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Organize your family with checklists

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Increase your efficiency

Almost every mom keeps lists: the grocery list, the daily to do list, the people to call list, the just about anything and everything in our lives list. A brain can only hold so much information, and lists help us make sure we remember the details, both big and small. But we can take the use of lists one further and create some standard checklists for our lives that can increase our efficiency - and sometimes free time, too! - even more.

Woman with checklist

How many times, after you have finished something, you say to yourself, "Oh, shoot! I forgot...!" - and that was after making an extra effort to be careful not to forget something. The most mundane of tasks can benefit from checklists, even the things we're sure we'll never forget. Whether the forgotten thing is big or little is almost beside the point; the forgetting, however human, is inefficient. And how much more time is spent correcting the forgotten thing than jotting down a checklist in the first place?

Not a new idea - but an oft dismissed one

Checklists are not new, obviously, but they are often dismissed as unnecessary. You think, "I don't need a checklist. I never forget (this, that, or the other thing)." Well maybe most of the time you don't - but it's likely that at least some of the time you do forget. Even the things we know well! Have you ever, when asked to repeat a phone number you know well and use often, just drawn a complete blank?

This is not a failing; and it's likely not a "senior moment." This is life! Our lives are so busy and so full of so many details and so many things to do that it is indeed a rare person (disguised as an elephant?) who never forgets. Jotting down all the components of a common task and checking that list when you are done to be sure you got everything takes just a couple minutes. Just as you might write a checklist for a major uncommon task (an annual parent-teacher conference, perhaps, or the occasional big yard project), write them for the small everyday tasks, too: the morning routine or cleaning the living room - anything and everything really.

The family benefits, too

Kids and families can benefit from checklists as well. From helping your kids make sure they have everything they need when they go out the door to Grandma's house to as a reminder during homework time to always check spelling on the English assignment, checklists work.

Checklists free your mind to do the actual work and not have to spend mental energy thinking about what is next. It's a level of organization that sounds rigid at the outset, but is really very freeing. Try writing down your everyday stuff in checklist form: you're likely to get more done and feel more confident about all you do.

Checklists to get you started:

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