Ode to the Checklist
The fitness industry has a propensity to make life so confusing.
“How many grams of protein should I eat?”
“Are carbs bad for me?”
“How much of this neon green powder should I consume? Before the workout? After? During? Gota get those gainzz bro!”
All of these superfluous steps lead us down a path that is tough to replicate day in, and day out. Our brains aren’t hardwired to convert grams of protein to a visual portion size, or remember which powder, pill or snake oil to take and when. Besides, life throws too many variables at us to maintain consistency with all that we ‘should’ be doing to maintain all these intricate new behaviors we want to turn to habits.
However, it’s not difficult to attain a healthy homeostasis; we just need a little bit of help from our old friend The Checklist.
Checklists aren’t glamorous. The don’t track steps like a FitBit, or calories burned like a BodyBug. But if utilized right, Checklists will outshine any technology out there.
Atul Gawande, endocrine surgeon, Harvard professor, and author of ‘The Checklist Manifesto”, claims:
“Checklist provide protections against potential failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance. Under conditions of complexity, checklists are required for success.”
According to Dr. Gawande and the World Health Organization, a simple checklist utilized before and after surgery reduced complications and mortality rates of surgeries worldwide. From poorest hospital in Tanzania to the busiest in Dehli, and 6 others of varying challenge. Across all hospitals, after implementing checklists, the average decrease in major complications was 36%, and mortality rate 47%.
A 47% drop in surgical mortality rate. Wow. If something as complex as surgery can benefit from a checklist, then surely our daily lives could see improvement as well!
To be clear, checklists aren’t the same as To-Do lists. To-Do lists can have a propensity to be filled with menial or variable daily tasks, such as errands or emails to send. A proper checklist is essentially a fixed list of 5-9 steps which make your life more streamlined and efficient. If a to-do list is ground beef, a checklist is lean steak, with all fat trimmed.
Creating and implementing your personalized checklist (or Successlist, if you’re corny like me) isn’t difficult, but does take some honing and planning.
First, consider actions you’d like to implement, but aren’t habit yet. Don’t write ‘brush teeth’ on your checklist (unless you really don’t remember..and if that’s the case, stop reading now and call a dentist), as it’s already part of your daily routine. Meditation, or speaking a daily mantra is a great start, and not always part of one’s morning.
Other Potential Steps to Add:
*Preparing lunch and snacks before work
*10 minute stretching or yoga routine (see video below)
*Considering and committing to your most important task of the day
*Kissing your partner goodbye to manifest a loving relationship
If performing your checklist in the morning, make the intention to set your alarm 5-20+ minutes earlier than usual; you’ll need to create this space in your morning so stress-free productivity can occur! If you know how long a specific task will take (5 minute daily intention creation, 10 minute stretching routine, 15 minute meditation, etc.), then be as specific as possible, and ballpark the other new tasks so the change is as seamless as possible.
Write, or type out your checklist and put it where you’ll see it most (bathroom mirror, fridge, computer keyboard) and utilize it to the fullest. A checklist is useless if not used appropriately!
Keep a running calendar or chart to review checklist adherence; reward yourself with the sweet, sweet feeling of personal empowerment and self-recognition! Habits tend to be solidified after two months (don’t give me that three-weeks-to-habit-talk), so be intentional with the checklist use until you’re grounded in pattern.