Use a Checklist Instead of a Routine

One of the things we’ve talked about before is the importance of a routine. A routine removes decisions about things like when to eat exercise or when you might get your deep work done for the day. But routines can get disrupted by travel or life events and can be difficult to return to. A way around this, which might help you get back to your routine faster, is a checklist.

Build Your List

We have to start with the assumption that there’s always going to be a list of to-dos, from now until forever. That list will get updated and rewritten periodically, but obviously not everything on the list is of equal importance. To build that list, let’s take a page from Gino Wickman’s great book Traction, in which he talks about “Rocks,” those most important things you need to achieve in the next 90 days for your business to stay on track with its goals. Those Rocks are built backwards from where you want the company to be in 3 years to the tasks that have to be done in one year, then in the next 90 days.

This is your personal to-do list, so you don’t need to be anywhere near this detailed or intentional, but the point of the Rocks for our purposes is the emphasis on the “must do” aspect. So a reframe of the business concept of Rocks for our own personal checklist would be:

What are the things you must do today in order to make sure that you’ll go to sleep feeling great?

Try to just focus on the day. Items that might appear include:

  • had a meal with the family
  • spent time reading to kids
  • worked out
  • took a walk on my own

On given days there will be one-offs like:

  • plan or have a date night
  • catch early flight for conference
  • nail presentation to partners

You should try not to have more than ten items on your list in a given day. Ideally you’d have something closer to 5-7. Think of anything else you achieve that day as gravy.

And for those of you who prefer digital to analog, here’s an app to help you with these lists, Todoist.

Weeks and Months

As you’re going through the brainstorming to zero in on your daily tasks, you’re going to come up with some longer-term tasks that have been accruing but haven’t been written down. These might include:

  • clear some space in the garage for a small workout area
  • think about adding a deck or pavilion
  • plan family vacation
  • change passwords (something no one wants to do, but more people should!)

As you start to get in the habit of nailing your daily checklists, you’ll be able to start looking at some of these bigger tasks which you hope to accomplish in the coming weeks and months and instead of seeing them as big tasks you’d rather just kick off into the future, you can start to break down those tasks into smaller ones. For example the “clearing some space” task can start with measuring out how much room you think you’ll actually need. Once that’s checked off, the next item might be, “sell, donate, or trash” in clearing out space and you deal with the trash items first.

Keep Moving Forward

There is a satisfaction for many in checking items off the list, but that feeling also corresponds with reality. Every time you get an item done, you’re doing something you’ve decided matters in your life and is, in a way, a vote for the kind of life you want to live. You may then transition back into the routine that was disrupted or continue to use the checklist method for each day. Or find something else that works for you. The key is intention + action. That’s how Gents thrive.

42640cookie-checkUse a Checklist Instead of a Routine

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