating and using checklists in surgery, with a fair amount of extra stories about the airline industry and how important checklists are to pilots. I like stories, and I enjoyed the book. But for some reason, I expected to learn something new.

Maybe that's part of the message: checklists aren't something mind-blowing, they are just useful. The Checklist Manifesto is about proving and justifying the use of checklists, even by professionals with years of experience. It's also a reminder that checklist creation is not a one-and-done. Checklists need to be tested, revised, edited, tweaked, and reviewed periodically for continued relevancy.

So, what this book did for me was reinforce my own use of checklists. I use a checklist to outline my counseling process with clients. It keeps me focused on what I need to cover and acts as a reminder of what not to forget. So, personally I can attest to the fact that checklists are useful. And even when you are an expert in a field, as Gawande so expertly pointed out, it's easy to forget steps.

For people looking to change careers, checklists can be very useful. Checklists can help outline the process with helpful reminders of what needs to be done. Job seekers can list out the steps to take in researching companies, applying to postings, preparing for interviews, following up with people.

Click here for my 7-minute video showing you how you can add more fun to your checklists using Google sheets!

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