One of the primary differences between human brains and computers is the ability to free associate. A computer can only compute what someone has programmed it to compute. Humans can think of something they have never thought of before or create something that does not currently exist. This same skill can become a detriment in certain situations.
Perhaps one of the great ironies of life is that something we call a disorder is the very thing that separates us from computers. Attention deficit disorder is the inability to focus and concentrate on one task only.
Even the most disciplined human brains can be distracted and lose focus.
Where a computer has no ability to get distracted from its assigned task, humans often need help to stay on track. Some most demanding and even dangerous professions rely on checklists to help overcome the normal human ability to be distracted. Remote teams, in particular, can benefit from checklists to stay on task and keep work from being repeated.
Here are 5 ways in which checklists can help remote teams thrive.
Onboarding and Education
Onboarding presents a delicate challenge under the best circumstances. On the one hand, there is a mountain of information that might be useful to a new hire and yet, trying to deliver that mountain of information on a new employee’s first day can overwhelm them.
All too often, new employees receive more information than they can handle, and they remain unsure of how to do their jobs.
Onboarding is even more challenging for remote workers because they don’t have a colleague nearby they can ask if they have a question. Online communication presents a challenge for many businesses because when employees ask coworkers important questions, they can get incorrect information or misunderstand them.
Bad information can be like a virus that spreads through a company. Checklists can help curtail this phenomenon.
Checklists are a great way to ensure that the onboarding process takes place over weeks rather than in a single day. In addition, checklists sum up the most important details of every procedure and help educate the novices.
Smooth onboarding that doesn’t overwhelm new employees sends a message of an organized company and makes them happier and less stressed.
While not all tasks are critical or crucial, sometimes the smallest missed details can turn into a crisis of epic proportions. Checklists can help ensure that we don’t get distracted at a
critical moment and forget a crucial task or detail.
Remember, something as simple as a misplaced 0 when entering data can mean the difference between sending out a $1,000 check and a $10,000 check.
“Checklists not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.”
– Atul Gawande, MD, Author of The Checklist Manifesto book
Checklists are also important when you are learning something new and can help you get up to speed faster.
When you use a checklist, you don’t have to stop and think about what steps you have already accomplished or what you still have to do. If you get interrupted at a critical juncture, you can also just check your checklist to see what you were doing when you got interrupted.
Not only team checklists help supervisors assess progress, they also help ensure that over one person isn’t working on the same tasks. Checklists also secure that work still progresses smoothly when one team member is absent or there is no one to supervise. They can also establish a smooth transition when one department or shift has to hand work off to another.
In almost any job or on any project, there will invariably be tasks that no one wants to do. Sometimes, some most unpleasant tasks turn out to be the most important.
Without checklists, it can be easy for people to skip the unpleasant task with no one being the wiser. Checklists ensure that all tasks are completed and hold employees accountable if they mark a task as done without doing so.
While everyone might love being their own boss, the downside of entrepreneurship is that there is no one else around to motivate you when you are not feeling hyped on your own. When working from home, a sense of isolation doesn’t help either. Motivation is often cyclical, however.
When you have a checklist, just being able to check something off a list can give you a sense of accomplishment because you see the results of your work. That, in turn, provides the motivation you need to tackle something more challenging.
Checklists can also be tailored in a variety of ways to help you stay motivated. We all have days when our energy levels are just not as high, or we are distracted by other things.
Having a “low motivation checklist” and a “high motivation checklist” can help you accomplish simple tasks on days when your energy is not as high and allow you to tackle more challenging tasks when you resume its levels.
Being your own boss means you have to motivate yourself to stop procrastinating. Checklists lead to fewer mistakes and make mundane tasks efficiently done. Whether you work alone or manage a team, checklists improve the overall productivity in the company.
Business owners and team managers find it easier to delegate tasks further if they are confident the job will get done – and checklists make sure that happens.
From firefighters to airline pilots to surgeons, some most complex professions rely on checklists not to forget small but critical steps. While your industry may not involve having the lives of others in your hands, almost every business has the potential for crisis or disaster.
Checklists can ensure that when a crisis hits, things don’t go from bad to worse.
Whether it’s what to do when your entire network goes down or what to do if an earthquake hits, those that overcome a crisis best are those that prepare for it. When a crisis hits, it is natural for people to go into panic mode.
Panic and a good decision making do not go hand-in-hand. The time to think about what to do in a crisis is before the crisis happens. Checklists are an invaluable way of dealing with a crisis because when a crisis comes you don’t have to think, you just do – and you have a checklist to tell you exactly what that is.
How to Use Checklists In Your Business
While checklists are important, they also need to be effective.
Here are some tips for creating effective checklists for your business.
- Keep steps or tasks on your checklist simple and short. Write out more detailed instructions elsewhere
- List the most critical or important aspects of any project or task and place them first on the checklist. Less important tasks or details can be farther down the list
- Create a checklist for tasks or processes your team repeats daily, weekly or monthly. These will be invaluable for onboarding, “passing the torch” or any temporary help or workers you might need or hire
- Prioritize areas where you or your team are underperforming
- Use mistakes you have made in the past to create a checklist to ensure they do not happen again
- Strategize a decision-making process and complete it by creating a checklist – and then use it
- Use this checklist to create your first checklist
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