The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 22.32

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Use checklists to go faster with fewer mistakes

Checklists fall into the category of “ohmigawd what a geek” things. But they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread:

  1. You get more done
  2. With fewer mistakes

Let me explain why, and then I’ll show you how to create and use them.

Why are checklists so great?

When you’re busy, it’s easy for mistakes to creep into even the simplest tasks. You’re in the middle of something, the phone rings, and by the time you get back to where you were, you’ve forgotten what you’ve done and what you still need to do.

Even small mistakes can have negative effects on your business—and your productivity. In my case, missing a step in my content creation and publication process means I’ve lost the opportunity to get my content in front of as many people as possible (if indeed I can fix the mistake).

I now have to not only complete the task, I also have to spend more time fixing the mistake.

Task time + Time to fix mistakes + Cost of mistake => Slowdown

This is where checklists can be the greatest thing ever.

You get more done

A checklist can take some time to fine-tune and get all the steps right. But once you’ve set it up, you can perform that same set of tasks again and again, quickly and efficiently.

Your checklist helps you get it done faster.

And when you get things done faster, you have more time to do other stuff.

With fewer mistakes

When I send out The Weekend Solopreneur, there’s a small step where I set the email preview text. This is the content you see in your email program before you open it—usually the first two or three lines of the email.

I use this preview text to tell you how much time you will need to read the article, and what it’s about. Subscribers have told me (many times) that when they know how long it will take to read the article, they’re much more likely to read it.

If I miss this step, far fewer people will actually read the article. If this happens too often, the perceived value of my newsletter goes down, and eventually I lose subscribers.

So it’s important to me to get all these steps right, otherwise there will be longer-term negative effects on my business.

How to create a checklist

First things first: you don’t need a checklist for everything. Checklists are useful for:

  • anything you do on a regular or semi-regular basis
  • that has more than a few steps involved.

In fact, the more complex the task, and the less frequently you do it, the more important that checklist can be. It’s easy to forget the details of something we only do once a month.

Creating a checklist is really simple:

Next time you do the task, write down all the steps as you do them.

I usually find that as I do the task, I remember things I forgot to write down. Go back and add these to your checklist. (You will be amazed at the amount of detail involved in even a seemingly simple task.)

Once I’ve written down all the steps I have to do, I figure out how often I will be using this in future. If it turns out that I will be using it more than even a couple of times, I turn my written notes into a pretty spreadsheet.

For example:

The above screenshot is just a partial view of my complete checklist. The checklist has a total of 26 steps that help me:

  • write an article like this (and make sure the images show up everywhere without having to manually copy and paste them into each version)
  • schedule the article to reach your inbox on Saturday morning (with the right preview text as I mentioned above)
  • eventually publish the article to my website, as well as cross-posting it to Medium and LinkedIn
  • schedule a sequence of posts for LinkedIn talking about the same subject

I would regard this as a fairly complex procedure.

How to use your checklist

Next time you have to do the task:

  • Print out your checklist
  • Check off each item as you complete it.

And most importantly: if you find any steps that you need to add or change, update your master checklist accordingly (so you can do it next time).

My checklists are not static. I find that I update new checklists quite a bit before they become stable.

Some checklists I use now

You may be wondering how many checklists I have (being a geek and all). Surprisingly, there are not that many:

  • daily startup and shutdown routines (it’s just too easy to forget to check my calendar and be surprised by a meeting)
  • weekly admin tasks
  • content creation and publication
  • business and personal coaching
  • website development (mostly used for new pages to make sure I get the best SEO results)

I also create checklists that are project-specific. For example, when I’m creating a new product or course, I also use checklists to make sure each lesson in the course has all the bits and pieces in place before I release it to the world.

Get more done with fewer mistakes

Next time you sit down to do anything you will have to do again, write down the steps as you go. Save the steps in a safe place. Then, when you need to do it again, pull out your checklist and use it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much faster it goes, and how much you could have missed without it.

Have a great week!