Trelograms #24 — Checklists

The Check Yourself episode of Hidden Brain (one of my favorite podcasts these days) talks about checklists — the simple device that hurts the egos of some and saves the lives of many.

Unlike pilots and surgeons, i can’t be sure my checklists have saved a life — they have no doubt saved me a fair amount of time and spared me a fair amount of stress though — even (perhaps especially) after hundreds of nights outdoors, i don’t know how i’d manage to pack for a five-day hike, in the middle of unpacking from having just moved into a new place, without a checklist.

I’ve always been a big fan of checklists — i’m particularly fond of my grocery shopping system, which i employ at home as well as on the road:

  1. Anything i need to buy goes first into an ‘inbox’ where i collect everything else that asks for my attention, GTD-style (more on this some other time!);
  2. I regularly process this inbox, adding the “grocery store stuff” to the “grocery shopping list” — tomatoes, toothpaste, if i can get it at the supermarket or from the grannies across the street from it, then it goes in that list;
  3. Doing the groceries is then best described as a mission to complete that checklist as effectively as i can — with the notable exception of at most one “wild card” item i grant myself in every shopping trip, whether it’s an improvised treat to myself or something i forgot to add to the list, i’m not allowed to get anything else not already on the list — believe it or not, any item that comes to mind during the process goes into the inbox!

I acknowledge this rigidity might have caused some psychological pain to the occasional shopping companion unfamiliar with my process. It has nevertheless¬†saved me a fair amount of time and energy — then available to be spent in situations where i don’t mind inefficiency at all, for instance, long-distance hiking ūüėČ


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Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my¬†chronicles and concrete¬†travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘tr√©los’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates