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Using Checklists in your Business

When I was managing hotels and restaurants, I found it very helpful to have daily checklists for almost every job position, including everyone from cleaning staff to administrative staff to department managers. A daily checklist was a tool that an employee could use to “supervise” him or herself. All the manager had to do was train the employee on the tasks, teach him or her how to fill out and turn in the checklist, and then spot check the various tasks occasionally. Some checklists were turned in to the manager; some were kept in a central location. Some were quite long, and some were very short. All were very useful.

Checklists can help you in your small business, too. Even if you are the only one doing anything, a checklist can help you automate some of your tasks and time. Some of us have “mental” checklists that we use without writing anything down. That can be a great starting point for making an all-inclusive, written list. Leave off “obvious” stuff like “turn on computer” that you don’t need any reminder for. And, combine related tasks into one “accomplishment”. For example, count the cash, balance to receipts, record numbers and take deposit to bank can all be on one line called “do daily deposits”.

You probably are in no danger of not doing your deposits, but by using a checklist, you can get a better grip on the process of your day. You might want to do your deposits before noon and yet find yourself staying late every day to get them done. Put that first on your list and soon you will find a way to do it earlier. It might mean coming in 15 minutes earlier, or it might mean you do it right before you go to lunch. Something will work out that helps you rebalance your day.

You can use checklists as logs, too. Write down your deposit amount when you finish the task. Write down total daily revenues, or units sold or calls made. Whatever you want to track is great information to have and a daily checklist is an easy way to note and then find the information, if you file and keep them.

A daily checklist is very useful. It can automate your to-do list, remind you of errands and appointments, keep information, keep you on schedule, and let you see where your problem areas are. Perhaps you need to delegate that deposit to your assistant because you would rather do other things. Perhaps you have 10 hours worth of work every day and only 8 hours available for it. Perhaps you are duplicating tasks and wasting time. A checklist can help with all those problems.

Try to make a daily checklist for your business. Start with the day and date at the top of the list. (If using with employees, make spaces for them to initial or sign off on tasks.) Begin by listing your every-day must-do’s, then your want-to-do’s. Then, add some space to write in special errands or appointments. Depending on the nature of your work, your list might include a list of planned client calls, articles to write, shipments to send, recipes to try, products to make, and so on. Your list should be totally customized to what you do daily. If you have a very few daily tasks, add weekly or monthly goals or tasks to your list. For example, if you ship products on Tuesdays and mail out flyers on Wednesdays, put that on the same piece of paper as your “dailies”. Anything regularly done, even if just once a month (like paying bills), can be added to your list.

Try to keep your checklist to one page. If it gets too long, condense it or create separate lists for every day of the week, or create daily, weekly and monthly lists.

Once you have a basic checklist, keep it on a clipboard and check things off as you do them. You’ll get a huge feeling of satisfaction when everything gets checked off. Make notes on your checklist, too, so that you can revise it as needed to make it more efficient and effective at helping you be more productive.

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