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The Power of Checklists

Write it down. Cross it off. It’s amazing how far that simple act can take you.
How to use checklists to guide your decisionmaking

"The Checklist Manifesto"

So began Johnny Cash’s 10-item checklist, which also included reminders regarding various bodily functions, the need to visit his mother, and, in 10th place, “practice piano.”

We won’t take issue with his priorities, or with the value of writing things down as a way to make sure you do the things you need to do (or don’t do, depending). Just the opposite. Following checklists, as we note in this issue (see “How to Create a Checklist” and “Before You Launch a Blog…”) is a valuable practice that is enjoying a renaissance, thanks largely to Atul Gawande’s best-seller The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

Checklists help surgeons, pilots, and others save lives. More prosaically, they help businesspeople save projects, money, or time. Often, all three.

They also, as writer Phil Patton recently noted in The New York Times, amount to a form of storytelling: The list of movies you’ve rented from Netflix, and its complementary “smart list” based on your choices, says a lot about your viewing habits. Ditto for your grocery list. And clearly item number three on Johnny Cash’s list (a list that sold for $6,250 at auction in 2010), well, who knows how many stories are contained in that one item?

We assembled this fourth issue of Build from a continuously evolving list of ideas. Fortunately, our managing editor had another checklist — of deadlines — that was not ever evolving. That’s how you came to be holding this catalog today rather than two months from now. Checklists work. Check out the stories cited above; we think you’ll become a believer.


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The Power of Checklists

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