paper pad

Write It Down: The Guide to Making an Effective Checklist

I can’t tell you how many times a professor gave additional information about a test or assignment that I ended up forgetting. In the moment, I nodded along, made a mental note of it, and moved on. Later, when I needed the information, my stomach sank as I realized that I couldn’t remember the details or the exact wording.

It’s important to know that planning the major deadlines and dates is crucial, but so is getting all the correct details. That’s why only having the planner isn’t enough. Needless to say, I learned the power of writing everything down a long time ago.

That’s the key: absorb the information, write it down, and put it in a safe place.

(Friendly PSA: a safe place does not mean the corner of a random notebook page or a tiny scrap of paper that will get lost in your backpack. I’ve tried that, and well….I definitely would not recommend.)

My solution is Post-It notes. I like to use the standard square ones for quick notes and reminders. They’re colorful so they’re hard to avoid, they stick to surfaces so they don’t get lost, and they’re small enough so they don’t take up too much space. It’s easy to jot down notes on a Post-It and stick it to your desk, on your laptop, or in your planner.

Post its

But writing things down goes beyond just little reminders and quick memos. I would say one of the most underrated organizational tactics is the checklist.

The checklist is like a mini schedule that plots out everything you need to do in a day or a given time frame. Writing down all the tasks gives you an idea for how long each will take to complete. Check out my post The Unintimidating Way to Schedule Your Week to learn more about mini schedules.

Keep in mind, it’s easy to overestimate a checklist. You just keep adding and adding, and suddenly you’ve convinced yourself you can write an essay, run 3 miles, do that accounting homework, volunteer, and study for your macro test in one day.

Now, maybe you can, and that’s great. But chances are, you’re human, so you can’t, and that’s ok. Just remember to manage your expectations. Try jotting down a time next to each task for when you want to have it finished, but be flexible because you may have to adjust the times. I’ve come to accept that unforeseen circumstances love to wreak havoc on my carefully laid plans. You just have to go with it; life happens.

For these daily checklists, I like to use larger, lined Post-Its. They’re still sticky so they stay on my desk next to my laptop or on the wall above my desk. That way I can check my progress as I go. I know exactly where to look to cross off one task and move on to the next.

Now maybe you don’t like Post-Its, or you don’t want your papers sticking to each other. For long-term checklists or for longer lists, I use a regular notepad, which has become a staple of my desk. This one comes with 150 sheets because you can never make too many checklists.

paper pad

So now you’re ready for the best part: the satisfaction of checking things off and feeling accomplished!


5 thoughts on “Write It Down: The Guide to Making an Effective Checklist

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