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What One Good Checklist Can Do

Would you like to lower your stress for a lifetime—starting today? Though it may sound too good to be true, the more you rely on checklists, the more you will breathe a sigh of relief. And though apps aren't necessary, they make the whole thing easier and more fun.

Example: After visiting family in May, I made a pre-travel checklist on my phone with the free app Wunderlist. Granted, I was making the list in hindsight. But I knew I could use it next time I traveled.

No More "Where's My Phone Charger?!"

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I'm getting ready to fly out at an unholy hour to (you guessed it) visit family. So I dig out my checklist, print and clip it to my purple clipboard, grab a pen and start in.

My list includes everything from "Stop mail" to "Get up when the first alarm goes off and get set for a great day!" Sometimes we have to pretend getting up is fun—especially when the alarm will be going off at 4 am.

The list takes up a whole page. How am I ever going to get through this? Somehow I did. And though the purple clipboard wasn't necessary either, it helped. Anything fun usually does. That night, I slept a glorious seven hours and still made it to my plane on time.

12 More Benefits Besides Better Sleep

  1. Greater sense of control
  2. Lots of little victories—few things are more satisfying than checking something off your list
  3. The confidence that comes from setting yourself up for success
  4. A track to run on—no more recreating the track every time you travel, run a conference, give a speech, etc.
  5. Freeing your brain for more important things than, say, remembering the name badges
  6. A productive outlet for procrastination—making your list counts toward getting the job done
  7. Making hard projects easier, because you've broken them down into much smaller steps
  8. Reduced stress
  9. More time, more energy, more clarity
  10. Showing the world you care—because you're not letting anything fall through the cracks
  11. Avoiding costly mistakes
  12. Knowing when you’re done
Following a checklist for anything important, repetitive, or just plain tedious also gives you the freedom to take a break when you need one. Once you return to your work, you'll know exactly where to pick up where you left off.

One last tip, known as the Hemingway trick: Stop your work in the middle—mid-task, for example, or mid-paragraph/mid-sentence. Make it easy to get back on track—this is yet another way you can set yourself up for success.

Speaking of Success!

As a professional speaker, I work with teams to help them set themselves up for success. I love turning a speech into a memorable and meaningful experience—and I venture to say I'm good at it. Here are some of my most requested topics:

  • Thriving at Work
  • Best Foot Forward: Professional Etiquette for New College Hires
  • Building Customer Loyalty (Before Someone Else Does!)
  • From Buddy to Boss: Success Strategies for New Managers
  • The 5 C's of Effective Nonprofit Boards

If you've got an event coming up where I can be of help, please check my availability while I still have some. I'd love to help!

The more you rely on checklists, the more relief you find.

Gina DeLapa

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at