Checklists Are More Useful Than You Think


Whenever I can find the time in between all the things that keep us busy, I like to sit down and listen to some podcasts. One of my go-to selections recently released an episode on the evolution of the checklist – something that grabbed my attention.

The podcast host interviewed a medical doctor who explained how checklists factor greatly into keeping patients safe: checklists help make sure best practices are followed during routine procedures, ensure preparedness, and reduce the chance of costly mistakes.

However, it was a point the doctor made later that I found most important. Checklists are not a replacement of a highly skilled brain but are instead meant to supplement your brain. They’re not there so you can turn your brain off – they’re there so you can keep your brain on track.

Checklists provide structure – and time

As any accountant can tell you, we live in a world of checklists. Strong accounting needs consistency to provide great results, month after month, year after year. At Quincy CFO for example, we have a client that requires metrics on six variables: count of members, patients served, products sold, conference registrants, price per CE hour sold, and usage of discount codes.

We pull this data from several dashboards and that data needs to go through a thorough “cleaning” and source refresh before we can begin to make sense of it all. With so many moving parts, you can be sure that checklists are crucial in helping us stay on point.

Of course, we could remember those steps if it was truly necessary. But checklists are there to free up your brainpower for other tasks – like discussing how to best use that data. In fact, new checklists are one of the first things I create when I’m delegating work tasks that I’ve mastered. You kill two birds with one stone – you create step-by-step instructions for the employee taking over the task, and you free up time from your schedule for more important matters.

Create a checklist that works for your team

When people think checklists, they think of a task broken down into the simplest, easiest to follow parts possible. Here at Quincy CFO, we don’t take that approach – we make checklists especially for the person who needs it most. The podcast mentions this as “writing in the voice of the expert.” If you’re writing a checklist for your data analyst, your HR manager doesn’t need to understand the list! The list should be there for the expert who needs it and it should be as complex or simple as necessary to accomplish that task.

It’s also important to remember that just like any other tool you use at your business, your checklists needed to be refined, updated, or completely redone as the task demands. For example, what happens when you upgrade your accounting software with new features? You’re going to have to review the steps on any checklists that mentioned that software to make sure they still work or if you need changes. Or maybe the new software completely eliminates the need for the checklist? Make sure you have someone in charge of monitoring these tools for accuracy and necessity. And of course, put them somewhere your employees can easily find them!

I personally rock a checklist of some kind every day of my life! Do you have some favorite checklists that you use to stay productive? I want to hear about it! Drop us a line at and let us know.

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