A few years ago, as I was flying back to Montreal after visiting my family in England, I was catching a short flight from England to Paris, followed by a long haul flight from Paris to Montreal.
When I climbed on board the airplane in England, someone was sitting in my seat. The air stewardess asked me to wait until all the passengers had boarded then she would find me another seat. Meanwhile, the pilot and co–pilot walked onto the plane and invited to me to join them in the cockpit ( this was before 9/11). Sitting in the jump seat, I had the best flight ever. It was a bit like a fair ground ride. As exciting as the experience was for me, it was all in a day’s work for the pilot and co–pilot. They were chatting to me and each other about regular things such as going to Tescos that evening to pick up groceries.
Taking off and landing required their full attention. Before take–off, they explained they couldn’t chat with me for a while. Then, the co–pilot pulled out a binder full of checklists and methodically read out each line while the pilot physically checked out each item on the airplane’s dashboard.
When I was a nurse, we used checklists too. Before a patient is escorted from the ward to surgery, a nurse uses a pre-op checklist. They check the patient’s hospital ID, that they have the right notes and x–rays, that all jewelry and false teeth have been removed. Each item on the checklist is designed to help keep the patient safe during surgery.
With all the modern technology available these days, a simple checklist can get overlooked because it seems like a basic tool. Nevertheless, the basics can be powerful!
As someone living with ADHD, you can use checklists to your advantage. They make you feel organized, competent, support your memory and help you to use your time more effectively.
Here are some suggestions of how to use checklist.
*Have checklists on the front door, with all the items you need for the day. Phone, wallet, keys, lunch, bus pass etc.
*Have a checklist of actions for daily routines. For example, your morning routine checklist might include shower, shave, eat breakfast, take meds, clean teeth, etc.
*If you have a hobby where you need to remember a lot of items, a checklist is very handy.
*For tasks you don’t do every often, such as taxes, create a checklist. Your list will help you break any resist or overwhelm you feel in starting these task, because you know exactly what actions you need to do.
*At work, there might be multi–step tasks, where it is easy to get distracted or lost. Having a checklist helps you see a task through to completion.
*Is there another area of your life where you would like to feel more organized? If so, write a checklist!
Some ADHDers feel that they shouldn’t need a checklist to remember to do basic things like getting ready in the morning. Or at work, you might feel silly because no one else has one. Still, there is no shame in having a checklist and just because they don’t have one, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from having one! 🙂 Checklists help you to feel and look highly organized.
Where do you keep your checklists?
You could keep them in a binder like the co–pilot did. Or you could tape them in convenient places around your home or office. For lists you don’t use very often, you could keep it in your computer and print it out when you need it; for example, tax session.
How do you make a checklist?
Some things like your morning routine, you might be able to write it out from memory. For more complicated lists, such as for taxes, have a pen and paper nearby as you are doing the task and write down key steps in real time. Then, you have the list for the future.
After completing your checklist, try it out a few times, and make any alterations. Then, when you have a final list, type it out and keep it in a plastic envelope, or even get it laminated to keep it clean.
In The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande, identifies some key points to help you draw up an effective checklist:
1. Have five to nine items. (You don’t need to include things you do automatically; just the things that get missed.)
2. Have all the items on one page.
3. Keep the list clutter-free.
4. Use upper and lower case text (as it’s easier to read).
5. Choose a font that you can read easily.
What checklists are you going to make?