The Value of Checklists in Increasing Productivity

One of my main obstacles when it comes to work is staying focused. There a million sources of potential distraction, especially for bloggers and web entrepreneurs who spend a good deal of their time in font of the computer and on the Internet. There are thousands of interesting pages to visit, videos to see, content to read, etc.

Yet, I have found that a good way to overcome these distractions and stay focused is through making a simple checklist of everything that needs to get done in a given day. I have tried dozens of different approaches from downloading software which tracks how much time I spend a day on certain sites like Digg and Facebook and limits my access to these “time wasting sites” to literally blocking sites in my browser where I spend to much time. However, I have found that the simplest solution of just creating a daily checklist, has been by far the most effective solution. Simplicity is bliss.

To illustrate my point I want to share an example from my blog AMBeat.com. AMBeat was built as the ultimate resource for entrepreneurs. It features advice articles, start-up profiles, interviews, news analysis, and more. Hence, there is a lot of work that needs to be put in to keep the site going strong. I need to write articles myself, which often takes an hour or more per piece, research new start-ups to profile, conduct interviews, find qualified individuals to make guest posts on my website, and more. Not to mention this is just for the content of the website, never mind design and server issues, marketing, or monetization.

As you can imagine, running the website is very time intensive and can get very confusing. Through the use of checklists I have solved both these problems, saving time and getting myself organized.

For AMBeat, I divide my checklist into three different categories, content, promotion, and other issues. I then create a list of short term goals that need to be completed within the next week or so.

For the sake of this example, lets use the “content” category of my checklist. I know that in the short term, I need to have at least five in-depth articles written this week and more planned for following weeks. From here I can make a separate checklist for each article complete with everything which needs to get done for that article (research, interviews, etc.) and the deadline for completion of these activities. With these checklists in hand I can go to work completing everything that needs to get done in a timely fashion.

I have similar checklists for the other categories as well. What this does is create a hierarchy of checklists which organizes all the work that needs to be done. With this hierarchy, I can then create a schedule of what I need to do on any particular day and get to work. Once all the work for the day is completed, then I can surf the web.

I have found that this tactic has cut my work time down by more than half. Tasks which took three hours because I would get caught up with E-Mail and IM, now get completed in less than 90 minutes because I am completely focused. Once I am done with a task, then I sign on to AIM or check GMail.

So, if you are having trouble staying focused or feel like you are wasting time try to use this tactic to help you become more productive. It is dead simple to implement and though it requires a little bit of will power to stay on track, when used correctly it is highly effective.

This post was written by Aditya Mahesh, founder of AMBeat.com, a complete resource for entrepreneurs complete with advice articles, start-up profiles, interviews, news analysis, and more.


42 thoughts on “The Value of Checklists in Increasing Productivity”

  1. Great article. I use check lists and sites like Remember the Milk all the time to help me stay focused and organized. Gotta love em! 🙂

    Eric Clickbooth’s last blog post: Extreme Clickbooth Summer Makeover Contest!

  2. Hey guys, if you have any questions feel free to ask!

    Aditya Mahesh’s last blog post: The Importance of Targeted Marketing

  3. Joe T says:

    Great advice, I have been using checklists for ages. The biggest motivator for me is that at the end of the day I can look at the list and say either “Good work” (which gives me the best feeling of satisfaction) or “I have Failed” (Which gives me a most terrible feeling). The way I feel will motivate me the next day.

  4. akazuma says:

    ehm. i agree with that. Checklist really important if you really want to earn money.

    akazuma’s last blog post: Sky Juice and White Water

  5. Having a checklist in not the only solution. Time management comes in the limelight and some people are very poor at it. Maybe a checklist, some time management, listing down your priorities and ultimately will power will determine your success or failure online.

    Richael | Domain Marvelous’s last blog post: Domain Registration Length – Does it Matter?

  6. Philip Nowak says:

    I just left a comment on Leo Babauta’s blog about staying organized using a to-do list in my day planner. This is something that I definitely have to work on. I waste a lot of time by multi-tasking, rather than staying focused on one task to completion.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Philip Nowak’s last blog post: #SingleOutSaturday: Pick 1 Tweep & Tell Us All About Them

    1. Jake Stone says:

      Good point Philip, actually I’m very close to the point of disregarding “I multitask so I get things done” people as time and resource sinks.

      Jake Stone’s last blog post: Don’t weasel

  7. Kevin Pasco says:

    This works for sure, John. I’ve been using this technique for a few months now and I find I actually get stuff done. It works even better when I physically write the list down on paper instead of opening a new sticky note on my computer desktop.

    Kevin Pasco’s last blog post: What TweetDeck is and why you need it

  8. James Hartje says:

    Use a Checklist all the time as I feel it keeps me in check with what I need to do to stay productive.

    James Hartje’s last blog post: NFL Taking a Stance on Fundamental Problem

  9. Susan Main says:

    I just finished writing a checklist before I read this! Thanks for the affirmation!

    Susan Main’s last blog post: Summer Meetup of Meetups #YVRmeetups

  10. Dude, i had serious ADD when it came to staying focus. Lots of shiny objects to look at. I’m getting better though. Had to do some serious zen meditation to block out distractions. I figure if I can get over 40% productivity time in the day, I can accomplish a lot. Listing your daily tasks on a whiteboard helps out tremendously.

  11. alquma says:

    Checklists are great tool to reach our daily goals like:

    * writing good posts,
    * make a seo work of the day,
    * get new contacts,
    * eat some food,
    * take a shower
    * meditate,
    * have some fun,
    * help other people,

    1. I definitely don’t need to be reminded to take a shower & eat! What?!

      TYCP Entertainment Magazine’s last blog post: Courtney Van Dusen Interview

  12. I try hard to use checklists, but unfortunately I’m not that disciplined

    1. Yes this is also one of the important aspect that you need to control along with just drafting checklists.

      Shanker Bakshi’s last blog post: Appeal to These Guys

  13. Check list are good, 6 months ago, where I received one of Russell’s monthly newsletter, it started to had a check list, which sure is good for focusing what’s need to be done by that particular month.
    So, I thought doing it everyday with a checklist, by writing down what should be done in one day, and test it out, it really makes me focus even more, is like a target you need to finished in order to sleep well at night.

    The Bad Blogger’s last blog post: How To Use Celebrities And Superstars To Get Extra Traffic To Your Blog And Get It Without Paying Them A Single Cent Whatsoever !

  14. Enda says:

    Totally agree with this! I find that I get 10 times more done when I create a checklist of stuff I need to do and focus on each task one by one until they’re all done. Without this, there’s too much time to be thinking about other stuff and ‘surfing’ and I normally end up with nothing done!

    Enda’s last blog post: Commenting on other blogs

    1. Jake Stone says:

      The biggest benefit that I have gained by using lists is that they help me keep the eye on the ball.

      Suddenly there is a call from Ukraine that the trucks are being held at customs after that is settled someone comes to my office and asks help with L/C from Spain. Finally I can get back with the priority number one, but if I don’t have my reminder list I might choose that Spanish quotation request that came earlier that week.

      I’m sure you get the point.

      Jake Stone’s last blog post: Don’t weasel

  15. EarningStep says:

    hei , this is great article and i’ m visiting am beat right now

  16. People have been using checklist for long time to organize their work and get tasks done on time. It is good reminder for those who dont beleive in checklists to increase productivity.

  17. Good post Aditya, i started using Checklist, it definitely increases productivity.

    Shanker Bakshi’s last blog post: Appeal to These Guys

  18. Hubtonomy says:

    It’s all well and good keeping check lists as long as you are going to act on them.

    Hubtonomy’s last blog post: How To Determine If A Niche Is Profitable

  19. Garzilla says:

    I am a stay at home dad, and I am lazy. Bad combination. Checklist work when you use them. I need a checklist for duties around the house, then a checklist for blogging. So my priorities are kids, house, blog. I am brand new to blogging and feel overwhelmed with all the choices you have in Word Press. Can anyone recommend any good software or sites for time management. I got a day planner and that already has dust on it. Being lazy sucks!

    1. Jake Stone says:

      Sorry, there is nothing we can do for you Garzilla. First you must want something so bad that you want to work for it. Lazy people wish and busy people want. Sit down and think about it as you watch your kids. Maybe you want something for them if you don’t want it for yourself.

      Jake Stone’s last blog post: Don’t weasel

  20. TianChad says:

    ^@^
    Thanks for the tips!
    I always feel that time is not enough for me

    TianChad’s last blog post: #1 Wonderful Market @ Time Square

  21. Having systems is a big time saver.

    Free T Shirts’s last blog post: Twitter launches T Shirt Designs

  22. MLDina says:

    I have a small whiteboard at my desk for day-to-day tasks, and a long term planner for our team. It’s a huge help to keep us organized and on-track for goals.

  23. denimdemon says:

    Productivity with videos have the biggest sucsess !!

  24. VirginTech says:

    Great tips…i will try them definitely!

  25. I have been using checklists to great success throughout my life. Writing down things and organizing them into patterns is the best way to accomplish your goals.

    Not John Chow’s last blog post: Not John Chow’s Pathetic Comment Spammer’s Club

  26. I never thought about having a check list. I mean I don’t have any problem staying focus on the task at hand. Once in awhile I do get side tracked on twitter. lol, man I love twitter.

    Deneil Merritt’s last blog post: Blog Comment System

  27. Set your homepage in your browser to Google and NOT Yahoo or MSN who are constantly bombarding you with stories that take your mind off your goal. I also like to use a whiteboard and put the ideas in front of my face and a voice recorder for when I am away. I find that if I bookmark everything I never go back to it. So I try to keep it simple. But who cares what I do? Me! I think checklists work great for some people and not so much for others. But having something in front of you all the time helps you to keep on track for sure.

  28. Abdul Rahman says:

    Dear John ,

    Thank you for giving the valuable Tips fo making money and increasing our revenues . I am the fan of your blog posts . Thats why I have made several blogs and started earning .

    My blog : http://www.worklance.info regarding freelance jobs and career guidance for freelancers is running fine . Please do visit the above blog and give me feedback that How can I increase the Traffic of my blog . It is hosted at blogger.com.

    Thanks

    Abdul Rahman’s last blog post: Explore New Freelance Marketplaces

  29. Tyson says:

    Since I read this John, I made a check list and spread sheet and have seen a huge increase in my organization and productivity.

    Tyson’s last blog post: How to Create an Email List to increase sales

  30. I always use checklists. In fact, I have one of at least 20 things I need to get done in my composition book. It helps tremendously, especially since I usually have a lot of things on my mind & may end up forgetting what I need to get done.

    TYCP Entertainment Magazine’s last blog post: Courtney Van Dusen Interview

  31. I agree, it is very hard to stay focused because of all the distractions. I think your suggestion of making a list of what needs to be done is one of the best things you can do to help you stay focused.

    i enjoyed the post, keep up the good work.

  32. A checklist is a great idea for increasing productivity and remaining focused through the day. Pre-writing my posts or planning for the upcoming week helps me too.

  33. Soumya says:

    Very good post! I totally agree with it! There’s always a lot to do… i find creating checklists helps me finish everything that i want to do in a day… superb!

  34. Tal Fighel says:

    You need to make a plan with a checklist and i have found that when you know what you are going to do, you are going to get lots done.

    Tal

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