Share Your Checklists!

Checklists are powerful, and I don’t use them enough. You probably don’t, either.

Below are some of my own checklists. Please share your own!

I don’t know how to do X.

  1. Check eHow, Google.

  2. Skim-read the For Dummies book on the subject.

  3. Check my social network for somebody who knows how to do X, ask the expert how to do X.

I don’t understand X.

  1. Check Wikipedia, BetterExplained, WiseGeek.

  2. Read the relevant chapter(s) in a recent textbook, or find a recent review article. (See here.)

  3. Check my social network for someone who understands X, ask for a tutorial. Offer to buy them coffee or lunch if necessary.

I feel mentally exhausted but can’t afford to sleep right now.

  1. Take a shower.

  2. Watch 10 minutes of, cats on YouTube, IGN video reviews, or movie trailers.

  3. Go for a walk and listen to awesome music on high-quality headphones.

I don’t want to get out of bed, but I should.

  1. Imagine how good a hot shower will feel, then try again to get out of bed.

  2. Set my phone alarm to go off in 5 minutes, then slide it across the floor to the other side of the room.

I’m procrastinating on task X.

  1. Give the task to someone else. (Usually, this isn’t possible, because I’ve always delegated away as much as possible.)

  2. Think about which part of the procrastination equation is likely causing me the most trouble, and use one of the techniques aimed at tackling that specific problem that has worked best for me in the past.

  3. Procrastinate on task X by doing a different task that is slightly less urgent/​important but still productive. (See structured procrastination.)

I’m about to send an email /​ post a comment of some significance.

  1. Is there criticism in the email or comment? Use the sandwich technique.

  2. Emulate my reader(s) and predict what reaction they will have. If it’s not the reaction I am aiming for with this communication, restructure the communication.

(I don’t do these ones nearly enough! D’oh!)

I feel sad about not doing a better job at X.

  1. Figure out something I can do better with regard to X, simulate in my head the steps required to execute that improvement, and if feasible then execute the improvement.

  2. Think about all the things I’m doing pretty well despite running on fucked-up ape-brain software and hardware.

I’m about to make a decision of some significance.

  1. Check consequentialism.

  2. Check VoI. Can I improve my decision by purchasing some piece of information relatively cheaply? (This includes running checks against various biases that may be at play, performing a more formal cost-benefit analysis, etc.)

  3. Sanity-check the decision with a couple people who have good decision-making skills and possess much of the relevant information.

I could go on, but… what are yours? (Now is also a good opportunity to make some checklists for yourself, based on what you think tends to work for you.)