The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


What Is A 'Checklist'?

Checklists are Externalized, predefined Standard Operating Procedures for completing a specific task.

Checklisting can help you define a system for a process that hasn't been formalized yet.

Checklists are helpful to ensure you don't forget important stuff when you get busy.

Checklisting can help not only by improving the quality of your work, but also by making it easier to delegate more effectively.

Creating a Checklist for the Five Parts of your Business can have great overall results.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Checklists'

Want to make sure an important task is done correctly every single time? Create a checklist.

A Checklist is an Externalized, pre-defined Standard Operating Procedure for completing a specific task.

Creating a checklist is enormously valuable for two reasons.

First, checklisting will help you define a system for a process that hasn't yet been formalized-once the checklist has been created, it's easier to see how to improve or Automate the system.

Second, using checklists as a normal part of working can help ensure you don't forget to handle important steps that are easily overlooked when things get busy.

Pilots have extremely detailed Checklists for takeoff and landing for a reason: skipping a step is easy, but can have major consequences for everyone on board. Even pilots with decades of flying experience always use Checklists to ensure everything is done in right and in the proper sequence.

As a result, plane crashes are extremely rare-statistically, it's safer to fly commercially than to drive.

Even simple processes can benefit from Systemization and the use of Checklists.

In 2001, a study on the effects of checklisting was conducted by Dr. Peter Pronovost, which was described in detail in Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto and in an article Gawande published in The New Yorker.

The study was conducted in a hospital in Detroit that had the highest rate of 10-day IV line infections (a costly and life-threatening condition) in the country. Pronovost's objective was to determine whether or not using checklists would reduce the rate of infections.

Here's the entirety of the intervention: whenever a doctor inserted an IV line, they were instructed to use the following checklist.

Step 1: Wash hands with soap.

Step 2: Clean the patient's skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic.

Step 3: Put sterile drapes over the entire patient.

Step 4: Wear a sterile hat, mask, gloves, and gown.

Step 5: Put a sterile dressing over the catheter site once the IV line was in.

None of these steps are particularly complicated. In fact, many doctors resisted the study, since they felt that being forced to use a checklist was insulting, given their status as highly trained specialists.

Even more insulting, the head nurse was empowered to stop the doctor if they weren't using the checklist-an unusual role reversal that had many doctors fuming.

Nevertheless, the results of this study over two years were astounding: the 10-day IV line infection rate dropped from 11% to 0% and saved the hospital over $2 million in costs. As it turns out, forgetting even basic, common-sense procedures is easy in a busy, stressful environment.

Checklisting can produce major improvements in your ability to do quality work, as well as your ability to delegate work effectively.

By taking the time to explicitly describe and track your progress, you reduce the likelihood of major errors and oversights, as well as prevent Willpower Depletion associated with figuring out how to complete the same task over and over again.

In addition, once your checklist is complete you can use it as the basis for full or partial automation of the system, which will allow you to spend time doing more important things.

For best results, create explicit Checklists for the Five Parts of your Business, then ensure they're followed every single time.

Questions About 'Checklists'


"No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes."

Steven Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics


From Chapter 11:

Understanding Systems


https://personalmba.com/checklist/



WANT TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN UPDATES ARE PUBLISHED? Subscribe to Josh Kaufman's email newsletter. You'll receive Personal MBA updates, Josh's award-winning research, and useful resources that will help you make more money, get more done, and have more fun. It's free!

The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →